Stories of Grace | A Mighty Love
“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”
Walking through the book of Job and seeing the affliction and suffering he experienced, I’ve been reflecting on the story that God’s been orchestrating in my life. Like many, it has included several helpings of trials, pain, and suffering. There’s a sign in Swedish’s Cancer Institute office that says, “Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” Cancer is one of the major fears of our modern American culture and most people have been touched by it in some way or another, including me. I am two and a half years out from my diagnosis of cancer. Two years after my last chemo treatment and one and a half years out from my final radiation session. A friend asked “what do you think is the biggest thing you’ve learned through all this?” There are layers of what I’ve learned and, Lord willing, will continue to learn for years to come. But in the interim, I’ve learned about the Church and God’s power to move through it when we are willing to obey. When the Church keeps “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV), we are able to accomplish such grand things through Him who strengthens us.
I thought I knew what community was. I thought I grasped everything that God had to offer through His Church. After all, I was living in Christian community and had helped lead community groups. Service was one of my love languages and I’d always had a heart for social justice. But the riches of Christ are unsearchable (Ephesians 3:8). There is no end to the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and the end, which is to say He is always (Revelation 21:6). It will take an eternity to try to understand what I thought I had on lockdown after little more than a decade of following Christ.
When I reflect on my cancer treatment, there is pain, both physical and emotional. There are moments that I hope never to experience again and pray no one else would have to endure. Make no mistake, it was not fun. But what comes into focus much more sharply is Love. Not the word love that we throw around when we talk about our favorite foods or movies. I am talking about Love that came incarnate through Christ. I am talking about the Love of a community that brought countless meals and shuffled children around. I am talking about the Love of a care package with all of the cancer essentials because friends cared enough to research what was best. I am talking about the Love of a 10 year old son who prayed every night that I would be healed from my cancer. I am talking about the Love of friends who changed a cross-country motorcycle trip they’d been planning for six years to better care for me and my family. I am talking about the Love of a community who asks how they can pray for you and actually prays with you in the moment. That is not the love we give to things of this earth. That is not the love that comes from human “kindness”, but the Love that is only possible through Christ Jesus our Lord.
I can only hope that I would be able to proclaim this great news had the cancer still been ravaging my body. I am healed in my body of a disease that threatened to take my life, but moreover I stand healed of the sin that threatened to take my soul, which is of immeasurably more worth and value. So my boast will not be in the healing of my body from cancer, but my boast will be in Christ who lives and reigns and invites me into eternal joy and life with him whether I die tomorrow or in 40 years. Like Job, my suffering helped me turn my eyes upward, fixing them on the Living God, and I’m praising Him all the more.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV
– Anne Johnson, DCC Member