When God Ordains Delay, Scratch Your Head and Let Your Questions Take You to the Lord

A trip to the Emergency Room is not big news when it’s almost routine. Not to highlight the event, but to exalt the Lord: instead of keeping this routine hush-hush, maybe it would encourage someone to trust the Lord – again!

Cheryl got up Wednesday (April 13) and felt a pain in her right kidney that resembled the pain that led to her near death back in 2011. Same kidney. Same pain. By yesterday, Thursday morning, and now with a slight temp, it was time to delay no longer: we called her Surgeon at Loyola University. By yesterday afternoon, 2:30 pm, she was admitted through the Emergency Room.

Full Stop!

Have you ever been delayed, side-tracked, and thought:

“What’s going on? Did I do something wrong? What did I miss? – Lord, are you there? Why this? Why now? Life’s too busy for this? Here we go again! Where will this trip end?”

To keep this post short (because I’m now a full day behind and so is Cheryl), I offer this:

  1. The Mystery of Delay is annoying, but the alternative is idolatry: you are not in control of your destiny – God is. Ordained Delay from God’s loving hand is our reminder that we are not nearly in control as we think we are. So scratch your head and be patient – the Lord will not fail to lead you through.
  2. Say to your heart, “This [too] is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice [in the fact that God is sovereign] and be glad in it [because God is sovereign over this too] – Psalm 118:24. This verse is often misused to plaster a smiling face on a grieving heart. God does not give you this psalm to dismiss your pain, but to remind you of his nearness. He does not expect you to be happy when your heart is broken, again.
  3. Finally, God might re-fry his beans, but he does not re-fry his grace. My point: God does not reuse a past grace for your present trial. He uses new grace!

Jesus the Great High Priest Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

Do you See? Your new delay is met with grace for this time of need. Which means, Jesus does not sympathize with your present weakness, and then pull out a used handkerchief to wipe your face. No, “in every respect”, which includes, the uniqueness of this day’s delay. God never yawns in the face of your sorrow as if he’s saying, “been there – done that.” Every trial and delay has it’s own unique temptations to fear and despair, and so also comes a new grace for each morning.

After 11 hours, Renal Ultrasound, CT, antibiotics, pain meds, labwork, much consultation (this is a tertiary research hospital), they discharged her and we were in bed by 1 am this morning. Her kidney got infected – but no maverick stones detected. Praise the Lord.

Back to work for both of us with a little more humility. Cheryl’s taking it easy as her kidney slowly heals. Still scratching our heads. But we trust the Lord.

 

Suffering and Sadness During Christmas – part 5

Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010

I recently confessed and pleaded:

“Cheryl, I need you because God is not finished changing me  . . . you have been the main instrument of my sanctification, please don’t go.”

Psalm 71

Be to me a rock of refuge . . . Rescue me, O my God . . . Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent . . . O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste to help me! . . . O God do not forsake me until I proclaim your might to another generation . . . You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.”

Sanctification, change, metamorphosis, transformation, alteration – when Jesus changed our hearts to love him more than our sin we were so happy. That’s what these words mean and what God means to do to us – change us from acting like our fallen nature icon – Adam, to our risen nature icon – Christ, the new and perfect Man.

One of the fears that God troubled me nightly in THE SERENITY ROOM was my sanctification. It was a double-cross, as if God were playing with a stacked deck against me and no matter what I did, he was going to burn me at the table; I was set up for the swindle. If God takes Cheryl then he takes away The tool by which my life has and is being changed for my good. If he leaves her, then he leaves me with The tool by which my life has and is being changed. Are you confused? Let me explain: I DON’T LIKE TO BE CHANGED. God had me cornered no matter what happens.  And if he does take her, it is a sure bet he’ll change me without her: maybe he’ll give me a new wife that wants two gardens (good grief!).

It is the Lord who takes us where we do not want to go. He causes us to see things that terrify us: calamities, afflictions, and many troubles. I felt that he was laying me over an anvil and beating the sense out of me. At one point in the night where his hand felt so heavy upon me I began to think, “. . . just get away from me – don’t touch me – leave me alone if this is all that you have for me.” And since I was thinking it, the Lord was hearing my inward groaning, as I lie there alone clutching Cheryl’s personal, red blanket, holding on to it as if I had the power to hold her life in my hands. And then the irony of that room fell on me like a heavy dew: I wanted God to be so near me that if I opened my eyes I could see his. I wanted him to hold me with his right hand. I wanted him to assure me that he will never leave me, though he has made me to feel like he is unhinging my bones (Psalm 22:14). My gut hurt and ached for hours as I cried all night (vss. 14-15). But David did say that weeping will tarry throughout the night but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5). The Lord walked out of the room with me as the morning dawned. I asked the Lord to “turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16). And he did.

If at times Sanctification threatens to undo you, you are not alone. God is changing you and since we are all too fond of saying, “I don’t like change,” change we must. Why? To get ready for our new home with God. You and I are being fitted for another place, a place where there is no corruption of any sort. But on the other hand, we really do like change don’t we – on our terms? And there’s the prick in the side: God does not take our advice, our counsel, on how or when we should change. It’s a good thing he does not – right? “Yes,” we reluctantly agree. But deep down, we know we love change because we see Him more clearly, he is warmer and sweeter now that he has afflicted us and there is less of us and more of him. Like a gallon of Wisconsin Maple Syrup, it takes a lot of draining to produce such a small amount of pleasure, but Oh the rich satisfaction!

When God afflicts you he does so with precision and purpose and it will feel like he is forsaking you, not always, but sometimes it will feel this way. David wails and cries in lonely estrangement throughout the night only to know the nearness and comfort of the Lord more deeply than when the night began (Psalm 119:50, 75, 82-83, 92, 107, 145-153).

When you find yourself in the serenity room, don’t run and hide from God, you can’t. Don’t busy yourself with background noise like tv, sports, finance, hobbies, shopping, fighting, protesting, drug-abuse, alcohol abuse, food abuse, . . . rather, go down on your knees, sturdy yourself for the change that is about to take place and go ahead and “ask, When will you comfort me?” (Psalm 119:82-83) Then what? Do it again tomorrow night. Go back to your room, the one that you both love and hate, where all your fears are exposed before the Lord and know this God who mysteriously is both your painful sap-sucker and closest friend.

Where the Lord has Cheryl Today

Cheryl’s white cell count steadily hovers around 11,500 to 13,100. The doctors are very pleased with this stability. The infection is under control; still there, still lethal, but tamed. They had a short meeting yesterday, spoke with us briefly, then will meet again today and tell us their plan. Here is what we do know as of last night (which could change by this evening): They want to take her off IV to oral antibiotics tomorrow on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, run the labs and vitals to see how she responded to the change. If she does well, they may discharge her leaving the nephrostomy in to keep draining the infection, giving her body more time to get stronger and more time for the infected kidney to shrink back as close as possible to its original size. The options remain to either remove the kidney or remove the staghorn stone. If the kidney can be saved, we were told last night there will possibly be multiple laparoscopic surgeries to remove the stone. Google images for this stone will explain why it cannot be removed at once without tearing the kidney up.

Cheryl’s pain level has come down and she is sleeping much better. So am I. The weekend of worship for me with my church family was medicinal, yucky but healthy. I needed it. The Greatest Story Ever Lived is a Never Ending Story as lovers of Jesus Christ hold fast to him year by year, throughout the earth until he returns.

Continue to pray as God leads you. We’ll keep you informed as we hear new things. May Jesus Christ sweeten your day with Himself.

Ivan

Suffering and Sadness During Christmas – part 2

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Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010

“I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.” Psalm 31:22

For the protection and cure of my soul I have been feasting on the protection/abandonment emotional paradoxes of the psalms. All my life I have read this emotional tug-of-war from the songwriter with more estrangement than knowledge. But no longer. Each night after Cheryl falls asleep and I tidy things up in her room, prepare for my own sleep, I enter alone into this emotional nightmare of feeling like God has abandoned me and yet I seek his protection from danger. What gives? I’m not exactly sure at this stage of my worship but it is new to me. I am presently reading the entire psalms, paying close attention to this roller-coaster cry: “you crush me down” and “you are my rock” – all in the same breath. What kind of strange worship is this? I’m hooked. Not to over-dramatize my experience but I am hungry to know what God is doing; it feels exactly like what I am reading in the Lord’s songbook.

What God did for Cheryl Today

The good news for today is that Cheryl’s white cell count was 23,000 down from 27,000. This is another positive ingredient for moving ahead. Also, she was transferred out of Intensive Care here at Loyola to an intermediate room (#6331) because she is now stable. God is very, very good. Later this evening she was given a medicine induced stress test. The reason for this test is that Cheryl’s heart experienced what seems to be a mild heart-attack during the episode that almost took her life. Her cardiac enzymes were way up and they now want to rule out or rule in that she suffered slight damage to her heart. We’ll see how this turns out and if anything will be done at this time.

This evening we had our “Christmas Morning” with Cheryl’s parents, Joshua, Joe and Ashley, and Anna in the hospital with us. It was a blessed evening as some presents were opened, raspberry and pumpkin pound cake enjoyed, and Christmas songs sung with the guitar. Someone got a little bored with my guitar playing and logged on to youtube and listened to Alvin and the Chipmonks sing Christmas songs. Oh well,  “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

After Cheryl’s parents and the kids left, and a round of nurse care was provided, Cheryl and I read from psalm 30 and worshiped:

“To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy. What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!” (vss. 8-10).

David is distraught with the futility and senselessness of his untimely death and attempts to reason with God to spare his life. Still, David cries to his God to help him. How does a worshiper ask for help from his God who seems to have abandoned him? When it seems to you, that God does not hear or care or know or feel or provide or keep safe or comfort, what do you do – what do you pray? Whatever it is that causes you to feel this way about God, he knows that you feel this way about him and he invites you to worship him by crying out this two-sided prayer. I have felt both, the heavy hand of the Lord and the gentleness of his compassion. He terrifies me and comforts me at the same time.

After we read, cried, talked, and prayed, Cheryl went to sleep and I began to write out my thoughts.

Until Tomorrow

Cheryl and I, and our children want you to know that we love you and feel your love for us.  We are so blessed to be part of a Christ-Seeking family like you – you’re one in a million.

Lord willing, I will be back to church this Sunday ready to lead you to Christ in worship. I will finish the series with, “The Greatest Never Ending Story.” We miss you very much  – keep praying for us – more mercies coming in the morning. It’s almost Christmas and we look forward to worshiping Jesus who came to save us from our sins.

Ivan