Posts Tagged ‘trust’

This is a tough one.

Trustworthy in what . . ?

I can easily sit in comfort and theorise about an all-powerful, all-knowing, good, loving God when I am warm, safe and have food in my cupboard. But what about when my health or safety are under threat? And worse than that, how much can I rely on God for the health or safety of those I love?

Trust is earned, not given. And so to experience God as trustworthy I need some experience of having to trust him. And if I am to trust him I need to be absolutely sure that I have understood his nature and what sort of relationship with him is possible.

Now that takes some learning.

When James Bryan Smith‘s baby daughter died people asked him how he could still trust God after all he had been through. To explain he described the healing power of the prayer that their pastor read out as Madeline was dying.

The prayer took our story, our own personal narratives (a mother, a father and a sick child), and put it in the context of a larger story, a meta-narrative, which is the story that God is writing. It gave words to our anguish as well as our hopes. The prayer is honest; we cannot see God’s “divine hand”, and we want to see that there is purpose to it all. It is only when our suffering seems meaningless that our spirits are finally broken. But the prayer goes on. It placed our suffering in the proper setting: God’s “own saving plan, established before the creation of the world”.

When we join our story to God’s . . . then everything begins to make sense. The pain is still real, but it becomes bearable . . we can begin to see beyond the suffering and look towards the widespread mercy that surrounds us.

I often feel waves of fear and anguish wash over me as I travel through this breast cancer journey. They challenge the narratives I hold about life, death and my relationship with God. And they push me to explore the bigger picture, the meta-narrative.

In the final chapter of Knowing God, J.I. Packer speaks at length about the Adequacy of God. He quotes Paul’s challenge in Romans 8  to think of what you know of God through the gospel and apply it. Think against your feelings; argue yourself out of the gloom they have spread; unmask the unbelief they have nourished; take yourself in hand, talk to yourself, make yourself look up from your problems to the God of the gospel; let evangelical thinking replace emotional thinking (p295) . . .

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The big lesson in this is that trusting is not a passive state. It takes a lot of strong self talk and self management.

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure


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Yesterday we met the oncologist to talk over the side effects from my second phase of chemotherapy and to plan ahead. On the scale of experiences I have had a rough time – needing antibiotics, sleeping tablets and an e.c.g. to check the effects on my heart. He was clear that the risks now outweigh the benefits for me and we should stop.

I was not surprised.

The amaryllis greeted us on the window-sill when we came home – blooming beautifully.

I bought it to pace me through the second three treatments. The day I reached rock bottom and called for sleeping tablets, the head of the amaryllis began to bulge and show red. The stalk was only 11 inches tall instead of the 20 inches I expected it to be.

This flower was stopping short and moving on to bloom early.

What can this mean?

Chemotherapy is treatment with chemicals that kill dividing cells. Whatever cells are dividing at the time will be destroyed – cancer cells, bone marrow, hair follicles, gut lining. The chemicals cannot tell the difference. And so it has benefits when it hits cancer cells and risks when it hits normal cells.

In breast cancer treatment chemotherapy is used before surgery to shrink the tumour, or after surgery to mop up any cells that might be left or that might have spread. There are many unknowns.

For me the treatment is addressed at might. No-one can answer questions about might and no-one can make the decisions for me.

And so, last November I went for prayer with two doctor colleagues who run a monthly prayer meeting for healing in their surgery. I shared my situation and my dilemma. As he prayed for me, one said with a twinkle in his eyes:

Well you know you are dealing with the God of the Universe here.  If he wants you to have chemotherapy, then he will make sure you get it

5 days later  I had another visit with the oncologist.  As I listened to him speak about might . . and maybe . . and perhaps . .  and in case . . I heard God speak through him and I signed the consent form.

Then I did a deal with God.

Okay – I get the message and I commit myself to this treatment – but please let me know me when I have had enough

It did not dawn on me at the time that, once I started the treatment, the only thing that would stop me completing it would be bad side effects.

This cycle I reached enough.

But who can say what enough is? I am relieved that this period of suffering is over. The specialist is cautious because I have had ‘less than optimal treatment’ – even though ‘optimal’ cannot be defined. We have drawn a line under the treatment of any cells that might already have spread and might have escaped 4 hits with chemotherapy.

Returning to what this means for me, I discover I bought an Amaryllis Ferrari – a type that blooms on stout short stems. It was never going to be full height. God knew what would happen. He planned my enough while I was committing to stay the course in obedience to him.

Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.

And a verse given to me yesterday by a friend . . .

Now glory be to God who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes

I dared to pray for enough and I dare to trust God for what might or might not happen tomorrow . . .

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