Worth Fighting For
Before Paul married me, he knew the truth about me. I judge a book by its cover. Literally. I unashamedly admit it. I will say, it has been a source of contention in our marriage. My husband, the ultimate reader, has suggested books for me to read. I have been known to take one look at the cover and put it at the bottom of my reading list. A cover can make it or break it for me. A few years ago, a friend of Paul’s introduced us to the author of a book on Peace (Andy Farmer). We purchased the book and within a week, I spilled a cup of coffee on its cover. It ruined my reading experience and I just couldn’t pick it back up. A little dramatic, I know! This week, I pulled it out and the truths contained in its pages touched me deeply at the perfect time.
Kai had his MRI this past Wednesday. Throughout this week, in different ways, I was frequently reminded of this truth: Every ounce of heartache is meant to push me closer to God. Every bit of pain. Every bit of it. Every diagnosis. Every broken moment. There is no meaningless pain. There is no purposeless suffering. While Paul and I were in the waiting room, I picked up Andy Farmer’s book and read the truths that pushed me even deeper towards this reality.
In theory, we couldn’t be more prepared to hear the results of Kai’s MRI. We reviewed Kai’s file almost a year before we met him face to face. There were vague references to a lesion or mass. But no one really knew what that meant. Several doctors couldn’t identify what the problem could be. Multiple professionals thought the word “mass” may have been something lost in translation. Yet today when the doctor called, I wasn’t prepared for what he was about to say to me. My hand was shaking as I was writing down what he said. They found something on the MRI.
In his book, Andy Farmer unpacks true, Biblical peace and how we find it in the face of life's challenges. He takes us through a familiar passage, Philippians 4. Isn’t that the passage we offer to others or ourselves in times of anxiety?
“Don’t be anxious,” we say. “Think on things that are honorable, righteous, lovely.”
Ok, great. I only have to change the way I think and I will experience God’s peace. Easy enough, right?
No way. I am utterly helpless to produce change in my heart. The harder I try to "think better," the more I realize how helpless I really am. Behavioral modification might help me momentarily, but it doesn’t change my heart. God doesn’t want me just to worry less. He wants more of me. He wants me to have more of Him. He knows that when my heart fully worships Him, I will worry less. This passage can be easily boiled down to a list of do's and don'ts. Often this is how this passage is presented to us. We treat it like a neat set of techniques for how to think and produce peace in our lives.
Philippians 4 is not just the Christian’s guide to positive thinking. No, it is a call to esteem and to value what matters to God rather than what the world tells us to value. It describes the lens through which we should view life. We need to pursue peace through spending time centering our thoughts on God’s word, pondering His truth and His character, meditating on the thoughts of Christ rather than the ways of the world. Only then will we begin to experience true peace. We need a radically different way of thinking about life, not just a biblically based “self help” approach to our thoughts. Farmer says, “We need discernment—a robust Gospel paradigm of thinking, a well-tuned spiritual filter, so that the stressors that dominate others’ lives don’t dominate ours.” It’s not just about thinking different thoughts, but having a Gospel defined perspective on life. This is how we fight for peace in our lives.
God longs for our perspective in life to be different. When the world says to prioritize our needs, the Gospel says to prioritize others’ needs. When the world says to pursue success and wealth, the Gospel says to lay these things aside. When the world says to be outwardly beautiful, the Gospel says to cultivate a beautiful spirit. When the world says to be right and fight to have the final word, the Gospel says to pursue peace with others. When the world says to care for myself, the Gospel says to care for the fatherless. When the world says you can control your kids’ health, safety, and success, the Gospel says they belong to someone greater.
Does the Gospel define what matters to you? Does the Gospel define the way things matter to you? This happens when we are immersed in scripture. We pursue peace when we are in His Word. We fight for peace when we look to Him to shape our outlook. What really matters? Success, health, popularity, good deeds? These are all fleeting and will all pass away. God wants to cultivate in us an eternal peace that transcends all of these things.
I was convicted that I more purposefully need to fight for peace. I need to ground my perspective in Scripture. I need to allow the Gospel to shape what matters to me. Perhaps the most comforting thing I could encounter after this conviction was the incredible compassion of our Savior seen in the life of Jesus. Farmer points to the compassion we see in the person of Christ. When He was on earth, He repeatedly showed deep compassion. Even when He knew He would heal the sickness or raise the person from the dead, He still showed compassion.
I love this picture of Jesus. He wasn’t only about the miracle of healing. He was about the miracle of His presence. Compassion colored all of His interactions. That is our Savior. He offers deep compassion in His presence. He doesn’t expect us to produce our own peace or be above stress or untouched by grief. No, He calls us to Himself with all of our troubles.
What a reminder to show compassion to each other. How do you handle others’ grief, sorrow and struggle? Are you quick to try to find a silver lining? Are you quick to dismiss the hardship? Are you quick to share an experience where someone was healed or was victorious in the area of struggle they share? These are helpful in the right moments. But, it might be that our friends could benefit more from our silence than our words of wisdom. Perhaps what our friends need more than a silver lining is someone to weep with them. In the same way that Jesus prioritized compassion, may we be friends quick to show compassion to each other. Never give up sharing truth with your friends, but don’t forget to show compassion. Be near in times of heartache. Yes, our faith is our anchor. Without it, we couldn’t go on. But even as we walk in faith, our hearts still ache. As Farmer says, “Believing the right things keeps him going, but it doesn’t keep his heart from being sick.” The kind of compassion Jesus shows carries with it deep seated peace. This is the kind of compassion that draws me near.
Today, the doctor uttered the words I so hoped he would not. He said that Kai does have a lesion on his brain. A brain tumor. My heart sank. Tumor is the kind of word that makes the words that follow become more like white noise. My mind began to spiral, thinking about treatments, surgeries, complications. There are many things this tumor could be. Some less complex, some scarier than others. We have to wait until our appointment with the neurosurgeon in August to know the answers to these questions. As my mind wanders, the Holy Spirit gently reminds me— this information I crave will not give me peace. No, peace is found in the presence of God.
Could it be that the very thing that places me face to face with my worst fear-- the thing that makes me feel like my world is going to spiral out of control-- is the thing that God is using to draw me near? Kai’s healing may not come in this lifetime, but one day, it will come. Until the miracle of his healing comes, I can rest in the miracle of the incredible, compassionate presence of God.
This very thing that threatens utter chaos gives me an opportunity to choose God’s perspective. Days like today give me a chance to fight for peace.
This world is broken. Days like today make me long for Home.
Sickness, suffering and death are part of this life. Days like today make me so thankful for a God who has a plan to end suffering once and for all.
This would never have been my plan for my life. Days like today show me that God’s plan is bigger.
Brain tumors are scary. Days like today give me the chance to have a broken heart before God.
God doesn’t expect me not to be sad. He doesn’t require a faithful response that denies the pain. No, He wants my sadness. He asks me to have a faithful response to him that unloads the pain in His presence.
More often than not, I want a miracle more than I want the comfort and presence of God. I would rather not walk these hard roads. I would much prefer a life without struggle, sin, abuse, loss, infertility, and sickness. I would have been the first in line to sign up for the plan where God works big miracles for His glory that allow me to avoid any difficulty or suffering. But God’s ways are higher than mine. He is more than enough. Every trial, every moment of heartache, every broken dream and loss has given me more and more of my Savior. I'm not sure it's possible to be fully prepared to hear that your son has a brain tumor. I will continue to ask God to heal Kai. I will long for the day when all of the world’s suffering ends. But until then, I will fight for peace in the deeply compassionate presence of my Savior.
Fight for peace in your heart. Pursue a worldview that puts your stress and pain into perspective in light of the Gospel. Be compassionate to those around you. Even when you can see that silver lining or you know that healing is coming, spend time in compassion with those around you who hurt. When sorrow, conflict, anxiety and uncertainty flood your world, turn to your compassionate Savior. The Prince of Peace has an abundant, never ending supply of His presence waiting for you.