When I was at university I remember something one of my business psychology professors said with regards to prioritising our needs:
“Nobody worries about sharks when they’re drowning in the ocean.”
I think the point he was making was that there is a natural order to the way that things become important to us. Somehow it all related to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Don’t expect me to explain that, that’s what Wiki is for!
On any given day Annie wrestles with one of three physical weaknesses: fatigue, pain and nausea. And I think that is the order in which she prefers them. When she is in pain, I don’t think the fatigue stops, it’s just that it is not as pressing as the pain. And when she is feeling nauseous she’d happily trade it for the piercing rib pains she gets.
Last night was a difficult night. A different kind of difficult too. Before she finally got to sleep it really became apparent that Annie was really suffering all three at once. It had the really horrible effect of making her delirious. Honestly, I found this really tough. She was saying things that made no sense and I was unable to communicate with her properly which made assisting her really difficult. I went to bed tired and a bit distressed but not before giving all my anxiety and cares over to the Lord – just as He lovingly commanded me to. It was really comforting, at some point very early in the morning, when I felt Annie reach out and hold my hand while she was sleeping.
What she was suffering was most likely the effects of pain and dehydration. Today I made better efforts to monitor Annie’s fluid intake and also called out the doctor. He went through the same back-catalogue of pills and potions but decided on hooking Annie up again to a drip fed anti-sickness pill called Haliperidol. It has done little to stem the sickness and she has thrown up several times throughout the day. However, she has managed to take more fluids and eat a basic meal of toast. The district nurses popped by 3 times today just to keep a check on Annie and as I write this, she is sleeping – which sure beats, nausea, pain and fatigue!
Once again we were really blessed to have dear Philippa with us. They spent the better parts of the day working on choir pieces for a practice that they hope to get together tomorrow evening. We are praying that Annie might have strength to be there for that.
I was talking to somebody the other day who asked why it was we hadn’t given up or lost our faith at times like this.
You know, if our faith in Jesus was based on the assumption that by following Him, He would grant us an easy life; or that by doing Him the favour of worshipping Him, He would do us the favour of making our lives rosey and cancer-free, then probably, Annie and I would have lost our faith by now. But our faith in Jesus is not based on assumptions. Our faith in God, is based on what a gracious and loving God says to us in His Word and what He has done for us on the cross.
This morning we had another lovely gift from one of the young people in our small group bible study. Among the verses she included on the lovely hand-made card were these words of Jesus…
“In this world you will have trouble…” – John 16:33
Jesus didn’t say that life in this world would be easy. This world and everything in it is cursed by sin. Jesus didn’t say that following Him would be easy. In fact, He illustrated this point with a picture of what a follower of His looked like, and in His picture there was a cross to bear:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
And in His prayer before He endured the agony of the cross on our behalf, He didn’t ask that His followers would be whisked up away from this cursed and wicked world on the moment of their conversion, but rather that they would remain.
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world…” – John 17:15
The presence of trouble and hardship in our lives does not make us question our faith in Jesus. Trouble and hardship is not incompatible or inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching nor with His life.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3
The follow up question might well be: “If trouble and hardship doesn’t cause you to lose your faith, then of what benefit is your faith anyway?” Well, to go back to those words of Jesus in John 16, I love what He says immediately following:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
To be a Christian is to be an overcomer. In our journey through the shadowy valley of cancer so far, we take heart because Jesus has given us peace to overcome panic, strength to overcome weakness, joy to overcome misery, faith to overcome fear, hope to overcome uncertainty. When Jesus went to the cross He shed His blood and died so that we might have God’s forgiveness to overcome the consequences of our sin. And when Jesus conquered the grave on the third day He gives us assurance of victory to one day overcome death and dwell with HIm in a world that will eternally be without sin and trouble.