2 Peter 1:2-9
2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Have you ever wondered why some people are so hard to work with? Or have you wondered why some people handle situations so well, while others going through the same thing struggle or have such a bad attitude when they go through it? The difference in these people and their attitudes has been given to us in these verses from II Peter. The difference is Jesus in their lives, and the work of the Holy Spirit in their souls. I have been blessed to see people I love and respect go through the pain of terminal cancer who have shown God’s love in their struggle. I’ve also seen others who didn’t have Jesus as their Savior, struggle with the loss of a loved one because of terminal cancer. The difference in how they handled their struggle is completely on the opposite ends of the spectrum. My mother died of terminal colon cancer, and my favorite aunt died of leukemia. Right now one of my favorite pastors is facing the fact that if his last series of chemotherapy doesn’t work he will only have 3 to 5 months to live. My favorite Aunt Pat’s son, my favorite cousin, was born with a serious heart condition that left his parents with a diagnosis that they would lose him before he reached school age. Through God’s mercy this cousin has lived and is living still today, although it is a daily struggle for him, causing him to suffer kidney failure, having to have a transplant, and suffering through a coma for the weeks around his mother’s death. The amazing thing about all 4 of these people in my life is the hope they held on to, that my cousin still holds onto. Never have I heard any of them complain about how unfair it was for them to suffer through these terrible diseases. In fact, all four had been, or still are more concerned about others and the salvation in Jesus that would bring others hope and peace. Yes, they hurt, and they felt ill, but never did they become angry at God and think he was being unfair to them. It was through my mother’s illness, in her last days, that I really got to know my Savior, Jesus Christ. Her witness to me, as I sat in the hospital with her days on end, that allowed me to see the Holy Spirit at work in her life. In her struggle and her faith I saw these verses come alive…
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
From the night we first found out that she had terminal cancer and were told she wouldn’t make it through the night, and on through her last 3 years of life, Jesus used my mother to show us how real he is. Yes, 3 years, and it was a miracle that God gave her for his glory and praise. You see, I needed those 3 years and God knew it. He knew that I was hardheaded and hardhearted, and that he would have to show me how real he was for me to come to him. He had to show me that there was hope in Him, for me to find that hope for myself. God had to bring me to a point of letting go, and finally putting my trust in Him, instead of only trusting myself. For the most part my mom was a quiet woman, talking about family matters, church, and memories, but up until her illness she rarely spoke of her own personal faith. Oh, she shared with me events that she and my dad had been through where God worked, but not how he worked in her heart. Those 3 years were filled with many highs and lows. The highs were times that Mom would get to be back home. The lows were the days just before or after she had a chemo treatment, when I would watch her weak and suffering with pain and nausea. There were also lows in the days she spent in the hospital having surgery and recovering, or when there was no more hope of recovery, and it was just a time of wondering when it would happen, and God would take our mother. Back then I saw it all as a punishment from God, and figured he was angry with me, why else would he take my Mom, my one protector in this world away from me. I don’t see it that way now though.
During that time I didn’t realize it but God was doing a great work in me, and he was doing it through my mother. First, it was in showing me that he still does miracles. I was 18 when I found mom laying on the sofa, moaning in great pain. I remember coming home from Beauty School, and seeing her in a position I had never seen her in. She rarely was ill, and when she was Mom usually just went to bed and slept it out of her. She never complained, or blamed God for her feeling sick. That day though something was different. When I asked her what was wrong, she said that she thought she had pulled a stomach muscle moving the big freezer in the garage. But she was pale, moaning like she had never done before, not even after a root canal, or eating something she was allergic to (which she often did, loving both strawberries and oatmeal). I remember Dad coming home and asking why she was laying on the sofa, because he knew it was not like her. I told him what Mom had said, but that I didn’t think it was just a muscle pull. Mom had pulled muscles before, and never acted like she was that day. I told Dad that I thought she needed to go to the hospital, and for once he agreed with me. He called for an ambulance and we all piled in the car to meet her at the hospital. They took her into a room in the back immediately, and it seemed like hours before the doctor came out to let us know what was going on. I remember my little brothers, my dad, myself and my baby girl (my oldest daughter) sitting in that waiting room, slowly joined by other family who came from around the state to be with all of us. When that doctor came out and told us that a tumor on Mom’s colon had ruptured, spreading cancer throughout her insides and had ruptured a kidney as well, and that she wouldn’t make it through the night, my world came crashing down, and I was angry with God. It was decided to send her from the base hospital to a hospital in Kansas City to have a cancer specialist and surgeon do what he could to save her life. At that moment I thought I would never see her again. I went home, and waited for a call from my father to say Mom was out of surgery or that she had passed on. I remember that anger at God boiled up in me. An older brother flew out to be with us and came in from California during the early morning hours, while the rest of us were still waiting for news from Dad. My oldest brother, Bill, made the mistake of telling us that God was still in control, and I lost it. I ran outside, crying, yelling at God, that if he was in control why was he taking the parent that cared for me and leaving me with the one who abused and hated me. My oldest brother came out, knowing I was angry, and in his hands was a pile of plates from Mom’s kitchen cabinets. He told me that I needed to get that anger out of me, and quit blaming God. Bill handed me a plate, which I took as him being insensitive and wanting me to set the table for breakfast. I grabbed that plate and threw it against a tree, hoping he would see that it wasn’t going to happen, and he should leave me alone. Instead Bill handed me another plate and told me to throw it too. Again and again, Bill handed me a plate, and when those ran out, he got me more. I must have broke every plate in that kitchen, and being from a very big family meant there were a lot of plates. At one point, Bill finally asked if I was through, and exhausted I knew I was. My big brother walked me into the house with his arm around my shoulder and told me to go lay down and get some rest, and he would let me know when Dad called. That night was a long night…one of the longest nights in my life. But I found out that my brother was right, God was in control, and he had a plan already in action.
When my mother was rushed to the other hospital, God was putting that plan in action by bringing another woman into the hospital as a patient, a woman named Minnie who was a Christian. The Oncology specialist met the ambulance at the hospital, and after his examination and looking at the results of the tests the Base Hospital had run, he immediately rushed my Mom into surgery. He removed all the damaged and infected tissue, stopped the internal bleeding, removed whatever he could find of the tumor and cancerous tissue, then closed her up, and placed her in an I.C.U. room, which she would share with Minnie. Now this part of the story I’m telling from the accounts that Minnie and my mother shared with me. It was about midnight the day of her surgery, around 30 hours after she initially went to the hospital. She had woke up from the anesthetic about 8 or 9 that night, and found herself in the room with Minnie. The two women struck up a conversation about why they were there, and Miss Minnie, as we called her, asked my mom if she could have one thing from God what would it be. My mother said that she would ask for 3 more years. Three years to make sure I was remarried and that my daughter and I were taken care of. Three years to make sure my 2 younger brothers were out of high school and into college. Three years to make sure that her children were taken care of before she died. Miss Minnie asked my mom could pray for her, and of course Mom agreed and the two women prayed and then drifted off to sleep. About midnight, Minnie and Mom told me, that a bright light came into their 3rd story room, and that beam of light was brighter than the sun. It settled on my mother’s stomach, as the 2 women watched it. Now they were up higher than the streetlights in the parking lot outside their window, and it was a cloudy night that night, so they were amazed at this light. As quickly as it came, it disappeared, and the 2 women fell fast asleep. The next morning the specialist who had operated on my Mom came in to check on her. He was surprised to see her sitting up and chatting with Minnie like she had never been through a thing. He did his examination, and told Dad that he should call the family and tell them that we would be able to come up and see her. Dad called and we rushed up to the hospital, not knowing what we would be facing when we got to the hospital. The doctor went about scheduling Mom’s first round of chemotherapy for that week, knowing he had to now deal with infection that resulted from the ruptured tumor and the cancer that was spread by it as well. I can tell you, I thought we were going up to say goodbye to my mom for the last time, but I wasn’t ready for that or what we found when we got to the hospital. Try as I might, I could not prepare myself for saying goodbye, but nothing could have prepared me for walking in that morning to see my mom and seeing her sitting up in bed, smiling and claiming that God wasn’t ready for her to go to heaven yet.
I must have stood there for minutes, with my mouth hanging open, when I walked in and Mom said “Did you miss me?”
She looked like nothing had happened to her, and you wouldn’t have known she was sick if it wasn’t for her being in a hospital, and wearing a hospital gown. She was excitedly talking to me and her roommate, Minnie, at the same time. Minnie and Mom told me about how they had prayed and about the light that touched my mom’s stomach, and there was no doubt that God had brought my mom through that previous night and the surgery for a reason. But in my hardheadedness, I wasn’t ready to buy the farm they were selling me. Within a week, Minnie left the hospital and Mom was moved to a regular room. The hospital allowed one of us to stay with her all the time, and so we set up a schedule where all of us could do what we had to do, and take turns being with her. I usually took the night shift, as my sister who lived in town watched my daughter. She took the shift when her husband came home from work and one of my brothers took the morning when Dad was at work and I was at Beauty College. Dad was taking the fewest hours, due to the college classes he was taking, and so was usually up there at different hours. It was in those long night hours that Mom decided to begin writing down her life story and testimony, knowing that if she was too weak to write that she could dictate it and I would write it down. It was during those long night hours that God began working on me through her testimony.
Was she angry with God for her having cancer? No. Did she complain about the poking and prodding of the doctors and nurses? No. During that time she never complained once about how unfair this was, or that she couldn’t take it anymore. Instead she laughed, teased the hospital staff, and worked on getting her testimony written down. Why she chose to do this only when I was with her is something only God knows. Although now I realize that it might be because it was the one time she could get her hyper, hardheaded and hardhearted daughter to sit still and really listen to her. I did listen, even when she wasn’t talking about her life. I listened when she told me that one day people would be buying bottled water, which I thought was odd since they didn’t have bottled water at that time, and we often drank water from the tap or the garden hose. I listened when she told me that if the U.S.S.R. ever broke up and seemed defeated, not to believe it, because one day they would be a greater enemy that would lead an attack against Israel. I listened when she said that one day land would be of greater value than anything in this world, and that those who owned land would be able to survive better than those who didn’t. Back then I thought she was talking crazy, but as I look back now I know that this was wisdom coming from God. Mom quit high school in 11th grade to help my grandfather take care of their family during the depression, and up to that time I thought I was a lot smarter than mom because I had finished high school, but now I know that she had a wisdom than that I couldn’t understand. Mom had a wisdom that only comes from God.
Although I didn’t realize it then, that wisdom was going to have a profound effect on my life for years to come. But not only that wisdom, but her testimony through her words and attitudes at that time, have come to be a foundation that God laid in me to continue his work, to teach me patience, strength, faith, and so much more. It was the beginning of God tearing down the walls in my heart, and opening up my soul to the work of His Holy Spirit. It was through this experience, and through the same attitudes and actions of these others I loved and respected who have lived their faith in Christ that have helped me through this period of time in my life where I find myself struggling with health issues and disabilities. I only hope and pray that when my time is up, I will have lived the same witness that these others have done in my life, and for the glory and praise of God. I know that to do so I will have to hold on to these passages from the Bible and trust God’s Holy Spirit to work in me and through me during this time. I know that these are characteristics that Jesus showed in his life on Earth, and that even in his greatest trial he displayed. He set the example, and all I have to do is follow it, and let the Holy Spirit do the work in me to help me do so.