The Unexpected Gift
Perhaps you’ve been there. Life has been rolling along fairly seamlessly, then the pink slip comes, or there is a knock at the door and a couple of somber police officers are standing there, or there’s a phone call and the doctor tells you that your test results are very concerning. Suddenly the smooth ride grinds to a rather abrupt stop.
In December, I was the recipient of the last scenario—the phone call from the doctor. In an instant I went from being an exceptionally healthy 61 year old (who had only a few weeks before completed a thirty mile walk), to a cancer patient. The whiplash of such a sudden change is a bit stunning, as all the man-made plans have to be scrapped.
It’s never a “good time” to get this news, but Christmas time seems like the worst timing ever. I was reluctant to share broadly and impose on the joy of the season for others, yet with family gathered, it seemed like the best time to share face to face. For me, sharing the news was harder than hearing the news myself, because I’m not in control of how others would process the information.
However, as I reflected on it, Christmas time was very appropriate because Christmas bears the message of hope. With the coming of Christ the promise of Immanuel, God with us, has been fulfilled. Christmas means we are offered peace on earth—both the peace of God and peace with God. The fact that throughout all of the process I have experienced that peace in a full, rich, and deep way is part of the gift of Christmas.
As I continued down this avenue of thought, I began to enumerate all the other gifts the coming experience has to offer. Many of them are ideas and encouragements I’ve given to others over the years of mentoring and counseling, and now have the opportunity to put into practice myself. These gifts include:
• The opportunity to allow God to glorify Himself in my life, and to people I would not normally encounter.
• The opportunity to live out the truth that fears are God’s invitations to trust in Him, and deepen that complete trust, mirroring Jesus’ own trust of the Father.
• The reminder that God is I AM, and there are times in life when we have to reject the “if onlys” of the past and “what ifs” of the future, and just be present with Him in the current moment, sensing His nearness, goodness, and sovereign love. I have learned from past suffering that sometimes we only have enough strength for the moment we are in, and to think further is unbearable.
• There are also the gifts of the people in our lives, knowing that prayers are going up and being answered—Trusting that God is as much at work in their lives through this, as He is in our own.
• His word shines brightly as a precious gift, as it daily speaks His encouragement, love, power, and conviction. Times like these make the Scriptures shine as “the living Word of God!”
• The refinement that struggles bring is also a gift. Hebrews reminds us that no discipline is pleasant at the time, but God only disciplines those He loves, and the fruit of discipline is glorious. There are things we learn in suffering that we can learn in no other way.
I could go on, but I think you sense the point. Perspective is everything. If we go into struggles with a “doomed” attitude, the battle will be all the more wearisome, but if we face it as an opportunity to know God in deeper ways, and seek to glorify Him with our demeanor in the midst of suffering, then no matter the outcome, we will have victory, and He will have glory.
I know the battle will not be easy, and the outcome (from a temporal point of view) is uncertain, but the joy set before us is certain, and the One leading us there is Faithful. Who could ask for better gifts?
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries