It’s hard to write when you physically feel like you have an axe embedded in your head and the usual hit of painkillers washed down with coffee do very little to spike the target when spiritually there is a fiery dart smouldering in your soul. Annie’s first evening and first full day ‘home’ were hard. Really hard. Even a 140 character tweet was too much to write.
It took a long time for us both to get to sleep on Tuesday evening. Annie was struggling emotionally with the transition from hospice to house. Her latter nights at the hospice had become gradually more and more restful and peaceful. Knowing that she was a button-push away from the best medical care and assistance at any time during the night added a comfort blanket to her bedside – never needed but there all the same.
Once we finally started to sleep we were both awoken at around 3am, Annie bursting into another violent vomiting spell. I lurched forward out of bed in a vain attempt to reach for the bucket in time; as vain an attempt as Annie’s struggle to hold it back. The nausea and vomiting spells each have a wretched charm of their own characterised by numerous bad manners, like how late in the night they arrive, or how unrelenting they are, or how carelessly and unreasonably demanding of energy, or how rudely they interrupt and disrupt a lovingly made wholesome meal, or how they rampage with irreverent disdain following prayer, or how long they linger with menace. Or how frustrating their unannounced, unexpected and unwelcome intrusion. Annie had been four days without sickness. We all – doctors and nurses included – figured that the Cyclizine driver had stabilised Annie during her stay at the hospice. And yet on the very day we come back home, it seemed that it might have simply been a case of nausea craftily taking a four-day vacation with a cruelly planned return date that clashed precisely with the emotionally difficult day when Annie would attempt to return home.
Since Annie’s first cancer diagnosis, we have never demanded from God an answer to the question “Why?”
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9
Our God is mighty, wise and strong. Who are we to question our Almighty Maker? Who are we to question the wisdom and knowledge of the God who created light and warmth and hand-placed our earth perfectly and precisely at the extent of their powerful reach? Who are we to question the love of the One who made us in His own image and wants to enjoy us so much that He sent His only Son to rescue and redeem us? Who are we to shake a fist at the God we offended so much that it provoked His loving arm to reach out further – even into the flames and darkness that devoured and smothered our wicked and selfish hearts and minds? Who are we to raise any appeal against our Righteous Judge who took upon Himself the punishment sinners like us deserved to face?
Annie and I have learned that there is also another great arrogance in praising God when all is well with us and getting mad with Him when it’s not. What about all the people who are suffering when all is well with us? Is God only good when the face of His goodness is turned toward us? How arrogant is that!?
This isn’t the rumblings of philosophical rhetoric. Annie and I share this from the depths of our heart. It’s not just a paragraph regurgitated from the terms and conditions that apply between creature and Creator. This comes out of a Spirit-enabled reverence, awe, love for and trust of our Father in Heaven and Lord Jesus Christ, the triune God
Annie and I know that God is great and good. We read His Word and we are reassured that out of the difficulty, suffering, persecution, disability and despair of His chosen and redeemed people, God always brings about a greater good.
In our suffering, we have never demanded that God answer “Why?”
But there are times when accepting His will is hard and difficult to swallow at the time. After all, Jesus said following Him also included ‘denying ourselves’ (Luke 9:23). We know the Father’s will and His Way is good and best. But in those painful moments, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months even perhaps years, before we get to see and experience the greater good He has promised, we are not immune to the experience of occasional inner frustration. It’s something that needs to be denied a prominent platform but it’s also something that God graciously accommodates.
I felt frustrated that night Annie was sick. It was difficult to accept (and we do accept it) that God allowed us to be ushered out of the hospice only to come home on the very day nausea struck again. I found myself frustrated at why it had to be that way – that sleep depriving, disappointing, difficult way. Wouldn’t it have been better if Annie stayed just one more night so that they could progress her to the next type of medication and keep her in the hospice a bit longer for monitoring? Wouldn’t that have been a great blessing to Annie as well? What good was there in that physically and spiritually painful Wednesday we experienced yesterday?
After the vomiting it was very difficult for us both to get back to sleep and we suffered for that the next day. But before I lay my head on the pillow, the Spirit inspired Word of God came to me. I knew I sounded like those Israelites in the wilderness.
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” – Exodus 16:2,3
But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” – Exodus 17:3
The next morning I turned to those verses in Exodus and read the 16th and 17th chapter for myself. You might imagine it was hard to come to God’s Word yesterday morning. Well it wasn’t. It was hard to write but it wasn’t hard to come before the Word of God and I was glad that the Lord enabled be to do so.
The people of Israel had been powerfully and miraculously redeemed out of slavery in Egypt by God’s Mighty hand. Ten plagues eventually saw the mighty Pharaoh subjugated and Israel liberated from his tight grip, a pillar of fire and cloud assisted their way and the depths of the Red Sea parted before them, consuming their enemies behind them; these were hallmarks of God’s hand, not Moses’! And yet they grumbled at Moses the first time they got hunger pangs and they dared to imagine they would have been better left beaten and oppressed slaves in a foreign land.
So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. – Exodus 16:6,7
I noticed how the people grumbled at Moses; but the fact was God wouldn’t have Moses personally take the hit. This was God’s people and Moses was God’s man; this was God’s business and He had them understand that He took their grumbling personally.
I realise that I can personify nausea and use it as a scapegoat for my grumbling; I can focus it on the doctors and nurses who chose to discharge Annie prematurely but I know that beneath this kind of grumbling there is a frustration, a grumbling at God. Being convicted of this was good for me because it reminded me again, that God is in control; and that is good! Nausea isn’t in control. Doctors are not in control. Cancer is not in control. Satan is not in control. God is in control and I am glad He is because if any of those others were, life would be hopeless.
I also noticed from the scriptures how God met Israel’s grumbling with amazing grace. God heard the rumbling of their stomachs and the grumbling of their hearts and what follows is an incredible miracle of love and provision.
The LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’” – Exodus 16:11,12
As I read that I was uplifted. The axe was still in my head (the headache didn’t really leave all day and Annie was woozy and weak throughout the day) but that smouldering dart was extinguished, extracted and covered with the elixir of God’s Grace. The Lord hears my grumbling and He responds graciously. As I meditated on those scriptures I was not just corrected and comforted; I was assured and my confidence in the Lord was renewed. I know that the Lord will bring a greater good out of this suffering. I believe that He will do something greater that will be realised on this earth. I don’t know how it will look or when it will come. But I believe the Lord will use our suffering for His glory and our greater good on this earth. I don’t know if that greater good will be realised by both Annie and I while we are on this earth but I have faith that we could experience it. I don’t know if it will look like physical healing or not. But I know it will be more than simply having another day or week when Annie feels less sick. It will be greater than that.
Ultimately, whether we get to see and experience it or not, I know that one day, those moments of frustration and confusion will be resolved when we take our heavenly dwelling place with our Lord Jesus.
The bread-like manna that came from heaven was an incredible miracle that was experienced and enjoyed by the Israelites for 40 years. What they picked each day never lasted more than one day, except on Fridays when it lasted two days! After that period of time, it expired. But centuries later God would send His Son from heaven to this world. Jesus said:
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:35
The manna that came from heaven in the wilderness was wonderful…but it was just an earthly foretaste of the Bread of Life, Jesus the Son of God. The blessings that people would receive by believing in Him would outlast time. The blessings we receive in Jesus will extend into…
…into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven, – 1 Peter 1:4
Ultimately, whether Annie and I get to see and experience the greater good that God will do on this earth or not, doesn’t really matter. We know that one day, those moments of frustration and confusion and difficulty accepting God’s will, will be more than resolved when we take our heavenly dwelling place with our Lord Jesus.
I wonder if in heaven we’ll get to talk with one another about life on this earth? I wonder if we’ll be able to ask deep questions? I wonder if I’ll sit down with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ over a meal some day in blissful eternity and whether they’ll be able to ask things of me like “You remember on that blog you used to keep, you wrote about that time you got up at 3am and Annie was being sick all over the place and you started to get so mad? Well, Ry (or Annie)…was it all worth it in the end?” I wonder if I’ll be able to do the same with Jesus? I wonder if He might be able to ask me or my sister, Annie, the same?
What I do know is that our tears in heaven will have been wiped away by Jesus.
In my imagination, that question won’t ever get to be answered with words. I imagine no one would even be able to complete the sentence before we all burst into joyous, sanctified laughter and praise! Those kinds of tears, I wouldn’t want anyone to wipe away!
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. – 1 Peter 1:4
For now, these feet of clay remain temporarily rooted in the dirt of this earth.
We had a much better night’s sleep last night for which we thank the Lord. Yesterday evening, the community nurse added a little Haloperidol to Annie’s driver which is effective night-time anti-sickness. As it oozes slowly through the syringe throughout the day, it does mean that she is experiencing greater tiredness through the day and as I write she is asleep on the couch. Her appetite is good and for now there has been no vomiting since Tuesday night.
Following this post I’ll add a few photos and a little something else…
Lord, we love You and trust You