A week before we knew Willa had a tumor growing in her right eye, I was asked to lead our women’s group at the start of April. At the time, I had no idea what I would focus the evening on. This blog and all of its readers has been such a part of what I’ve experienced and how I’ve grown that I realized there was no way I wasn’t going to share our time this evening here on the blog for everyone to take part.
As we enter into Good Friday tomorrow and anticipate celebrating the resurrection of Christ this Easter Sunday, I need to hear other people boast in the cross. I want to know and see how God has proven Himself in other people’s lives and stories. I just went through a month of time where the Lord has been more real and evident and intimately closer to my heart than I’ve felt in my whole life. Try as I might, I could not deny the reality of the Gospel and the hope we all have in the cross. But, there is a war in my heart-a tug to pull me away from this truth and towards my own strength…to doubt that God truly loves me, to doubt that there even is a reason or a hope, to doubt that there is meaning in the suffering, to doubt that He won’t forsake us or abandon us. So, what better way to remind us of His faithfulness to us than to each take a moment to boast in the cross of Christ by asking ourselves “What have I gained because He lives?” My hope in entering into Easter weekend, is that I would hear this scripture
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
that I would hear it and I would know it and trust in it with my whole being. Trust that He will not abandon me. He will accomplish what He began. “He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6. So let’s share together the hope that we have and remind one another of who it is we boast in and why.
Most of you are aware of the events that have taken place in recent weeks with our daughter Willa, but for those who don’t….our 3 month old daughter was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma-an eye cancer of the retina. After the tumor was found in her eye, everything moved very quickly and we were rushed to St. Jude. Two weeks later we took our baby home, with one less eye and lots more unknowns, but with a restored knowledge of who God is, not only in the midst of suffering, but all of the time. He proved Himself, not by circumstances, because although He answered very specific prayers in very specific ways that met our deepest longings (Willa’s cancer had not spread anywhere else outside of her eye and therefore she didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy), the proof of His faithfulness was found in how He entered into our suffering with us, met us there and carried us through. He gave us the strength and hope to endure. He grabbed our hearts and clung to them, ensuring that our fears would not steal His joy. Even when logic would say “God has forgotten these children, He’s not in this place” while we walked the halls of St. Jude and witnessed large masses of pain-filled hearts…even then He would reassure us of His presence in providential ways like this:
A father was comforted by a stranger-a teenage St. Jude patient undergoing chemotherapy treatment. During the bustle of the lunch hour at the hospital cafeteria, this young teenager put his arm around the father who was in obvious shock over the recent Neuroblastoma diagnosis of his 8 month old son, and in purposed tone stated “Don’t worry. Your son is going to be okay, he’s going to make it.”
We received countless incredible letters from friends and people in our community and from past seasons of our lives….these words from a great friend really stood out:
“I can’t help but think that I’m equally as cancerous, likely much more, than little Willa, yet I’m not aware of it, or worse I’m ashamed to admit it. Praise Jesus, who knows each of our cancers and even still gave his life for us.”
We’re all sick. The only difference setting us apart from Willa is that her sickness is easier to see. But we’re all sick, our hearts are all diseased. we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. We are a desperate people in a broken world. We all deserve death and judgment. As John Piper says:
All we deserve from him(God) is judgment. Therefore every breath we take, every time our heart beats, every day that the sun rises, every moment we see with our eyes or hear with our ears or speak with our mouths or walk with our legs is free and undeserved gift to sinners who deserve only judgment.
One of the reasons we are not as Christ-centered and cross-saturated as we should be is that we have not realized that everything – everything good and every thing bad that God turns for the good of his redeemed children was purchased by the death of Christ for us. We simply take life and breath and health and friends and everything for granted. We think it is ours by right. But the fact is that it is not ours by right.
We are doubly undeserving of it.
1) We are creatures and our Creator was not bound or obligated to give us anything – not life or health and anything. He gives, he takes, and he does us no injustice.
2) And besides being creatures with no claim on our Creator, we are sinners. We have fallen short of his glory. We have ignored him and disobeyed him and failed to love him and trust him. The wrath of his justice is kindled against us. All we deserve from him is judgment. Therefore every breath we take, every time our heart beats, every day that the sun rises, every moment we see with our eyes or hear with our ears or speak with our mouths or walk with our legs is free and undeserved gift to sinners who deserve only judgment.
And who bought these gifts for us? Jesus Christ. And how did he purchase them? By his blood.
(read the whole article here)
It might sound crazy to hear/read those words…..as I watched Willa screaming while 5 nurses held her down to try to get an IV needle started over and over again, as I witnessed tiny little limp bodies lying in gigantic hospital beds, clutching stuffed animals and mothers and fathers kneeling at their bedside, gently coaxing them awake from anesthesia, as I watched frail teenagers being wheeled by their parents through the hospital…..those words, that confess that all we deserve is judgment, are the only way I can make sense of the suffering….that me and Steven and Willa and every being on this earth are doubly undeserving..that to even exist is an extravagant grace. An extravagant grace that our Heavenly Father lavishes upon us even while we are still sinners! It’s the moment when I’m blissfully lost in this truth that I can boast in the cross of Christ, in Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s in those moments that I feel like this boasting was all I was ever created to do. It’s all I’ll ever want to do. It’s worth eternities of praise! It’s my whole life, my whole being.
Oh! That those moments lingered. But, the struggle is real and my heart is faint. That’s why reminders are so precious. Because we’re all walking different roads and while one is pressing ahead, full of grace, another is dragging behind, weighted down with apathy. So we pass the baton of remembrance, we raise our Ebenezers…thus far the Lord has helped us! Look and see and remember. BECAUSE HE LIVES! My (and your) Ebenezer this Easter weekend.
Because HE lives….I joyfully endure the reality of childhood cancer.
So, fill in the blank: Because HE lives…..
What has the death and resurrection of christ secured for you?
Raise it high! Be reminded that everything was obtained for us by the cross of Christ and that you are alive only because HE lives.
Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here by Thy great help I’ve come!
If you’re interested in stitching your own “Because HE lives” embroidery hoop as an Ebenezer/reminder of His help, you can use the pattern below. It was originally create for a 4″ hoop, but you can tweak the size of the image to fit whatever size you’d like. Use different stitches and/or colors if you’d like to give it your own unique twist.