One of the hardships that comes with walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is what you are expected to carry out. We tend to think that in that valley there grows a very special sort of tree, a wisdom, or insight tree. We think that this rarest of trees is perpetually heavy laden with low hanging, choice, juicy morsels of brilliance. You’re supposed to bring these precious nuggets out the other side to share with your friends. Understandably, though they should know better, some who trek this valley think they’ve found this precious fruit. The quiet whispers of death on the prowl beget therefore footprints-in-the-sand poems and too often, whole therapeutic books of lessons learned.
It is my habit to write one or two pieces a week for the internet. I write columns for two nationally distributed magazines. I publish, six times a year, my own magazine, Every Thought Captive, that itself in turn carries a column or two by me each issue. All those deadlines do not disappear when my mind is preoccupied as it is now with my wife’s battle with leukemia. Which means in turn that her health issues (this is not the first, nor the second time my precious bride has battled cancer, but the third) show up in my prose. If therefore, you are a regular reader, please do not expect me to bring extra-special never-before-written insights. I pray I will write from the heart, but as many of you know, it is the heart of a sinner.
It is true that God is busy sanctifying Denise, and me, and our eight children as He takes us through this. Suffering, however, is rarely given as a narrowly targeted response to a very specific sin. God did not find that I have trouble keeping Book 17, Chapter 12, subsection D paragraph four of His law, then check His Great Physicians Desk Reference to send the right anti-biotic for that weakness. Nor did He send this to help me grow a third arm of holiness. That is, this hardship will not bring forth some weird, never-before seen form of righteousness. The changes He has designed for this are incremental, common, plain. Cancer is manure cast on the ground of the Spirit Tree. His goal through this is that we would love that which is lovely a little bit more. His aim is that we would walk in joy more than we did before. His purpose is that we would exhibit more peace even in the midst of this great battle. The Great Gardener is cultivating the fruit of the Spirit.
There is, therefore, nothing extraordinary about what we are going through. There is no special revelation we’re supposed to come away with. We are instead studying in the school of Christ, which has as its end that we would become more like Him. To that end suffering is indeed a great teacher. Her lessons, however, are rather ordinary. When this is over, I pray I will look a little more like Jesus. I pray the same for my wife. It may be His will, however, that she should sooner come to look exactly like Him. Either way, this much I know. Goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.