So I’m reading this book on being thankful. I was led down this path two ways. One is that the magnificent Tim Keller mentions being thankful as part of the way you respond to adversity in an effective, Christ-like way. Ever since I read that in his book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, it has stuck with me. Thanking God even when things are not going well. Being thankful in the midst of scary and painful circumstances. How can this be what He expects of us?
That sucked. Really.
because it’s been a while since they filled me with poison. So I show up optimistic, energized, ready to
go. The infusion was fine.
you a quick run down. I have a medi-port
device, named Portia, that is installed in my chest. It is accessed by a big scary needle and
fluids can be administered through it and blood can be taken from
it. It’s pretty nifty and saves you from
ruining your arm veins. Upon arrival, I
am weighed, and vitals are taken. I am
weighed each time because the volume of chemo you are given is based on your
weight. Blood is taken and a couple of
quick tests are done while I am administered pre-meds – steroids, hydrating
fluids and anti-nausea medication. This
takes about an hour. Then I am hooked up
to Oxaliplatin and Vectabix, two chemo drugs that are given over several
hours. At the end of that, I am given a
bolus (injection) of 5-FU (yes, it’s really called that) and then hooked up to
the Wonder Woman Power Pack (aka Fanny) that I wear home. This contains more 5-FU which is pumped into me for 48 hours.
my latest Wonder Woman accessories, read, rested, watched funny YouTube videos. I even did a conference call with my staff
via FaceTime. Ah, technology. After, Kevin and I had lunch at Panera, stopped at Old Navy to
buy some new “visiting jammies” (it’s
important to have decent lounge-wear when people stop by often as people do
when one is ill.) I went home, took it
easy, did a little catching up on work and felt mostly ok.
Wobbly, but ok. Wobbly is the
name I give to the feeling that sets in once chemo has been administered but
hasn’t yet unleashed its fury. You feel like something is off, your brain isn’t
sharp, you feel slightly queasy and a little tired. The next day and a half, I was mostly getting used
to lugging that fanny pack around.
Tired, uncomfortable. Then the
heartburn of an angry dragon set in. This was a
new sensation – burning from my belly, literally up to my ears. I looked it up and that’s a thing – burning all
the way up into your Eustachian tubes.
administered more anti-nausea meds and a prescription for heavy duty heartburn
medication. The heartburn
persisted. I dragged myself into work on Thursday to attend our Day of Hope picnic. Familiar faces and an event celebrating God
on the North Shore lifted my spirits even though I felt pretty low,
physically. I felt like I was literally dragging myself around,
wondering if people could tell how I was only about 50% sure I wouldn’t vomit
right there in front of the crowd. A
homeless man spoke to me as I passed by and said “Ma’am, you look like a
princess.” I looked around to see if he was really talking to me, and when I confirmed that, I smiled and said to him very genuinely “Sir,
you have just made my day.”
through the meeting and home. I was glad
I went, and so grateful to get home, put my non-visiting jammies on and just
settle into a weekend of rest.
Unfortunately, Saturday, the heartburn upped its game. My insides felt on fire. Nothing touched it – believe me, I’ve tried
everything from prescription meds to kimchi (which is delicious, btw!) so save
your well intentioned “Have you tried ginger tea?” for someone who has
heartburn because they ate too much Vincent’s pizza. This is the chemically induced destruction of
the upper portion of the digestive system.
My doc is on the case, so we’ll hopefully figure it out, but mint leaves
and popcicles aren’t going to tame this dragon, my friends.
than I did for my past two colonoscopy preps combined. Man, I don’t know what hell was unleashed on
my tummy, but you could audibly hear it churning from across the room. Because I’m stubborn and crazy, we decided to
go to the Science Center anyway. I can
tell you where every bathroom on every floor is. My apologies to anyone who was there Sunday. We came home and I laid in agony while
watching The Devil Wears Prada. I want
to be Meryl Streep in 30 years. Or be
neighbors with her. We would visit over
chai tea and talk about the most wonderful things, I just know it.
said “A little help, here?” No specific
answer came – just the truth that only what is needed is what comes and that
which is not needed stays away. This is
needed. Don’t know why. But I don’t need to know. To say we need to know is to say we know
better than our creator, and that just doesn’t make sense to me. He knows.
He has set me upon this path and is deeply aware of every
experience. He uses all for my good. So be it, and may I be grateful
new woman. The storm has quieted. The fire in my belly has reduced to a
smolder. I am so thankful to be mostly
restored. And I am grateful to be able
to say I leaned in to the Lord in search of wisdom and comfort, not away in
despondent bitterness. As John Newton
says, (something to the effect of) if we’re going to the throne of grace where sits the King of Kings, the
Father of all creation, in search of
comfort and relief and we aren’t getting it, we certainly aren’t going to get
it from staying away.
I know I’ve mentioned this book before. But here is a full review.
Tim Keller, in this hefty, somewhat scholarly book, thick with Scripture references, personal stories and C.S. Lewis-level logical arguments, discusses how our culture tells us that adversity, suffering and struggle are bad – they are something to get past so we can get on with real life. Suffering, such as dealing with cancer (or job loss, infidelity, serious injury, loss of a loved one) is a life disruption, a snag, an interruption from our regularly scheduled programming. But, as Dr. Keller poses, what about the biblical view? It says this is IMPORTANT. It’s allowed by God, by design. It’s not retaliation for that time you missed church or lied about being stuck in traffic or even that time you stole, cheated or deeply betrayed a close friend. The justice for all of the dumb stuff you do was satisfied, paid in full on the cross. So, while it’s possible that your suffering may be a direct consequence of sin, ignore the temptation of yourself and others to ponder whether you “deserve” the suffering or not. It’s irrelevant. Additionally, depending on how you approach it, this suffering you’re experiencing can be used by you and God to galvanize your faith, to deepen your intimacy with God, to strengthen your relationships and bless you with greater wisdom, compassion and patience.
Put another way, whatever suffering you’re going through, it’s not an accident, it’s not punishment and it’s not to be squandered.
Here is an excerpt that really challenged and encouraged me:
“If you believe in Jesus and you rest in Him, then suffering will relate to your character like fire relates to gold. Do you want to know who you are—your strengths and weaknesses? Do you want to be a compassionate person who skillfully helps people who are hurting? Do you want to have such a profound trust in God that you are fortified against the disappointments of life? Do you want simply to be wise about how life goes?
Those are four crucial things to have—but none of them are readily achievable without suffering. There is no way to know who you really are until you are tested. There is no way to really empathize and sympathize with other suffering people unless you have suffered yourself. There is no way to really learn how to trust in God until you are drowning.”
One of the most challenging aspects of this book is how Dr. Keller boldly confronts the reader with this question: Are you in this (the Christian faith) to truly serve God, or are you in it to see how you can get God to serve you? Oof. That’s a rough question. Our response to suffering gives us the answer. If we kick and scream and whine and cry and demand to be released from the suffering, we’re not approaching it with a trusting attitude toward God. We’re basically saying “Well, I was ok with this until physical pain came up on me.” Or “Hey, I was willing to go along until you let that man break my heart.” If we really believe that this God loves us enough to send his son to the cross to save us from all of our terrible decisions, moral failures and selfish choices, then how can we not trust Him to be with us in the midst of of the suffering?
This book is for people who are experiencing serious suffering, or people who want to be prepared for when it comes their way. Dr. Keller has published a gift here – a guide to having a Biblical, Christ-centered response when your world comes crashing down. If you want to take your faith-journey to the next level, read it.
I had chemo today. So I’m suffering. My body feels weird. Tired. Achy. Queasy. Uncomfortable. The cold bothers me in weird ways. My hands and feet feel stung, or electrified and then go numb. My eyes sting. Sneezing is horrifically painful.
Tim Keller, in his excellent book “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” says that suffering is necessary. That it’s an important way to grow. That people who escape suffering are typically lacking in terms of resiliency, of knowing their strengths and weaknesses, of understanding the human experience with a depth of wisdom.