What do I deserve?
I have experienced healing, thanks be to God. Through medicine and God’s grace, I am no longer plagued, haunted by leukemia. Its possibility still lingers and will for some time, but for now I can rest in this, in being made well. What an amazing gift.
I have lived in fear these past eight months. When I have been in pain, especially, I have withdrawn most often from communion with God. I retreated into myself. Into nothing, really. And there was no joy. And I asked myself more than once whether I thought I deserved to be healed. I knew I didn’t. I knew that whatever came my way, God would be good and sovereign and holy and loving. But all I wanted was to be healed. I didn’t want to have to go through the gauntlet of treatment and infection, that cycle that wore me down. I didn’t want to go through the fire. I just wanted relief, always just relief, please, God. Just take this away.
Well. He has relieved me. But He has not left me alone; He is still working on me. We’re not done.
Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved… ¹
If He did, I couldn’t bear it. But He does give gifts, every day, some so ordinary we miss them altogether. He gave me sleep in the hospital. He gave me someone to catch me when I passed out there once. He gives me the pleasure of cold drinks and fruit. The presence of plants in my home to lift my spirits. But also, weakness in my body to remind me I rely on Him for everything. This is a hard verse: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”²
What I have seen as evil – hospital stays, blood draws, so many pills, swelling, headaches, cancer – God always is far above and His story is so great I can’t fathom it. From this “evil” I have experienced the greatness, the sweetness of the Church. I have met new friends and strengthened old friendships. I have seen my husband grow and rise to the occasion, and he is my hero. I have seen my family more than I would have. And these are only the results that I can observe; God knows so much more.
So I believe, though I don’t always like it, that all is grace, all is gift.
And now I must learn, just as before, to give thanks in all things. And to let go of what I think, even subconsciously, I deserve. Because I’m wrong. But God gives joy. I haven’t experienced consistent joy in so very long. If God gives it, how can this be?
My hard heart. My inward looking. My mind trying to escape reality. The reality is, we can find joy amidst pain. The joy is found, friend, not in relief but in Christ. Oh, this lesson has been nagging me for months, trying to get through my prideful walls. I can speak this truth, but even now to believe it requires me to let go… of control, fear, the clenching, grasping for what’s beyond the pain. It requires me to be. To rest in God’s presence, no matter what assails me.
A dear friend gave me a bracelet with a verse etched on: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” [Exodus 14:14] Yes. And when I know that all is grace, that God is always good, that I can trust Him to fight for me, I can rest at last. And give thanks for so many gifts. And in thankfulness, in letting go, the heart lightens and softens a little, and joy can come, even through tears. I have cried painful tears of surrender at times, fighting my will to deserve.
But He is able to withstand my hardness, my will, my fighting. He knows pain and He more than anyone deserved relief. But He forfeited it, and may I never forget. Christ, who deserves all surrender and praise, relinquished authority to evil people, separated from God in a way I have never been. He is not threatened by my will and my thanklessness.
Rather, He desires to give gifts and joy, to win over my heart, to fight for me. He would that I let go and be.
For in His presence there is fullness of joy.³
¹Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 178
²Job 2:10, ESV
³Psalm 16:11 ESV