They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Psalm 112:7 (NIV)
A deep ache gripped my heart as I looked upon her feeble and altered frame. My beautiful mum had just come out of brain surgery, and now she lay in the ICU with her head wrapped up and her body hooked up to wires, IVs, and various monitors. As she began coming off the anesthesia, it was evident that things had not gone like we’d hoped. We had hoped for a safe surgery, a brain tumor fully removed, no cancer, and a perfect recovery. Our lips were ready to praise — for we had prayed and believed! But now, we were beholding a much different outcome. She had suffered a stroke during surgery. My beloved mum — always a picture of energy, joy, and smiling eyes — now couldn’t even open her eyes or smile, and had difficulty speaking. And while we were still processing what all this meant for our future, the surgeon stopped into her room to straightly tell us that the tumor prognosis wasn’t good. It was cancer. It was the worst kind. And they hadn’t been able to remove it all during the surgery. By all human measures or expectations, it was hopeless.
As the doctor left the room, my father and I immediately surrounded Mum in her bed, embraced her, and began declaring together what was true — that God, her God, had the final say, and nothing could end her life before He was finished with the work He wanted to do in and through her. We proclaimed Him as the God of miracles, her Healer, and the God of the impossible! We prayed together, and then, as my father continued to comfort and encourage Mum, I slipped quietly over to the far window of the hospital room … and wept. I could no longer hold in the deep, crushing sadness that was overwhelming me. I was swallowed up in agonizing waves of grief and baited to the most dreadful fear. No, Lord, please, not my dear mother! But, in those very moments of sorrow and weeping, the tender love of my heavenly Father was also present, and in His grace, He helped me reach out a hand of faith to grab ahold of the Anchor of our hope — Jesus. I cried out for His help, peace, and truth to be a shield against all doubt and fear. And resisting the enemy’s bait to despair over this horrible prognosis, I offered my praise through tears to the One who had promised to be faithful.
Later that night while sitting beside Mum’s hospital bed, I began composing an email that would be sent out to all our family and friends to tell them the news. When I was nearly finished, Mum managed to speak from her weakened lips, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” And then she urged me, “Tell them, Annie … tell them the only way to endure all this is by remaining in His presence. Tell them how all this past month, God had pressed me to memorize and meditate on Psalm 16:11, ‘You will show me the path of life, in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ He was preparing me to seek His presence and find fullness of joy. Even in this, I can have His joy.”
I assured her that I would tell them and began typing her words into the letter as tears ran down my face. But this time, the tears were altogether different than earlier that day. They were hopeful, rejoicing tears flowing from a heart that had turned its gaze to the faithfulness, power, and love of our God, rather than worrying about our present trials and “impossibilities.”
Even in this. I savored her words. Jesus, let me join with my mum in drawing deeper into Your presence. I fix my eyes on all that You are. Let Your presence set our trials in the light of Your power and faithfulness. And then, on the wings of that prayer, His joy came. It flooded my heart in such a real way, that there in that darkened ICU room, in the wee hours of the night, Mum and I shared a fullness of joy that surpassed every earthly thing we were walking through. Fears fled. Worry was silenced. And we beheld the One in whom we had anchored our hope.
As I write to you, dear reader, we are continuing to walk through this trial. The difficulties are still there, but we have planted our hearts and confidence in the presence of our Mighty God, and are experiencing deep treasures of grace and growth and joy — treasures that can only come on the road of suffering. As I type this letter, I can imagine Mum saying, “Tell them, Annie, that no matter the depth or magnitude of their trial, there is always a way to joy! In Jesus is everything you need to get through it victoriously. In every moment of weakness or fear, call upon Him! Hide His Word deep within your heart. Abide in the presence of God, and allow Him to transform even the darkest valley into a green pasture beside still waters.”
You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.