The following song by Michael W. Smith is running through my mind this morning:
“Oh God, you are my God,
And I will ever praise you.
Oh God, you are my God,
And I will ever praise you.
I will seek you in the morning
And I will learn to walk in your ways,
And step by step you’ll lead me
And I will follow you all of my days …”
This song illustrates for me the essence of faith, trusting in God even when you are confused, afraid, wondering about what lies ahead.
Yesterday I received bad news regarding a couple of people I care very much about. One, a friend from church, Gabriel, had a brain biopsy and got word that a malignant tumor, removed a couple of years ago, had returned, and this time it’s probably a higher stage tumor. Yet in the face of this news, Gabriel displayed his typical sense of humor and deep courage. “Live from St. Thomas,” he wrote on Facebook, “it’s Tuesday niiiight!” and then he reported on the results of his biopsy.
Since I met him at an all-church retreat nearly two years ago, Gabe, age 43, has been the epitome of faith…a cheerful and positive spirit, grateful to God for each day he has been given. He finished his first year of teaching last year. (That in itself is evidence of his fortitude and faith.) He hiked joyfully with a group of us going to the Stone Door, near Beersheba Springs, a United Methodist camp/assembly. Joyful is the word that comes to mind when I think of Gabe. And trusting God every step of the way, even in the face of bad news. He mentioned that he had witnessed to 3 people yesterday. Always thinking of others, this man. Would that I could face the potential of my own demise with such courage and grace.
And Terrie, a Facebook friend and longtime acquaintance since high school, shared the news yesterday that her brother, Michael, age 53, died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. Her family has been through so many losses. Her father died in the past couple of months, and she lost her mom to cancer a few years ago. Before that, her 22-year-old sister succumbed to cancer. Her family is on my mind this morning.
My heart is also heavy for a family in my former congregation as they are dealing with the loss of their mother, also a wife and grandmother of two. Nancy was a sweet, quiet woman who trusted God despite many difficulties in her own life: the death of a teenage son, her daughter’s experience with breast cancer, and then her own struggle with cancer that invaded her life last fall and progressed quickly.
John and I attended the funeral and were so touched to see sides of Nancy we didn’t know, such as the fact that she was a gifted artist. We recall how she wrote sweet notes to our Daniel when he was in a 30-day residential 12-step program at the end of his senior year of high school. She gave him two fleece blankets, which came in handy during a cool snap in April…said she’d been saving them for a high school graduation present but felt like he probably needed them more just then.
Thoughts of these tragedies in the lives of others gives me perspective on the small stresses I face each day. I fall short, I get grumpy and snap at others, I fail to appreciate the blessings that surround me every day. Love is a gift. Life is a gift.
Dear God, I thank you that as Martin Luther’s hymn says, you are our help in ages past and our hope for years to come. Please bless and surround these people I’ve mentioned with your love. Help me to follow their examples of trust during bad times. Thank you for your love for all the world, for each of us, though we do not deserve it. Your grace and love make life worth living. Help us all to get through this day and to appreciate the simple gifts in our lives. Amen.
And of course I want to close with a song:
“There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sinsick soul.
Sometimes I feel discouraged
and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again…”
Lord, revive our souls…give us strength for the day and hope for tomorrow. In your precious name I pray, Amen.