“Who am I when my body fails me?” This is a question we must face when injury or illness takes its toll on our lives. How do we respond to physical, mental, emotional stresses? How do we view God when we are weak or in pain? How do we cope with the losses we experience? A series of posts which deals with these questions was first published in 2016. It may be time for some of us to ask this question again – or for the first time. Individual posts in the series have been revised and will be re-posted on Tuesdays and Saturdays for several weeks. Suggestions for appropriate Scripture passages, prayer, and quotes or questions for reflection have been added.
I am dreaming, moving in and out of terror. A huge, amorphous black shape follows me everywhere. It is punching and kicking and throwing itself at me with abandon. It is clawing and biting. The intention is clear. I am in danger. “Who are you?” I scream. I try fighting back, but my arms are weak and floppy, as if the muscles are on strike. I try to run but my legs are like jello. I yell and scream for help but no one comes. We run together through the night, chasing, escaping – a ghoulish dance. Finally I am awake and shaking. The battle is over, at least for now.
Just as I step out of the shower, it dawns on me. The name of the black blob is Cancer. The ugly dance is a contest for my life. I am fighting but I am weak. The weapons I have been given take all my energy.
Later that morning, I swallow my 34 pills, head out for my chemotherapy injection, have my blood drawn, and finally see the doctor. He says, “I have good news! The blood work shows that you are experiencing an excellent response to treatment earlier than I expected. We may be able to modify the chemotherapy regime if this continues.”
My mind goes to the story of Jacob, who had two dreams. In the first, he saw a stairway to God and heard God say, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised” (Gen 28:15). Later after a tumultuous life, Jacob has a second dream during which he wrestles with an unknown man all night. Finally, after being injured, Jacob begs to know the man’s name. The man refuses to give his name, but gives him a blessing instead (Gen. 32: 24-31).
Jacob’s mind must have gone back to Bethel where he turned his stone pillow into an altar in honor of God’s promise to be with him. What God has promised me is safety in his kingdom. Like Jacob, my dream has taught me that the battles on earth will continue, but the victory is won. God will do what God has promised. And I will live in awe of that grace.
MULLING IT OVER: What battle are you fighting? Are you tired and weak and afraid? Jacob, despite a life of bravado and game playing, was always still under God’s protection. Spend some time think about or researhing GOd’s promises to be with us. (See the Scripture suggestions below.) They all apply to each of us. We need to claim these promises to when we are exhausted from the battle.
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 33:12; Proverbs 3:24; Proverbs 18:10; Psalm 112:7-8; Job 11: 18-19; Isaiah 43:1-2.
PRAYER: “God Almighty, listening to Your words and responding to Your comands, I build on the rock that is Christ. Let no wind or storm shake my commitment or compromise the praise that I offer up to You in Jesus’ name. Amen (Eugene Peterson in Praying with the Psalms, September 13.)
2020 Note: My multiple myeloma, while incurable, has been “controlled” for more than a year.