Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Consider it Pure Joy!

Years ago, in a church in New York, the pastor came out onto the stage and sort of yelled, 
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds!"
 He then looked at us above his glasses with a face of, "Is the Bible serious?"

Yes, this is Scripture. It comes from the book of James, chapter one verse two. At that time I had not yet read the book of James, so hearing him declare this Scripture was a complete surprise to me. I had never been challenged to have joy in trials. What I learned about how one goes through a trial was this: you get depressed, you sulk, you over eat and sleep. After about a week of self-pity and receiving pity from others, some how you pull yourself up by your boot-straps and move on. So, I remember sitting in church that day completely captivated. I was learning something so foreign to me. I feverishly wrote down every word the pastor said. That was at least twenty-two years ago and with each new trial I say to myself, "El, will you consider this trial a joy?" I have usually failed.

Okay, so eight years ago I went to the doctor to have him look at a funny looking mole. My primary care physician said it was nothing, but also said that it wouldn't hurt to get it checked out by a dermatologist. The dermatologist also agreed that it was probably nothing, but took a sample of it and sent it out for a biopsy. I received a call a few days later. The doctor actually told me to sit down. I was then told that the test came back and it was cancer. Stage four melanoma. He told me the best case scenario was that I would loose my thumb on my left hand. He made an appointment for me to come in about ten days to talk about what treatments we were to take.

I hung up the phone. I remained sitting on the couch. The house was quiet. I began tearing up, when I remembered James 1:2, "Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you face trial of many kinds..." I said out loud to the Lord, "Father, let this be the first trial that I go through with complete joy." I stopped crying, got up and called my husband. I told him it was going to be alright. In the days that followed I had joy. I taped down my thumb and started doing life without a thumb on my left hand. I slept fine. It was amazing.

Seven days later I received a call again from the dermatologist, asking me again to sit down. This time it was better news. The doctor told me that someone in the office had mixed up my test results with another patients. My mole was not stage four melanoma! My results came back benign. As I hung up the phone I thought about how much crying and worrying I would have done over the seven days without God and the Word. I had joy in the middle of a potentially, very, difficult trial.

Now fast forward to today- eight years later. I went to my dermatologist, on a Tuesday afternoon, to have a new growth looked at. A second growth has popped up right next to the one that I had eight years ago-they look exactly the same. Not thinking anything of it really, I went calmly and happily to the doctors knowing I was going to hear, "It's nothing." Sadly, that was not what I received. The doctor, not saying much of anything, looked and acted concerned. He immediately ordered for the mole to be taken out- tissue and all... I was given an appointment for Friday, December 20th, ten days later, to have the stitches removed and to hear the lab report.

I left the office remembering how I had offered this trial to God as joy eight years ago and thought, "Well, Lord, here we go again-I give this to you with joy." But as the days have marched on, waiting for the results, I have had some pretty terrifying thoughts-not too joyful. It's hard to have joy when there is the potential of your trial worsening. It's hard to smile when the road that lies ahead of you might mean radiation or chemotherapy. It's hard to have joy when the ones you love the most are being extra loving and kind because of the trial. (The sweetness from others continually reminds me of what might be). It's hard to have joy when all I know may come to a halting stop. But then I said to the Lord, "If this is a trial I am to walk through I know it'll only bring my husband, children and I closer. I know you will be with me. I know you'll bring me through." I had joy thinking on that.

Then I realized, through the help of my husband, that Jesus died on the cross to not only save us from our sin, but to be our healer. I began reading Scriptures on healing and declaring that I am healed. That brought me true joy. Knowing that God wants my healing and can heal me helped me to focus on God and not what might be. Prayer was the only joy I have found during this waiting season.

Trials. Joy. How? Why? Well, If we believe that God is LORD. If we believe that He has a good plan for us. If we believe He is in control. If we believe He is our healer. If. we. trust. Him...then why can't we have joy? Joy in trials because we trust the God of the universe who made every cell, every part of me, to take me through and out of this trial.
(I wrote all the above on Thursday).

Friday, I prayed, "Lord, I think I can make it until Tuesday not knowing, after that... this will get really hard for me. Can you have the doctor call me on Tuesday with the results?"
(Yes, I talk to God this openly and honestly- and pathetically).

Tuesday, exactly seven days later,
at twelve-noon
the phone rang, it was the doctor.
She said,
"I have good news, the growth is benign."

I hung up the phone and honestly and truly wept. Why does my Father in heaven love me so much? Why? I am so overwhelmed by His love and protection.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:2-8)

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