"I want it to be over. I don't want the obvious ending. I don't Ryan to quit chemo. I just want the Cancer to go away," I sobbed.
Someone was listening.
"You know, I have nothing to say, right?" he said. "There are no words for you."
"I know," I continued sobbing, the tears flowing freely. "That's the worst part for Ryan and I... there are no words."
"But here's what God's word says," he continued. "It says in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
"That's not the escape you're thinking of, though. God gives you a way to bear it," he said.
"I just saw a sermon on Why, Trials? from Pastor James MacDonald. I learned about James 1, that the word 'steadfast' in the Greek (Hupo Mene), means to 'remain under.' And that the only way to gain the benefit of becoming perfect and complete, lacking nothing, is if I remain under the trial."
"But I don't want to remain under this..." I started crying again.
You have to trust God, he reminded me.
Then he quoted Proverbs 3:5-6:
How many reminders would it take for this to sink down deep? I asked myself.
This was my third reminder in as many days.
The conversation shifted to the life of Job.
"His life sucked more than mine," I said through my sadness.
"He despaired of even the day he was born," he said. "He wished he'd been born a stillborn."
At least I wasn't that despairing of my situation, but I found myself drowning in sorrow and couldn't help but be even more sad for Job who lost his entire family (except his wife) and all of his possessions in one terrible day, without warning.
"Then God questioned him with 70 questions," the man continued. "And that man was a righteous man. He even petitioned for his family."
I had few words after thinking of the righteousness of Job and the terribleness of his situation - even though I was still sad about my lesser righteousness and circumstances.
"But why me?" I questioned loudly, with another big, ugly cry.
"Because God loves you," he responded, tenderly. "This was never about you and Ryan. This is all to shine the glory of God so it can help me in my walk with Him."
As I sobbed into my hands and the tears fell quickly down my hands as they covered my face, Talitha said:
"Mommy, you're drooling."
I cried at the same time I was laughing, hard.
"What's all the black on your eyes, Mommy?" she innocently asked. My mascara, having been re-applied this morning, was now a set of black lines running quickly down my cheeks.
The pastor left to get me some tissues, and as I continued to sob, Talitha persisted.
"Mommy, what is all that darkness?" she questioned.
I wanted to say.
You're seeing my sadness and despair.
I wish Daddy wasn't dying from Cancer.
I want it all to go away.
Not him, but all of this.
"We've had dreams about drowning, both Ryan and I," I told him when he returned with a tissue box.
"It's a good thing we don't trust our feelings, and we trust God," he said.
"It's all going downhill," I said, "It's not getting better, it's getting worse."
"You may feel like God isn't with you, but that's not true. And God is still in control of all of it. He's never been more with you than right now, " he said, like a gentle father would say to a hurting daughter.
"This is what He has been working on in me, lately," he continued. "In the book of Genesis 50: 19-21, it says:
"They were with God, just as you and Ryan are with God. And God means it to shine His glory."
"I am done being refined!" I almost shouted at him. "I can't handle it," I said, still crying big tears.
"You just keep telling him that," he said, laughing. "I know -- I've been there, many times."
"God doesn't ask for our permission about these things, does He?" he said, as he laughed again.
It caused me to laugh and cry at the same time for the second time in 10 minutes. It seemed ridiculous that I wanted to be more in control than the Creator of the universe who can see the big picture.
"And when you've said it over and over again, He will ask you 'Are done yet?' And He will wait until you are, then tell you, through His Holy Spirit, to get up and keep handling it. He isn't done refining you, yet."
I told him that's how I got out of bed in the morning, these days.
Then he quoted 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10:
"He loves you, Anna," he said.
"He loves you and He wants what's best for you."
"He knows what you need in your life and He allowed this to happen."
"He knows what He's doing."
"And He is never going to tell you why."
And before he began to pray and I lamented about how hard this all is, he reminded me of God's sovereignty.
"He's still on the throne."
I had almost stopped crying by this point and I quieted myself to listen as he began to pray.
My mind drifted to thinking about how the circumstances in my life seemed unfair, how I longed for Ryan to feel normal and join me in everyday activities with the full vigor and energy he once had instead of lying in bed ill, and how all of this was challenging me to lean on God's promises in a way I have never had to before.
I started to see how God had answered Ryan's recent prayer for me to begin grieving his death now, even before his body has left the earth.
I am grieving, I thought to myself.
As I drove home from church later, I was stuck in my thoughts.
I don't know how much time I have left with Ryan.
It could be only five short months or five challenging but sweet years.
But I do know this:
God loves me.
I trust Him because He is trustworthy.
God is on the throne - He is in control.
And His grace is sufficient for me,
just like the words in the hymn Amazing Grace
by John Newton written hundreds of years ago reminded me
when the song came on the radio in my car:
- Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
- ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
- Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
- The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
- Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
- The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
- When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.