That which doesn’t kill you…

Posted: September 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
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…will be back to try again later! That isn’t how that the old saw normally ends, but here lately that feels like the core truth – we may get stronger after a particular adventure, but we are not finished! Let me build that out a little.

Yesterday Karen went for her second chemo treatment, and so today we know the side effects will be on display.  (That interview I promised with her is in the works, hope to have it later today.) Her first round taught us much, and overall she came through like a trooper…but now she is facing it again, and she knows it will be back at least twice more in this stage, and then weekly starting in November. I am concerned, not so much about her body (the doctors are well qualified to maintain her physical health) but about her spirit.  I know from experience how frustrating it can be to want to do things and be too sick to do them; but when the treatment makes you sicker than the disease, it can really screw with your interior logic, and doubt finds a foothold. It can get hard to believe that the outcome is worth all the pain…that there is any purpose which justifies all that we are going through. Sometimes it can even appear that we’d be better off just letting the sickness run its course, and dealing with it later on, when we are “stronger”. That of course is dead-end logic, because problems almost never get better by themselves. In physics, the word “entropy” describes the idea that the universe cannot sustain itself, and that eventually decay and loss robs the system of energy, bringing it to a stop. William Butler Yeats expressed it perfectly:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

“The Second Coming”

The poet is inspired by the devastation of war, but cancer is a war too, fought on the most precious of home fronts – our very own bodies – and a survey of that battlefield can be even more disheartening. We ponder over what remains after destructive forces which are supposed to “save” us have spent their fury…and we despair, “Is it really worth all this?”

Beyond the body, there is an unseen battlefield: that of the spirit. As Christians we are told the spiritual battle is the most important, the one with eternal consequences, and therefore we are best prepared when we avail ourselves of the protections heaven offers…the armor of God.  There is a reason we need such mighty protection – it’s not a one-time fight! We will be assailed again and again, simply because we choose to remain faithful.  Jesus tells us many times that this is to be expected; one of my favorite instances occurs in Revelation, when Jesus tells the church in Smyrna that He knows about their sufferings, but relax – it’s going to get worse! And then He reminds them of the reason we endure…because the reward is worth the pain it costs to get there.

Cancer hurts, and it kills. Curing it appears to hurt worse, but Karen’s prognosis on the other side makes the cost worth bearing, we believe. In the same way, sin hurts, and it kills. Once we turn away from sin, seeking the cure of forgiveness in Christ, life can seem to hurt worse than the sin did. But we have a glorious prognosis on the other side of this life, and we believe that makes all we have to suffer to get there worth every step.

Following hard after Him,

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