“And the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Matthew 7:25, NIV
It was one of the worst storms of my life. The laws of gravity disappeared, as did all sensibility and normalcy. Insulting forces beyond my control battered, tossed, and blinded me. I timidly retreated within myself, much like a fragile, songless bird -- wounded, caged, and alone. Raging uncontrollably, the tempest threw itself against me with the dead weight of a brick wall. The wall seemed to crash to the ground and splinter into a thousand pieces. I lay underneath, a momentarily terrorized and wounded victim.
The storm was cancer.
Storms like this often can create the environment for paralysis. Sometimes we cower inwardly in some remote inner closet, intimidated by the sheer panic of the moment, driven by fear to expect only more suffering. Or perhaps even more tragically we apply plastic “band-aids” like alcohol, drugs, sex, gluttony, or selfish ambition to cover up the driving emotional pain of unfulfilled expectation, or the slashing, cutting fear and dread that rule an empty heart. It is the human condition. We must survive.
Inevitably when the thunder and lightening recede, and the sun reappears, we are somehow stronger for the battle with the storm -- if we only search the landscape from God’s perspective. In it’s wake, we are wiser, and less prideful. When I run out of resources, when I cannot understand, when I lose control…when my pseudo-confidence retreats to the dark shadows…I discover what lies beyond myself. I am talking about hope in a gracious God.
And so that is what happened to me. A quiet, strong voice in my right ear said, “Beth, it was malignant”. The recovery room had no shape. No form. I still floated in a sea of grey obscurity. Not trusting my impaired hearing, I slurred a response: “It was benign? Did you say benign?” The inevitable answer. “No. I said ‘malignant’. But now you’re okay. It is gone. You’re okay.” Then a simple pat on my hospital-gown-covered shoulder, and the voice vanished.
My hope had been the desire for other news. I had longed for the growth to be labeled “benign”; for the lump in my throat to be something that I could deal with. My hope, my hope, my hope….well, where was it? I groped through the fog of my dulled wits for something to hang onto. Certainly the shredded remains of my desires had absolutely nothing to offer. My wishes had been dashed. Denied. The icy fingers of despair tapped on my heart, threatening to enter and possess.
Yet in that timeless moment God rescued me. He spoke to my wilted heart, saying, “This situation is bigger than you are. But that’s okay. I promise to give you Myself…and the strength and desire to recover from this cancer, and from the cancerous fear that threatens to control you. I am giving you hope for a future that will rescue you and serve and please Me. Real hope that won’t disappoint you. Trust Me. You have only just begun to live.”
God defined hope for me as provision in the midst of pain – not the avoidance or denial of it. This message soothed my heart and soul with a stinging, penetrating warmth much like the enveloping heat of sunshine on an August day. It promised to enter me. It promised to overcome the inner iciness. It pointed me beyond the moment to a relationship of healing, restoration, and most of all, purpose.
And so, in recent years I have gone about the process of trusting my relationship with this author and giver of hope. Of tying my lifeboat to His anchor. Of soaking up the radiant sunshine of His love. He is my security amidst the storms of life. I am discovering that hope, accurately defined, originates from an eternal perspective -- and yet it changes every attitude I have about living this life. These days I live more honestly, expect more boldly, and appreciate more deeply. For I am anchored solidly to the Source of all. I credit my life to the Healer who rescued me from the storm of severe illness and directed me to that physician, that hospital, that surgery, and finally that recovery room…the bed of humble submission. What better place to receive a gift of empowerment, than in the hospital in the midst of a raging storm? It was here that I learned to receive wholeness and completeness from Him. It was here, flat on my back, that I was given the promised expectation for His hope…no matter what.
“…we…have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us...We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Hebrews 6:18b-19a
Great lesson. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. But. . Those that wait upon the Lord, He shall renew their strength. They will soar with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary, walk and not faint. Amen