Grace Under Pressure

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April, 2016

Let me be clear. 

I do NOT believe that because I pray, read my Bible, and attend church that God decided I was good enough to heal my husband. I do NOT believe that if there is no healing on earth that you just are not good enough or just did not pray hard enough. I do NOT believe that the bad things that happen to people are punishment for our sins or a test from God.

I DO believe that because I made a commitment to pray, to read my Bible, and to serve at church that God gave, and continues to give, me strength, patience, peace, and grace under pressure. God gives us His armor so that we can withstand Satan’s fiery darts. He will use our difficult situations to grow us, but He is not the cause of the evil in our lives.

I am 42 years old. I have attended church my whole life except for a brief hiatus during my college years when I worked on Sundays. I have believed in Jesus Christ as my Savior for as long as I can even remember. I have served in children’s ministries, sung in the choir, even had a brief stint as an organist in a small church. However, that is not quite the same thing as “closeness” with him. 

In January of 2011, I felt a strong conviction that I call myself a Christian, but I had never even read the Bible all the way through. You see, every January our church has a time of fasting. Many people fast from food, but others fast from other things, whatever we feel pulls us away from our closeness with Him. I am a reader....I LOVE novels....I can ignore the whole world and let it pass me by as I immerse myself in a book. At times my family has complained that I am too busy reading to pay attention. So, for the fast I determined to give up novels and only read the Bible all the way through for the month of January. I was sure I would finish in the month since I read so quickly. I did slip one time and pull out a novel in the bath, but otherwise I stuck to my guns. It took me through the second week in February to finish. It was difficult, but do-able. I felt so CLOSE to God as I stayed immersed in his Word. It was INCREDIBLE.

As I discussed with others how difficult it was to read the Bible all the way through many had tips for ways to read that would be fulfilling, but in smaller bits. I was discussing it with one of my friends who is a youth pastor one day and he made a recommendation about reading a little Old Testament, a little New Testament, and some Psalms and Proverbs daily. I have modified that a bit and I read a chapter or two from OT and NT, and a chapter of Psalms or Proverbs daily. Some days I miss out for one reason (excuse?) or another, but I try not to beat myself up, but just dive back in the next day. Every day I read something that pulls me closer to God

Then, in June of 2012 I began to feel another tug of conviction. We have always given to our church, and to some friends of ours who are missionaries, but never a full TITHE. I just did not see how we could manage to give up THAT much. It would totally wreck our budget and I did not believe we would ever be able to pay our bills. Still I wrote that HUGE check to the church, the same size as our mortgage, and turned it in. Miraculously, we made it through the month....and then through July and August. In fact, so far we have met all our financial obligations. More closeness as I experienced the faithfulness of God.

So you are now thinking, “Where’s the pressure? She is convicted, takes a step, and God has things moving along smoothly. Of course she’s faithful!”

So, let’s go back to March of 2012. My husband and son were steadfast members of Boy Scouts and never missed a camping trip. Charles came home from their monthly camping trip and the next morning he was barely able to move. He had thrown out his back somehow and was off to the doctor. The doctor put him on painkillers and bed rest and he was out of work for a week and on half days for another week. No fun!

Off and on throughout the spring and summer his back would cause him problems. He made several trips to the doctor. Finally our general practitioner sent him to have an MRI done to see if they could figure things out. 

The results of the MRI came back on a Wednesday in August. I was out of town teaching at a workshop. When it was over I realized that Charles had left me a message to call him. To be honest the phone call is kind of a blur. The only thing I clearly remember is that while scanning his back the MRI had turned up "something" on his kidney. They were sending him for an ultrasound to get a better look. 

At this point I was a little shell-shocked. I was expecting a solution to the back problem and instead we were facing something additional. Life all of a sudden had this terrifying uncertainty to it. What was this? How would it impact our lives? We began a dizzying round of doctor’s appointments, scans, and bloodwork. The “something” on the kidney turned out to be a 10cm cyst that might or might not be cancerous. Ten centimeters is about the size of a wiffle ball! Good grief!

Next thing we knew it was October and we had spent at least one day a week at some type of doctor appointment or test. Charles was set to have surgery and I was clinging to every promise that I had ever heard, read, or sung about in church. 

THIS is where the grace comes in. For the first time ever I truly understood the meaning of “the peace that passes all understanding.” It really does exist, and even after having experienced it myself, I still am not really able to understand it. I had the peace to continue with my life, to meet my everyday obligations. I knew and understood deep in my bones that God really did have everything in His control.

I’m not going to tell you that there were no moments of fear. There were times that I broke down and cried, that I didn’t know how I was going to make it. But each time God placed something in my path--a Scripture, a person, a card, a text, a beautiful sunrise--that reminded me of His promises. My Bible from that time has the whole back inside covers filled with scriptures that my friends sent to me.

I sat in the waiting room and knitted through the hours of the surgery, and so many folks came and sat with me and talked. I don’t know what we talked about, but I know that they were there for Charles and I. I can see their faces. I have a vivid memory of being exhausted in one of the days following surgery. Charles was still in the hospital and I just felt unable to leave him, but I was starting to come unglued. I walked to the nurse’s station with tears in my eyes, and a to-this-day unnamed nurse spoke so gently, found me an employees’ shower and let me get clean and then sent me back to the room to sleep. As I drifted off I quoted to myself over and over, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, in prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” 

The doctor removed the entire cyst and about 1/3 of Charles’ kidney. Once we made it home and Charles was recovering we still had to wait for the dreaded news, did the pathology show cancer or not? How much of the kidney was still functioning? I was still living daily in that “peace that passes all understanding.”

And at this point, I truly believe this is where God showed me that His ways are not our ways, but they are good nonetheless. Charles did have cancer, and only 1/3 of the kidney remained functional. However, the cancer was totally encapsulated. It had not spread anywhere and there would be no chemo, drugs, or radiation. That 1/3 of a working kidney that the doctor worked so hard to spare is enough to keep him going if anything should happen to the one on the other side. 

And then I discovered that the cancer policy that we had taken out “just in case” because we were “getting a little older” had come into effect just ONE MONTH before the cancer was discovered. Everything ended up covered. EVERYTHING! It was more than every tithe we had ever paid. If you had asked me how cancer could be a blessing I would have said that it never, ever could, but in this case that diagnosis provided us the means to pay for everything. If it had been “just a cyst” it would still have been dangerous, would have still had to be removed, but we would never have been able to pay for it.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like to be in charge, and I like to make plans and follow them. I don’t like kinks in my routine, and I don’t like it when things don’t go my way. I am not patient, I hate being idle, and I dislike waiting. And yet, here was a series of events that did not go the way I had planned at all. I don’t think ONE of the things I prayed for was answered in the way I thought it would be. I spent hours and days sitting, and waiting, and exercising patience. And yet, God showed me that His way is the best way. He showed me that He is looking out for us in all situations and He gives us the grace to handle it.

There are plenty of things that happen in this world that I don’t understand. I don’t believe that Charles was healed because I believed “enough” and that other people are not because they don’t. What I do believe is that God is there with us through each step of the way. He gives us His grace, His peace, His love, and He will provide for us in ways we never dreamed were possible if we will just cling to Him. When you feel that nudge from Him to pray, to read your Bible, to tithe, know that He is preparing you for life. When you feel that conviction from a sermon or from a comment from someone else, take that opportunity to step out in faith. God is growing you to handle everything that life has in store for us. Trust Him, even when it seems so hard. I promise it will be worth it!

// Christy White is a member at Tanglewood Church //
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