Sitting in church this past Sunday, January 1, 2012, my pastor suggested there might be things about 2011 we would rather forget. “Amen! Don’t you know it!” I shouted in my head. Immediately, the Holy Spirit brought pause to my thoughts: “Really, Shauna? Do you really want to forget?”And you know what? I don’t, and here’s why. If I forget the painful, frustrating, disappointing experiences of the past year, if I simply sweep them under my “let’s not go there” rug, the tender revelations, the faith-altering lessons, and the new depth of my intimate relationship with the Lord also fall victim to the memory erasing broom. In that moment, appreciation welled up within me for the hardships through which He allowed me to see, know, and experience Him in a tangible way. No matter how many shoes drop, I don’t want to forget.
Then yesterday, I sat across the breakfast table from two of the strongest, most beautiful women I know. They have something in common and I wanted them to meet: cancer. Two hours passed like ten minutes. Joy wells up within my heart. I can’t yet articulate my emotions. I’m overwhelmed with the tenderness and power of the God of all creation at work in and through these two sisters in Christ. They shared honestly about chemo and wigs, fear and faith, and the power of the word of God. And the question of why. Sound familiar? I asked that a lot this last year. It was time to go. They exchanged phone numbers, and we said our goodbyes. One friend headed to Houston for treatment, and as is the female way, the two of us who remained carried on in the parking lot. It was then, and in the car as I ran errands and hooked up for lunch with my sister-in-law, that God began to connect thoughts and dots in my head. Thus the extension to my series and two more truths to share today.
IRREVOCABLE TRUTH #5: The real question isn’t why, but how. As we set aside our own understanding, knowing that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, there will be things we just aren’t going to understand this side of heaven. Babies are conceived but not delivered. Margins are clear and then cancer reappears. Children die before their parents. A young student commits suicide. A perfect marriage fails. Disaster strikes and suffering overwhelms a family or a nation. A 95-year-old is ready for heaven yet lingers in a degenerating body. Why? Does God allow these things to happen? Does He cause them? These are hard questions. I’ve asked them. And He always leads me back to Him. Who He is, what He says in His word, who I am in Christ, and what He wants from me. And the question changes. It’s no longer why, but how? How, Lord, would you have me walk through this challenge in such a way that You are glorified? How, Lord, do I need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind? How, Lord, can I be useful to You as I walk through this time? Talking in the parking lot, my breakfast buddy shared with me that she got to the point where she simply couldn’t allow herself to ask why any more. Thinking back on this morning’s conversation, she shared about a time when she received her chemo treatments in a large, open room with other cancer patients. Relationships were formed and doors opened to share her faith. People who at first seemed turned off by her faith would return and ask for prayer. That’s a how.
IRREVOCABLE TRUTH #6: In our suffering, we experience the comfort of Christ, in order that we can extend His comfort to others who are suffering. Second Corinthians 1:3-7 says:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same suffering which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
I have a whole new appreciation for what it means to suffer a miscarriage. I have experienced the comfort of Christ and can now share that comfort with others. I have experienced the comfort of Christ through a year of back-to-back disappointments. I can now share that comfort with others. My friends can share the comfort of Christ with each other and other cancer patients in a way that I cannot. I guarantee there is theology in the above scripture that is way deeper and beyond the simple truth I am pulling from it. As I read it, I ask myself: Am I willing to suffer that others might experience the comfort of Christ through me? Am I willing to suffer for another’s consolation and salvation? Am I willing to be inconvenienced in order that God may be glorified? Lord, by Your grace, may my answer be “Yes, and amen!”
I did a little research on the origin of the saying waiting for the other shoe to drop. According to www.answers.com (12/29/2011), the phrase means one is “waiting for something bad to happen which you are expecting. It comes from a famous music hall joke about a man who is woken by the drunk upstairs dropping his shoe. He can’t get back to sleep because he is waiting for the second crash on the ceiling. Eventually he shouts upstairs ‘For Heaven’s sake, drop the other shoe!’” I propose to you there is no such thing as the proverbial other shoe. There is, however, the hand of God carrying out His perfect will, not just for us, but for all of mankind, for His glory, and for His kingdom purpose. First Peter 5:6-11 tells us:
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
I am no longer looking for a shoe. Only a Hand.