I used to always like Yale Avenue in Tulsa.
About four months ago at 101st and Yale we found out we had lost our fourth baby.
A little over a week ago at 61st and Yale we found out my mother has stage four lung cancer with metastatic lesions in the brain.
We’ve spent this last week moving. My mother is moving in with us immediately so she can meet with Doctors and we can evaluate some of her options here in Tulsa and come up with a plan. We found another house that has quite a bit more room and a fourth bedroom that allows her to have her bedroom a little further from the boy’s room and a room that my sisters can stay in when they come to help care for her.
I’ve noticed a weight in the last year. Jamie and I were talking a couple of nights ago about our boys and how we’ve seen some changes recently since all of this has hit in the last couple of weeks. When we informed the boy’s teachers about some of the transitions we’re going through they had noticed a difference as well.
As I thought about all the changes the boys are experiencing and seeing how it plays out in their behaviors and emotions I paused to think about how stressors affect us adults as well.
When you look at those scales that list out the top stressors in people’s lives here are some of the top ones:
Death of immediate family member
Loss of child
Resignation/Loss of long-held position/job
Transition or a move to a new city
Transition to new job
Children change of school
Loss of close family or personal relationships
As I paused to think about how the boys are handling some of our transitions and situations I wondered how it may be taking a toll on us.
Over the past year we left a long-held position at another church where we were connected to many people, we transitioned to a new position at New Beginnings, we moved to a larger city, we moved to a different house, our children have transitioned to new schools and new friends, we lost a baby at fourth month of pregnancy, we’ve just found out that my mother has terminal cancer, and now we’ve moved to another new house. Add to that, like everyone else, there are always relational ups and downs with friends and family members. That’s why I said earlier that I feel some weight.
I say those things not because we have “horrible” circumstances. We really don’t. In fact, we have probably better circumstances than 98% of the world with the availability/possibility of medical care, healthy children, clean water and food, an incredible house, vehicles instead of walking, and other simple creature comforts like air conditioning and ice—of which I am a big fan!
THE WORLD WE LIVE IN
A few nights ago I received a message from a close friend working overseas who is trying to see Christ’s name treasured in a hostile, spiritually dark and desolate place, who told me some of their extremely difficult situations they are facing. They may not be able to stay in areas they have worked for years to be able to see churches planted for the worship and glory of Christ. They may have to shift plans and possibly even come back to America. Their hearts are held in Christ’s—and His heart has led them to a people who don’t even see what treasure they bring. As I got his message, I stopped and thought of what they are facing compared to us, as I sat in our nice comfortable bed in the new house.
His last comments in the message were “We’re living by faith, not by sight. And it’s hard when all you see is dark!! That’s reality, but we’re hoping in the greater reality!” His next message told of some other missionaries who have had such difficulties with visas and the governments that they’ve almost had all they can take. My friends words lift my eyes and head up to that greater reality. Cancer for my mom and eventual death is not really the end. There is a greater reality ALL AND ONLY BECAUSE OF ONE MAN—JESUS CHRIST—AND WHAT HE ACCOMPLISHED IN HIS LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION! There is a better day, no, infinite, eternal days, coming for my mom, for our family, for my friend, and for you.
This morning I saw on the news where the US is firing missiles into Syria. Again, darkness and war are everywhere.
Other stories focus on the death tolls in other countries with ongoing war and attack.
The darkness could seem to be overwhelming on a grand scale.
The next story was covering the girls who has been missing for the past few days. Her parents stood at a press conference bearing the pain and affliction their souls are feeling as their daughter has disappeared.
As I met my sisters at the Tulsa Cancer Institute we sat in the waiting room watching person after person walk by with frail, broken, weakened bodies, slowly losing their hair and weight. Each body a reminder that this body is a vessel that is perishable and fragile. Each person’s eyes revealing the look of dreaded nausea that chemo and radiation deal the body.
Cancer hospitals scream the truth from the Bible that “your life is a vapor.” The darkness of death seems to linger in places like this.
As we sat in the waiting room I received another text from a close friend telling me the news of a friend in our former church who is probably barely 40 yrs old who is in his last few hours on this planet. They found out only three months ago of his cancer. He has three children the same age as my three boys. He’s truly one of the nicest and simplest men I’ve ever met—truly a great dad and husband.
Again, there has to be something weighty and luminous behind the fog of darkness that our eyes so easily fix upon.
So we, as a family, really have it great relatively speaking. God’s grace is overwhelming in our lives! And yet still, we could stop and stare at the situations around the world both near and far—and have a tendency to lose heart and lose hope.
In seeing these other hardships and much, much worse throughout our city and our world—all of a sudden stresses of kids practices or unloading moving boxes or issues to deal with at work or personal desires that don’t have time to be fulfilled all take a backseat.
So I write this not to gain your sympathy—because Jamie and I feel so incredibly loved, encouraged, and supported by SO MANY FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND LOVED ONES! We feel like some of the most loved people on the planet. We are constantly amazed by so many people who pour out love and grace towards us—and in that we are truly amazed at God again!l
I write this because I need to daily remind myself of the important tangible things that life MUST be about and the grace-flowing intangibles that God offers to those who look to Him as we all face trials and difficulties.
I write this because I truly believe that all situations in life are supposed to be pointing to a weighty glory—something we cannot fully grasp, especially in the moments when shock hits our life—but something of substance at the core of our heart and mind that secures us and still allows a small smile of hope to lift our hearts.
Where do we find hope when this is a present reality? Is there somewhere other than within ourselves that can actually help us in our pain and afflictions? Is there someone there stronger than ourselves—stronger and more faithful than simple human endurance?
I’ve turned to the words from God in 2 Corinthians 4 many times. These words are powerful—not as merely inspirational words—but they have a filling of supernatural resources that are raw and straight from the Godhead. These words point to the Person, Christ, who allows the same words to change our hearts and perspectives. It is truth from God that overrides our feelings and thoughts.
If you would pause here and take the time to read these words from Scripture and then take the few moments to listen to the words John Piper says towards the end of this song it may strengthen you and help you not to “lose heart” in a time when that’s what you would tend to do. (Go to the 3:20 point in the song to hear Piper's exhortation)
See 2 Cor. 4:5-18
 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
—So when God decided to send hope and light into our hurting and difficult world—it came in the form of the living Person, Jesus Christ, and knowledge/truth about Him.
—We don’t turn to ourselves or our own power within us—we turn and trust and look to Christ and cry out for His strength and grace to sustain us.
 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.
—The power in persevering faith is God Himself. Our difficulties, trials, and suffering are a part of God’s sovereign purposes of letting us identify with Christ’s suffering (“always carrying in the body the death of Jesus”).
—But all of “death” we carry around is not final—again because of what Christ also did in His resurrection.
 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,  knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
—And we must look beyond our present difficulties and sufferings to something much more beautiful and grand. Our faith and belief, in God’s design through difficulties, that His grace would extend to more and more people and result in worship and praise to God.
 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
—So, there is pain going on. There is difficulty being experienced. There is suffering throughout the world and personally in our lives. But God is not finished with His work. God is not finished with His beautiful plan of salvation extending to all peoples throughout the earth.
—Though we see and experience “wasting away,” we remember that these elements of life are “light and momentary” and are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” That means there are things we cannot see going on NOW, and things that will happen LATER, because of what we’ve been through as we walk with this King in a foreign home.
—So we look not to what is seen. We fix our eyes on Him. He is not unaware of our current situation. He is not busy. He is not indifferent. He is not overwhelmed like us. He was abandoned so we would never have to be abandoned by God.
—We are “not crushed…not driven to despair…not forsaken…not destroyed.”
—But for our sake, Jesus was crushed, was driven to despair, was forsaken, and was destroyed so that I would never have to be. So that my mom would never have to be. So that my friend in darkness across the world would never have to be. So that all those in the world who call on Him would never have to be separated from God eternally.
—Therefore, WE DO NOT LOSE HEART! ——Only because of Jesus and what He has already accomplished.
In the song, “Though You Slay Me,” by Shane and Shane, this line keeps flowing in my mind:
“My heart and flesh may fail…the earth below give way…and with my eyes…with my eyes…I’ll see the LORD!”
With the short list of afflictions and trials listed above from simply receiving two texts and watching the news it can cause the heart to fail and seem like the earth is giving way
Here is what John Piper says at the 3:20 point in the song (again I would suggest listening to it in the song):
“Not only is all your affliction ‘momentary,’ not only is all your affliction ‘light’ in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful. Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or from fallen man, every millisecond of your misery, in the path of obedience, is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that.
I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness.
It wasn’t meaningless. It is doing something! It’s not meaningless! Of course you can't see what it’s doing—don’t look to what is seen.
When your mom dies…when your kid dies…when you’ve got cancer at 40…when a car creams into the sidewalk and takes her out…don’t say it was ‘meaningless!’
It’s not. It is working for you an eternal weight of glory.
Therefore…Therefore…DO NOT LOSE HEART. But take these truths and day by day, focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach His word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.”
How do you not “lose heart?” How do you not lose heart when so many painful things surround us? It’s definitely not by pulling up your emotional bootstraps and just getting through. That isn’t the purpose. That isn’t the meaning. That leads us to greater ideas of self-sufficiency, self-pride, and self-trust. And at the end of the day—even those respected and honored people who pull themselves out of horrible circumstances—one day—death will come for them as well. You cannot escape it regardless of your personal mental toughness and self-sufficiency. Death wins in this lifetime—only because we were all created for an eternal life—not merely life on this earth.
I’m writing today about weight. And I’m writing today about glory. I’m writing today about an eternal weight, an immeasurable, unknowable element, not even understood or comprehendible in this lifetime. There is this fluidity in God’s economy of substances that are intangible to the touch, but overwhelmingly profound in their feeling and presence. So, as it were, we’re describing an invisible, floating-like, quality that we breath and feel and experience and know as reality—even though it is trusted upon by faith. And these qualities, provided and flowing from the internal essence of God Himself, are what secure us and walk us through perseverance and into a land of hope when all seems dark and deadly and horrific.
Cancer is no victor. War is no winner. There is a true Victor who will return to claim all His bride and completely and ultimately re-create her into an eternal vessel of praise for His glory.
The death and resurrection of Jesus make weighty elements in everyday life become a reality of “light and momentary” glimpses in a broken world needing a Redeemer and Savior.
Join me in exalting and clinging to Christ when life hits you with things that would tend to make you lose heart.
Pastor of Families