Rejoicing in the Bad Days
Today was the first day I have felt close to normal since my last chemo treatment nine days ago, and it was glorious. My appetite isn’t yet at 100 percent, and my mouth is still really dry (a side effect that just started to occur in the last couple cycles); but gone is the extreme fatigue as of today. With this round, the fatigue started later than it did the last time, and then took longer to subside. Yesterday I was counting the hours until it was time for my two-year-old son to take a nap, just so that I could too. Today, I was exploring the woods in our backyard with my daughter and tidying up the house. Doug was off today, so we all got to spend a little time together; I was so grateful for the energy to enjoy it. The bad days make the good days so much sweeter.
It is a difficult truth to accept. The first inclination of my heart is to say to God, “I don’t want any more bad days. I have had enough of them.” But I cannot deny that it has been in the hard times that He has most shaped me and refined me; and there are some refinements that simply cannot occur outside of the furnace. It was not in the happy, carefree days of my life that I learned to be thankful for ordinary days; it was the days lying on my hospital bed, not sure whether I would live or die that taught me that. I did not learn dependence on God simply by making a mental assent to the idea of it; no, it was every time we almost ran out of water at our house in Nepal and He provided it, and the times when angry mobs came to the hospital threatening to burn it down and He shut the mouths of lions and prevented it – it was those times that taught me that. I wish I could say that I would have learned those things well enough without the hard times, but I know myself well enough to know that I could not.
There have been many times in my life as a Christian that I have glibly prayed, “O God, make me more Christlike. Make me more like Jesus.” I say glibly because I don’t think I really understood what I was praying. As I travel this journey, I realize more and more what that really means. Do I really want to love like Jesus? Do I want to be closer to God than I am? Do I want to have life, and have it to the full? Then it is going to require some times of pain and suffering. Not because it is good in and of itself, but because of what it produces in me. If there was any other way, I would take it. But there is not. And while I would not choose the cancer trial I have endured, I would not trade what I can only describe as the constant embrace of God throughout it all for anything in the world.
So can I rejoice in my sufferings, ala Romans 5:3-5? Can I look back at the past week of lying in bed feeling horrible, and be joyful and thankful? Not without some hesitation, I will admit; until I am reminded that joy and feeling happy are not the same. I am not going to look back at last week and tell you, “Hey, that was great!” It was terrible. But God was with me; His love sustained me. He did things in my heart and mind and soul that I could not bring about on my own. He’s working out all things for my good, because He loves me. I can rejoice in that.