So here we all are in the midst of sheltering at home, social distancing from each other, and for some full on quarantine. Some cities, states, provinces and countries are locked down. Across the planet so much of our lives have come to a standstill while we wait out this Covid-19 virus. Has such a thing in the history of this world ever happened, that so much of humanity is grappling with the same challenges of trying to live and work from home to one degree or another? Not in my lifetime certainly. That’s why in the back of mind for days now I’ve wondered why this feels so familiar. Dare I even say it… comforting. Until I looked at the calendar and noticed today’s date.
March 26 is an anniversary for me. 21 years ago today, March 26, 1999, I first heard the word lymphoma applied to my obviously failing health. I was thirty years old and had never heard of lymphoma. Had no clue what that word portended. It wasn’t until my doctor mentioned she was referring me to an oncologist that I put 2 and 2 together and finally got it: I had cancer.
Thus began my own personal season of social distancing (I didn’t have that word for it then). My immune system became increasingly compromised as I went through four months of chemotherapy followed by another month or so of radiation. In all, I spent nearly six months in my house, rarely venturing out or seeing another face besides my husband’s. So, see, I’ve done this before, and done it alone–at least as far as the rest of humanity was concerned. Life went on outside my house largely without me. I had some contact online with a group of friends, and a particular friend who took me to all my chemo appointments (I didn’t have a vehicle then either), people who volunteered to bring us meals, but by and large I spent that time cut off from my life: church, friendships, social gatherings, writing (I had no energy or clarity for it), shopping, recreation, basically everything we’ve all had to give up for a season now.
During that time I learned what the peace that passes understanding that is promised to us as believers in Jesus is all about. Cancer, and everything I was facing because of it, was so huge, so beyond me to “fix”. There was nothing for it but to submit to the process of healing (which wasn’t even guaranteed to end in remission) in a total trust fall, knowing God would catch me, one way or another. For those months I learned to go deeper into that trust, reading His word, listening to my pastor’s teachings from afar, gleaning that nourishment and encouragement from wherever I could.
Of course that journey did end in remission, and I’ve lived another 21 years, seen my brain healed of chemo fog (that took longer) so that I could write again, and eventually see my novels published. But over the past few days, in these quieter moments, it’s all been coming back to me, how it feels to be facing a huge unknown, such an unprecedented set of circumstances, helpless to do anything about it except submit to what I know is best to do, for myself and for everyone else–social distancing, even quarantine should it come to that. And I’m no longer wondering why I’m not afraid of it all. I’ve been here. I’ve done this. And God was so very present with me twenty-one years ago, so abundant in His peace, that how it all would end took on so much less significance. Whatever happened, life or death, it would be good. It would be His best for me. I trust Him now even more.
Can I encourage you to shelter in trust? Trust in our great good God. That He is sovereign. That He has you safe in His hands. That His will is working out for you in the midst of what seems like utter craziness. That no matter what happens, life or death, sickness or health, freedom or restriction, nothing can separate those who love Him from that love, or take any one of you off course from the expected end of your story: a New Earth where righteousness dwells and you will dwell too, in a glorified body never more to know sickness, sin, or death. When we see Him [Jesus], we will be like him. And then we will have Life like we have never known it here, or imagined it.
Oh the things we will do! The places we will see! The people we will know–truly know–for the first time ever. And all the hugs, people. I’m starting those hugs with Jesus.
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