Last year, a few days before Christmas, my neat, happy familial world crashed around my feet. My mom was diagnosed with cancer. Really quickly debilitating cancer. The news, the surgery, and the treatments took a devastating toll on my mom and on us all. I’m 17, and I’ve seen sorrow and suffering in my life, but never experienced anything that struck so deeply or that hurt so much.
As a natural result of her cancer, everyone in the family had to step up to make life work. In these last months, I’ve learned enough to crack my skull from the internal pressure. Housekeeping, peacekeeping, and dishwashing. I learned how to find stuff I lost (without Mom’s omniscient help), I learned cancer vocabulary, I learned about grief, about myself, and about other people.
I also found I learned new things about God’s character that had never struck me before or had such meaning. Sure, I had known them, but how much had I actually been deriving from these doctrines? Not a particle compared to how much these truths had to offer.
Here are three of the truths that I’ve learned since December.
1) Asking God for growth means accepting however he chooses to answer your requests.
In the months before the diagnosis, I had felt such weight, and I would beg God to work in my siblings and work in my life. I wanted to be granted more patience, new closeness, new joy, new love.
Here’s the thing—the straight-up facts: I was an idiot for not remembering that God doesn’t really just dump down sanctification on people. It’s something you gain through testing.
I was hoping that God would give me an external source of sanctification. I was just kind of picturing some godliness getting sprinkled over me, not ever realizing that I’d have to go through some fire to get that godliness infused. I mean, I knew God wanted me to do things. And that I’d have to go through some hardship to be like him. But I figured I’d be ready when they came.
God doesn’t give us things we can’t handle, uh, right?
One night especially, I felt heartache and I walked around our house and watched the stars in the dark. It was humbling in a new way, and I asked God again to work in my life and others lives. And I thought that I was willing to accept hardship in the future.
Why sure, God, I’ll go overseas after I graduate.
Sure, God, I’ll be willing to disciple my kids.
Yeah, of course, God, I’ll make it a point to be involved in ministry in my church.
He didn’t give me that kind of hardship. He cuts right to the heart, right here and now. “Karilyn, why would I wait to give you hard things?”
So, lesson for you: yes, have godly desires, yes, ask Him to fulfil your requests; but also, be aware that it’s probably not going to be some kind of endowment, it’ll probably be something hard to do or to go through. God often gives us paths through valleys over immediate virtues. God often gives us paths through valleys over immediate virtues. Click To Tweet
2) God is faithful. Always.
This probably isn’t new information to you. It’s talked about a lot, and it is a comfortable statement. Cliché though? No.
The reason people never write about how too much emphasis is placed on this doctrine and the reason why it isn’t shunted to the side, is because the power of this concept never gets used up.
I can’t express my heart through the last months better than this passage:
“Remember my affliction, and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
And is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind
And therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will trust in him.” (Lamentations 3:19-24).
3) Without this hardship, concepts like God’s comfort, His love, and faithfulness would be meaningless to me.
Yeah, I knew God was faithful, loving, etc. and I could make a lot of talk about how they were such awesome things to know. I thought I was experiencing them in powerful ways, and I could write great papers and make great speeches about how I saw these things in my life. But it wasn’t until later that I realized I was barely ankle-deep in God’s infinitude. If the cherubim in heaven really look like those fat laughing babies in paintings, they were laughing at how incomplete my theology was.
But what caused my heart to suddenly open and see these truths have such power?
It was the struggles over the past months. Those trials, tears, and griefs gave me a deep dependence that sunshine days never could have.
I’m not normally a learn-by-experience kind of person, but in these last months I have seen that without experiencing sorrow, I would’ve missed out on the things I was praying for, maturity, growth, and a deeper love for Christ.
Ask my Mom, she’d go through it all again. Because she would rather have Jesus than a healthy body. She just would. She’d rather have a deeper relationship with her Savior than anything else. And so would I.
Jesus. Only Jesus.