The uncomfortable grace of suffering

I could hear the underlying despair in the higher than normal pitch of his voice. “I can’t believe it’s been so many months. It’s been long, but also short.” Another friend in the cancer fight alongside his beloved. Time that passes simultaneously quickly and slowly is a side effect of cancer. It is grueling days and weeks and months. It is pain and suffering that linger. It is coveted, glorious days of looking upon the face of someone you cherish beyond words. Life with cancer is slow because of the anguish and fast because of the fear. Time is always running out while dragging endlessly along.

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We had a lengthy day of MRIs and scan review and chemotherapy this past Tuesday. We left with minds full of complicated terminology and new images of Jesse’s brain. His scans look mostly the same as they have with some expected differences around his most recent surgery sites. The tumor does not appear to be growing rapidly everywhere, but there is a place buried deep within Jesse’s brain that we cannot reach with any currently existing form of surgery that needs to be managed. We were presented with two options on Tuesday, and I left feeling as though we had just been asked which ocean of quick sand we would like to attempt to run across. I’ve been struggling since to put all of this into words, to scratch my pen across paper and come out with anything that doesn’t sound like complete gibberish or lead to confusion or despair for anyone on this journey with us.

This suffering; it’s an uncomfortable grace.

It is not the feel good, ‘someone is sacrificing everything for me so I can be happy and free’ grace we like to believe is real. It is real, true grace; the kind of grace that knows grace does not -cannot- exist without the truth that brokenness in this life is here by our own hands, and we are helpless to defeat it on our own. This is the scary grace of refinement and of release, the uncomfortable grace showing us our need for God. It is the grace we so desperately need, and it looks an awful lot like pain and suffering. It is the kind of grace that opens your eyes to the reality that you are limited being made by Unlimited God. It is real grace that acknowledges your brokenness and innate need for care, your lacking of ability, your wronging of the Grace-giver. It is grace that knows God is taking you where you do not long to go, where you cannot venture on your own, to draw out of you what you cannot draw out of yourself. It is the kind that brings about the understanding that the beginning of true grace arrives when you come to the end of yourself. It is found when your human options are suffering. . .or suffering. It is the kind of grace that, when it finds you standing at the edge of two oceans of quick sand wondering which one you will attempt to run across limping while holding the hand of your sick husband and hefting 4 kids on your back, that causes slippery fluid-laced ground to firm up beneath your feet the moment you step out. It is the ‘blood-bought, firm foundation’ kind of grace.

When step out into the great unknown you must, this grace is what reminds you that every treacherous step you take is safe because your unknown is unknown only to you. The Lord will either solidify the ground beneath your feet, or give you wings to fly above it. There is no unsafe, scary, dark, or sinking place when the foundation you stand upon is THE Solid Rock. Our footsteps will not waiver and we will not sink into the miry depths of despair, because we cannot. Our God is too steady, too strong, too unmovable, too capable. The task before us is not about the quick and sinking sand that is decision-making when every outcome is so fraught with possible despair, anyway. It is not about the seemingly impossible task ahead of us (or you). It is not about the grace given to endure and the guidance to make the best decisions we can, even. It is about the Giver of the uncomfortable grace of suffering that leads to the joyful and freeing surrender of weary self.

 

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11

 

Update and Prayer Needs:

-Obviously, we are at a bit of a crossroads. We need to make a decision on a continued treatment path for Jesse in a short time frame. What we do will affect the longevity and quality of his life in years to come. We are not worried. We are not afraid. We are asking, rather simply, that the Lord will help us to just “know” what the right path forward is in this. Like in Isaiah, we are asking for a very clear, “This is the way; walk it.” We know He will not fail to take us right where He wants us. Will you pray this with and over us? Prayer is powerful! We have experienced this truth with such prevalence!

-Since I originally wrote much of this, we’ve learned of a third option that seems promising. There are a lot of things that have to line up for it to work for us, but we trust in this, as in all other options, that God will make the path clear if it is the direction we are supposed to go.

-Thank you for your prayers and your immeasurable kindnesses toward me and my people as this journey lingers on. We could never have expected that so many would still be walking alongside us for such a length of time. We love you all so!