Tuesday, December 1, 2015

“I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.” - Robert Browning Hamilton

I was reminded of this poem, recently, as I was reading an article about suffering. Sorrow, or suffering, is like a key that unlocks our full potential as created beings. It helps us reach that extreme completeness of the sentient and spiritual nature exclusive to humans. The apostle Paul tells the Christians in Rome that suffering produces endurance, character, and hope, so rejoice in it. James, in writing to Jewish Christians, tells them to “count it joy” to suffer. Doesn’t seem to make sense does it, how can we be happy bad things happen? Using myself as an example, am I supposed to be happy that my son has cancer? Of course not. Cancer is a satanic tool, as are all agents of suffering. I rejoice in the world that is now open to me as I walked through
 that invisible door that suffering and sorrow unlocked.

Suffering reminds us - or teaches us, if we don’t already comprehend - that we are vulnerable to this world, and slaps us with the reality of our temporal and transitory existence here. If this enlightenment is sincere, along with the belief of a divine Creator, we can’t help but humbly seek a closer relationship with the Ruler of Heaven and Earth. Communication with our Creator improves, we seek a place away from suffering, and we are driven to know Him more intimately through the study of His providentially preserved words collected in the Bible. What if the suffering just makes us angry at God. I have seen, or read comments from other parents in our boat or worse that they are “mad at God” for their sorrowful experience. They blame God for the affliction. I’ve said before, follow the trail from evil and it leads to the source, which is evil. To be “mad” at God is still a belief in God, so it is a relationship that needs mending with more study for a better understanding. And, God’s gift to humans is free will, so that allows for one to choose anger. It is part of sorrow, and it at least increases our sense of God’s presence, and can stimulate a deeper interest of God’s role in our lives on earth. Suffering, in short, can improve our intimate relationship with God and heighten our desire for heaven.

Suffering also highlights evil, revealing the role of sin and the handiwork of Satan on earth. With our eyes now open, we see more opportunity for compassion, and feel compassion more intensely. The
 victimization of the weak and weary stirs a fight in us that we did not know we could muster until we knew sorrow. We are, now, fiercely compelled to help others because of the suffering we see. Our self-defenses of mental strength and courage are ignited as we are challenged by the Devil with our own trial and affliction. This constant exposure to sadness and suffering, grows a hatred for the father of it. Suffering, in short, builds our character as a soldier and a servant.

Suffering deepens and broadens our understanding of what a blessing is and what is a blessing. Stepping through the door provided by suffering, our heart is able to distinguish between blessings of earth and blessings of heaven and measure the worth of each. Noise in our lives is silenced, and clarity reveals the Hand that holds us. Sorrow provides the contrast that we need for comparison. Without knowing sorrow, we can’t know what joy is; without knowing weakness, we can’t know what it means to be strong. Suffering, in short, is a teacher.

Is it not amazing that God’s power is so masterful over Satan, that He can take the worst of his evil and actually make it a blessing to us. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy that my son has cancer, or glad that he is suffering. It means that all the suffering he and we endure because of Satan will have a positive impact on our lives in some way. That is the power and love of a Designer and Creator.

It was this week in 2013, that Eli turned 9-years-old, and that we found out he had relapsed the first time. We have been living with aggressive, untreatable, inoperable cancer for two years and counting. I do know a blessing when I see it. Eli is doing very well, his blood work is the same as last week,
 and he even gained half of a pound. We tried to play “I Spy Eli” at the hospital, which is when I post his picture on the St. Jude Facebook page and we offer a Ford keychain to anyone who says “I Spy Eli.” But, we were not there very long this morning, so even if someone saw the picture and happened to be in Memphis, it would have been tough to find him

He turns 11 on Thursday, and we will be “sneaking” home for his birthday, and for me to go on a field trip with Caleb, and for me to try to get up a Christmas tree and some kind of decorations so the kids feel like we made an effort, and so that our neighbors know we know it is Christmas time. And, it will be fun, trying to make the house look cheery, knowing the cloud that hangs over us this year. Eli loves Christmas. With his birthday being in December, and Christmas being in December, he kind of claims it. He has been working on a Christmas list since September… he really has. I hope that I can make it through his birthday and Christmas short-sighted, and enjoy the moment that I am in.

As I mentioned Eli’s birthday is Thursday. If you would like to do something for Eli for his birthday, we ask that you donate a toy to Toys for Tots or to your local Department of Human Resources.

I am heart-heavy for the family of Baylee, whom I’ve written about several times. The 17-year-old passed away on Monday about noon. I’m not sure what I could say about it that would mean much. I am just sincerely sad for the moments in that home right now, for her mom, Shellie, and the pain she feels and the face she will have to wear. Baylee was one of six that statistically would have lost their lives in a day to childhood cancer, one of 2,000 in a year. So many. I’ve said before that it feels like you are a sitting duck, just waiting to be picked off. Continue to pray for Shellie, and the family, as they start on a new path of life after death.

Also, remember sweet Emma from home that will have a bone marrow transplant on Friday. Take some time out of your day to stop and pray specifically for her. A bone marrow transplant is a difficult procedure. And for Tana Parkerson from home that is in Memphis for a quick trip of treatment. Her blood work needs to stay acceptable for her to continue treatment. We chatted with them some Monday, and Tana brought Eli an autographed picture of Auburn Head Coach Guz Malzahn.

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