By Kimberly Schluterman
In the fall of 2009, I wrote a column called “As the Seasons Change,” detailing how I lost my lifelong convictions about biblical truth and spiritual certainty in only a matter of months. (More on this, including my way back to the truth, in “Falling Off the Chair.”) Today I want to revisit those same verses, but this time with a new meaning. Whoever says that God’s word isn’t organic is pitiably erroneous.
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted…
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away…
A time to be silent and a time to speak…
A time for war and a time for peace.
In the little more than a year that my husband and I have been married, I think we’ve experienced each of the times above in turn (although the part about giving birth would be metaphorical in our case, as we don’t have children). We have enjoyed the best days of our lives (literally) and held each other during some of our worst (literally). It’s been an eventful year.
Recently, we learned that my husband’s sister has brain cancer. The early prognosis was grim and we were terrified at first. I am not new to the destruction that cancer wreaks on a person’s body, as I have lost many members of my extended family to the disease. But none was as close to me as my new sister, and I found myself reeling at the news. Is this what it felt like for my dad to learn his older brother had terminal colon cancer? In those early moments, I understood something about my father which I hadn’t before.
At first, there were a hundred questions for each answer we received, and each answer seemed to bring worse news. Like a physical weight bearing down on me, I felt so afraid for her and her family. The time to be silent, the time to speak, the time to embrace, the time to search, the time to gather stones, to weep and mourn… they all happened simultaneously for a little while.
And yet it was not a time for me to be afraid. Did you notice that none of those verses mentions a time to be afraid? I didn’t want my husband to have to comfort me when I knew his pain was so much greater than mine. I didn’t want him to feel burdened by my needs. While I was navigating a deep emotional and spiritual maze that was poorly lit, I had to find the strength within myself to devote all of my love and energy on my husband. And by “within myself,” I mean “of the Holy Spirit in me.”
That is not to say that I didn’t feel fear – a real fear like I had never known before. But each time I began to give in to it for even a moment, I became convicted by 2 Timothy 1:7-10: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline… [Christ Jesus] abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…” (emphasis added). We are not called to be afraid! We are called to have a spirit of power and love. I knew that my fear was from an evil source because fear does not come from God.
Each time I thought of those verses, I really felt too afraid to have fear, if that makes sense. It’s like I knew that my God was in control, and by having fear, I was not trusting in Him. I knew I didn’t have to strength to trust in anything or anyone else, so the only choice I had was to push aside my fear and embrace the power and love of the Holy Spirit. I later realized that my initial fears were not because I had doubted God’s ability to heal her, but because I had underestimated His mercy and love. My good Lord, who overcame death and every other trial known to man, showed His enormous love through those whose humanity were weakest. In her bodily sickness, my new sister displayed magnificent faith. This faith, along with the supernaturally-empowered fortitude of her husband during the most emotionally distressing hours of his life, reassured me that a time to laugh would come again.
All praise and glory be to our God and Father, the Great Healer: The term “prognosis” seems so irrelevant in comparison to the faith that we have in our Lord to cure tumors that modern medicine probably can’t. Although we still don’t have answers to all of our questions, we have about a hundred million reasons to be thankful in the wake of her diagnosis and corresponding treatment. The outpourings of love and prayers by so many across God’s whole earth have been overwhelming and moving. The faithfulness shown by my new sister and her husband has been inspiring. Finally, the mercy shown by our Lord has been humbling beyond measure. I do not need to be afraid because I know that my God reigns. This time of so many other things is also a time of peace.
If you would like to join us in praying for my beautiful sister-in-law, please visit her CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/brandigreer) and click on “Journal” to read more about her.