**This post was written on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 and originally published on a blog site that is now closed.**
Tomorrow is Chemo 4. Chemo 1 was tentative – what would it be like? Chemo 2 was “okay.” I knew what to expect, it “wasn’t so bad” and I was able to plan for the “good” week and accomplish a few things. My expectations were low, and I met them.
Chemo 3, however, was a little rougher. Medical staff was not surprised, but I was disheartened. During the first two rounds, even during the worst days I had “breezes” of feeling a little better. Round 3, no breezes. Just yuck for longer than I expected.
Now tomorrow is round 4. Yesterday Pastor spoke on Hebrews 12, so I went there for my devotions this morning. As I read, I saw something new. Perhaps it was Pastor’s great illustrations yesterday. He talked about “encumbrances” and “the sin that entangles.” “Encumbrances,” he explained, are not sin, just normal stuff, like piano recitals and basketball games, that consume our time.
This morning as I read this chapter again, the word “discipline” hit me in a new way. You see, I don’t believe my cancer is a result of my sin. I do believe there is sin in my life, and I do believe cancer is a result of the “original sin.” But I don’t believe I did something specifically to deserve cancer.
So, as I read about discipline, my first thought was “this doesn’t apply to me, because I don’t believe I’m being disciplined (as in punished) for something I did wrong.” Then God showed me something really incredible. Notice how close the word “discipline” is to the word “disciple.” Oh my! Does Jesus only “discipline” his “disciples” when they do wrong? Of course not!
Then I read about earthly fathers in verse 10: “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.” I thought how my husband and I “discipline” our children “as seemed best” and I realized that sometimes we proactively “teach discipline” as in requiring the girls to practice the piano or pick up their room or set the table. These are “discipline.” While it is true we intend to teach life skills, we also want them to learn to play the piano, which will be a gift to them for the rest of their lives. Now, with this broader understanding of the triggers for and means of “discipline,” I claim these promises for myself as I face chemo 4:
Hebrews 12:3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
Perfect Jesus had evil men actively seeking His death. I have medical professionals actively seeking my good. Don’t give up now, Marla. Keep your hope high and do this. It’s still the best right thing. Remind yourself that God has asked you to do it.
Hebrews 12:7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline.
This is not only “correction” discipline, but also “skill development” discipline. God is teaching me spiritual life skills. Learn, baby, learn. I don’t want to repeat this test!
Hebrews 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.
I want to share His holiness. As the chemo kills the cancer in my body, I pray that this discipline will mold me to be more like Christ.
Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
I’m there – this does not seem joyful in the moment! But I can trust that God will train me and allow a crop of righteousness in my life through this trial. As I have thought about this further, I realize that I’m already “harvesting” some of this crop from earlier “discipline.” That’s how I knew to take my dread of tomorrow’s chemo to God’s word, fully expecting that God would, has He has in the past, show me Himself, and equip me to better face this test. That’s some of the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” that people have been seeing in me during this cancer. It is a gift of God: my ability to play the piano learned in previous lessons. Maybe it’s more like riding a bike, only I have to remember to get on!
I looked back to Hebrews 12 and found two more verses that are very exciting for me:
Hebrews 12:12-13 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
Let me share what I heard in my heart when I read these verses. I heard God calling my church and family and friends and neighbors and co-workers to gather around me and support me during this time, and make this path as easy for me as possible, and that through this loving care He would heal me. I’m crying from joy because that is exactly what you all have been doing. When my hands have been weak, you have come alongside. You are making this path of mine as straight and easy as possible. Praise God and thank all of you!