This morning, I have been reminded of God’s goodness. Nothing obviously special has happened today, but there have been several subtle, gentle ways that he has spoken to me.
There are few things I love more than starting my morning with a cup of tea and looking out my kitchen window. (Even while writing that, it makes me feel about 80 years old, but that’s ok!) Recently, chemo has really changed my taste buds, and many of my favorite things taste terrible to me, including my morning tea. However, since it’s been about 6 days since treatment, I decided to attempt it again.
It really is the little things in life that bring so much joy. As I took my first sip of tea and realized it actually tasted good to me this morning, my mood (which had been pretty gray since yesterday’s stupid liver numbers!) was lifted. I pulled back my curtains and was shocked by the bright sunshine that poured in… mood lifted some more! I sat at my kitchen table, sipped my tea, stared out of my sunshiny window, and cracked open my devo book, Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love.
So, I love old devotional classics. This is something I just discovered a couple of years ago when I read a book appropriately named Devotional Classics, which was a compilation of devotions written by different authors over the last thousand years. From those excerpts, I made a list of books I wanted to read. A few months ago, I randomly picked Revelations of Divine Love from my list.
It could not be more appropriate. And while I thought it was a random choice, I can see now how God was directing me toward it. Although it was written in the 14th Century, it has spoken to this season of my life so perfectly. It was written by a woman (Julian) in her 30s who was very ill at the time… I don’t feel very ill, but I think you can probably see why I relate to this lady!
Anyway, the entire book is Julian describing how God spoke to her while she was ill. This is from today’s chapter:
“And these words, ‘You shall not be overcome,’ were said very loudly and clearly, for security and comfort against all the tribulations that may come. He did not say, “You shall not be tormented, you shall not be troubled, you shall not be grieved,’ but he said, ‘You shall not be overcome.’ God wants us to pay attention to his words and wants our certainty always to be strong, in weal [abundance] and woe; for he loves and is pleased with us, and so he wishes us to love and be pleased with him and put great trust in him; and all shall be well.”
I read and reread this passage, thinking about God’s promise to be with us through everything, both the terrible and the wonderful. These words, written more than 600 years ago, seemed to be just for me today. I needed them!
I sighed, looked out my window again, and then pulled my Bible toward me. Today I was ready to begin Ephesians, and this is the verse that stuck out to me:
“I ask – ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory – to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him – endless energy, boundless strength!” Ephesians 1:17-19
I almost laughed. Energy and strength. These are the things I have been praying for the most over the last few months… that I would have energy and strength to face surgeries and treatment, all while working a full time job and completing my third semester of grad school. “The utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him – endless energy, boundless strength!”
Reading these words doesn’t magically give me energy and strength, but they are a reminder that God has been giving me these things all along, that I will not be “overcome,” as Julian puts it. And to really think of the extravagance of it all… the abundant, beautiful, joy-filled life God has for us when we give in to his work in our lives… wow.
Early in this process, as I talked to God about all that I was going through, he said to me, “I know this sucks, and I am walking with you through all of it.” Yes, God used the word “sucks,” which is pretty hilarious since that was a bad word in our house growing up… but I digress.
I loved that those were the words he chose to speak to me. He reminded me that he knows how terrible it’s been, but that I am never alone in the process. God never promised to protect us from the terrible things, and to be honest, I DON’T believe that everything happens for a reason (Click here for a great column from Relevant Magazine on the topic).
However, I do believe that God is in the business of redeeming all things. I believe that in his infinite creativity and goodness, he takes the terrible and makes it wonderful, surprising us over and over again with his ability to make all things well. Sometimes this happens almost immediately, and sometimes it takes days, months, years, or eternity… And in that waiting time, when all seems terrible, he walks with us. To some, this seems like an empty, weak, not-enough promise. But to me, it is everything.