Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God Will Carry You!

Five years ago, a remarkable young member of the congregation I serve as pastor, Sarah, underwent the first of two bone marrow transplants (BMTs).

A second one happened two months after I became her pastor, in January, 2008.

Both procedures involved long hospital stays and accompanying complications. Through it all, Sarah and her wonderful family--Mom Becky, Dad Bryan, and Brother Stephen--have displayed faith and tenacity. They are heroes of Christian faithfulness to me!

Putting it in the only terms I can understand, Sarah's second BMT was 93% successful. This means that she will continue to need treatments always, but that she can lead a normal life. (Whatever a normal life might be!)

In 2009, Sarah was the Logan High School Homecoming Queen. She graduated near the top of her class. (Sarah was inducted into the National Honor Society while in a hospital intensive care unit.) She's now in her sophomore year of college, a psychology major with aspirations of working with young oncology patients in hospitals. (I can't imagine anyone more qualified by temperament, experience, or faithfulness to Christ to do such work.)

Last week, Sarah contracted pneumonia and struggled to breathe. Years of chemotherapy have significantly weakened her immune system. The quickness with which the pneumonia struck, at a point when everything was going so well for her, was stunning for everybody, especially for Sarah and her family.

They all had to hit "battle stations" again.

For Bryan and Stephen, that entails not just visits to the hospital and lots of praying, but also exhausting errand-running and schedule-juggling, among other things.

For Sarah's mother, Becky, a professional person just like Bryan, this means remaining with Sarah 24/7, acting as her advocate, prayer partner, intermediary, and "pal." It's a role that Becky plays well and includes a healthy respect for the fact that Sarah is now a young woman of 19.

Becky says that the day before Sarah was taken to the hospital, they had been to a massive expo in Louisville. There, they saw the reproduction of a painting showing a cowboy carrying a calf on his shoulders. Beneath it was a passage of Scripture, the very one Becky said she needed to face the new challenge which, unbeknown to her, she would face the next day. (It's amazing how God works that way, isn't it?)

Thank God, Sarah is doing well! Last night, she didn't require oxygen. She isn't on oxygen today. The regimen of treatments, buttressed by the prayers and love of Bryan, Becky, and Stephen, along with the pleading of an army of prayer warriors, has been used by God to turn away this latest assault on an incredible young woman. Sarah is to go to a regular care unit today and may be discharged tomorrow, in time to spend a very happy Thanksgiving with her parents, brother, and extended family!

During a phone conversation a little while ago, Becky revealed to me for the first time, that she has a new favorite Bible verse. Throughout Sarah's previous hospitalizations, Becky grasped hold of Psalm 46:10, which says, "Be still, and know that I am God!" That's a great passage, part of the psalm that inspired the lyrics of Martin Luther's hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. It's been a touchstone passage for her for several years.

Becky says that, over the past week or so, she's been holding onto words God revealed to the prophet Isaiah, words inscribed at the bottom of that print of a cowboy she found little over a week ago:
Even to your old age, I am He, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made you; I will bear; I will carry and will save (Isaiah 46:4)
God makes hundreds of promises in His Word, the Bible. Someone has said that all of those promises are like blank checks, just setting there for believers to "cash in." The God Who has never broken a promise is ready and willing to answer His promises to us. Of course, maturing believers realize that God takes an eternal perspective on things. This is why Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 15:19, "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." We often want the things we pray for to happen immediately; God knows that He has an eternity to provide for us "far more than all we can ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20). But we know that God's promises--God's Word--are absolutely sure and completely reliable!

In Becky's new favorite passage from Isaiah, we see a promise from God for all believers who are exhausted and who know that the burdens on our shoulders are too huge for us to carry. God will take our burdens and carry them for us, just like Jesus, God incarnate, already took the weight of our sins to the cross.

We have an incredible God! 

He wants to bear the burdens you and I were never meant to carry. 

Peter talks about this in the New Testament: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7).

God cares for you!

So, when the things you're carrying get too heavy--even before they get too heavy--remember to do two things:
God can carry you.

If you let Him, God will carry you!

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