When others’ words kindle my own flame: Reflections on words by Jenn Humphrey.
My dog has a cone on her head. It’s kind of pathetic. She’s a really cute dog, but she’s not terribly impressive on her own. The cone takes her pitiable state to another level entirely.
She got the cone as a result of a recent surgery, and she’s going to have to wear it for about a week. And she’s feeling really sorry for herself. Anna said Bear just sits on the floor looking miserable; it’s as if she’s thrown a pity party for herself and won’t let anyone come. When she goes in her cage, she can’t turn around, so she just sits there and whimpers.
I can empathize with her. I haven’t ever worn a cone, and to be completely honest, I haven’t really had much worth whining about. But I still whine. It may not be as high pitched as Bear’s whine, but it shows up in different forms: discontentment when I’m not getting what I want; self-righteousness when I’m not getting what I want the way I want it; impatience when I’m not getting what I want as quickly as I want it.
If you didn’t know me very well, you might not even notice, but the whining is there. I can just feel it rise up within my every single day, because every single day I encounter things that don’t happen the way I would like. And I think these little sins are rooted in a bigger sin: unbelief.
Let me show you a picture of the grace of believing in the sovereign goodness of God in the midst of true, whine-worthy suffering. My friend Jenn was diagnosed with uterine and cervical cancer about a month ago. She’s gone through four weeks of chemo and radiation, and now she has to have a radioactive rod placed inside her body for three days on two separate occasions, and she can’t have any visitors during this time as she lays in isolation.
If I whine about unbelievably insignificant things, I don’t know how I’d react in a situation like Jenn’s. But here’s what she has to say about it:
I have felt weakened and my voice small. I have felt too tired to speak. The fight in me was waning…I’m scared. I am dreading [this procedure]. And that dread has not disappeared.
Tonight as my mom asked me what I was thinking and I told her it was dread it made me start thinking. Another friend in Christ told me in an email that God doesn’t waste pain. I had no idea what that really meant. But I think I get it now. I think it means that God isn’t going to allow us to experience pain for nothing. It is not in vain. It wasn’t in vain when Christ on the cross was crucified. His pain was for a purpose. My pain is for a purpose.
My mom mentioned Hezekiah and I looked up some verses on him. He was ill and was told by a prophet that the Lord said he would die. But Hezekiah turned to the wall and prayed and asked the Lord to remember him and he wept bitterly. And the Lord heard him and added more years to his life.
I am praying Hezekiah’s words [in Isaiah 38]. Surely, my pain is for my benefit. I am living and I will praise him. The Lord will save me. I will continue to trust in the name of the Lord… I know that my situation must not be in vain. That God will be glorified in all things and I will glorify him in my battle with cancer.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Here is a woman clinging to the word of God, not because it’s her last hope, but because it’s her only hope and because it brings life. Which is what belief in the sovereign goodness of God brings. My theology is as good as Jenn’s—I’ve studied this subject a fair bit and written about it several times. But my practice does not match my theology, which renders it nearly useless. It’s like starving to death with a sandwich in your hand.
So I’m encouraged by Jenn’s example and convicted by my own unbelief in God’s good purposes in my life. May He grant me mercy for my sin of unbelief and the grace to rip off my spiritual cone and the whining that has accompanied it, so I can live like Jenn is living: trusting in the sovereign goodness of God.
To keep up with Jenn, you can visit her care center blog.
Update (2/16/10): Jenn is now cancer free!