My big sister just got a haircut. Big news, I know. “Stop the presses,” right? Really though, it is kind of big news. She cut off all of her hair (think Duran Duran circa 1981) and bleached it so that she could dye it. She dyed it pink because she wanted to do something dramatic before it all falls out. It’s all going to start falling out any day now since she just had her first round of chemotherapy this past Friday.
See, for the past few months my oldest sister has been walking down the path of a breast cancer patient. Since her diagnosis she has been to doctors, getting scans, having surgeries, and now she’s in the treatment phase. She’s relatively young, in good health, and we have absolutely no family history of cancer, much less breast cancer. This was completely out of the blue. She has three young daughters whom she home schools, a husband who has faithfully been by her side every step of the process (even when he has to take off work to make it to a doctor’s appointment with her), and, well, a life. She’s a busy woman, but her cancer doesn’t seem to care. Cancer has a distinct way of messing with your plans and flipping your life on its head.
But it’s not just cancer that makes people’s lives topsy turvy and my sister is not the only one who is fighting a battle against difficult circumstances. Other handicaps and illnesses do their fair share to disturb life plans and things like wayward children, financial difficulties, unemployment, and marital struggles heap sorrow after sorrow on an already weary heart. In a world where life often seems to be one trying circumstance after another it is no wonder that so many people are praying for peace in their lives and begging God to lighten their loads.
I heard a story once about an art competition where artists were given the task of depicting “Peace”. There were dozens of entries that soothed the soul just to look at them. There were a number that showed rolling green hills dotted with a few sheep or horses. There were many showing babbling brooks or rushing rivers and almost all of them were set against the background of a bright blue and partly cloudy sky. One had a young girl sitting in a field of flowers while another had a boy snoozing under the shade of a large oak tree. There was a beautiful quietness and calmness that radiated out of these paintings. But it was not any of these that won the award for having the most peaceful scene.
The winner showed a dark, angry sea against a dark, ominous sky. The waves swirled with no real sense of direction and were beating heavily against the large rocks on the seashore. At the top of a rocky cliff there were trees being bent and broken by the gale-force winds and lightning streaked across the black sky. There was an overwhelming cold and frightful feeling to this painting. But in a deep crag in the rocks there was a small bird settling in for the evening. It was nestled deep enough in the rocks that it had no fear of the wind and high enough that the waves were not a concern. There the bird sat in the side of that rock face waiting out the storm.
What an impacting picture of peace! As much as we desire the circumstances of our lives to be quiet and serene with green valleys and babbling brooks, often the fiercest storms reveal our true security in the Lord. It is in the hardest times that we are provided the opportunity to cling to the rock and know that we are safe. When our lives seem to be completely restless and overwhelming, that is when God grants us His deepest peace.
As I watch my sister go through the difficulties of surgeries and treatments and I consider how this cancer has affected her life, her husband’s life, and the lives of my precious nieces it makes me ask God, “why?” Or actually, I probably ask more often, “why not?” Why won’t God just take this cancer away? Why didn’t He keep it from spreading to the lymph nodes? Why doesn’t He make this whole process easier so my sister’s family doesn’t have to do acrobatics to accommodate this cancer? The funny thing is that I have never heard my sister ask these questions. I’m sure she has pondered them in her own private times with the Lord, but she has come to a very sincere place where she is no longer seeking a change in her circumstances and a calming of her storm. Instead she is resting in the safety of Christ. Here are some of her words she wrote to remind herself of the security she finds in the Lord.
“By the grace of God you are being carried forward. By His granting of peace you are rising above the pull of your flesh that says you ought to be a pile of mush by now. Don’t listen to your flesh, don’t listen to the voices around you saying you’re insane to not be upset over these things. Don’t listen to your pride that thinks you’re holding yourself together on your own power. It is God and GOD ONLY who is doing this.”
That is peace that passes understanding. May we all find such quiet stillness in the cleft of the Rock as the storms in our lives rage around us. May we settle in and rest until morning.
You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trust in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.