A Diagnosis No Parent Wants to Hear
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
The doctor sat down heavily at his desk and sighed. "I'm sorry. It is leukemia again. We'll fight it, but I have to tell you, we haven't anything much left to try."
It was a diagnosis no parent wants to hear. They tried to control their reaction, because they could see their teen-age son trying valiantly to control his response. For seven years the tests had been clear. It looked as if he'd really beaten that vicious killer. Now this.
The parents were devout Christians, and they responded as well, I think, as devoted parents could respond to such terrifying news. Friends rallied. Their church family prayed earnestly. The young man continued his school studies while undergoing a severe treatment regimen. He loved the Lord Jesus with all his heart, and he seemed to take the set-backs with determined faith.
But one day his mother broke into uncontrolled sobs. The child had endured so much. Now he was in constant pain. They'd prayed earnestly.
They'd done everything they knew to do. But hope was gone, and she wept.
That day the son said to her, gently but reasonably, "Mother, after all, it's only leukemia."
After all? Only leukemia?
Yes, because that courageous young man remembered what Jesus said:
These things I have spoken to you,
that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation;
but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world. John 16:33
In Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan tells how Christiana, Christian's wife, follows him to the Celestial City. At one point she comes to a beautiful green valley with blooming flowers and sweet fruits. Christiana wishes this were the way to the Celestial City, rather than the treacherous mountains and deep gorges ahead of her and the children.
Bunyan writes. "Some have wished that the next way to their Father's house were here, that they might be troubled no more with either hills or mountains to go over, but the way is the way, and there is an end."
But the way is the way, and there is an end.
The difficult path God has ordained for us is the path we must take. The way is the way.
But thank God that He has given us Jesus, who has overcome the world. There is an end to the journey, and when we arrive at the Celestial City, we will look back and see how merciful God was in giving us the path that He gave us to walk, and how His loving-kindness controlled every circumstance of our lives.
"Be of good cheer," Jesus said. "I have overcome the world"-the world and all its terrifying challenges. When you know Jesus, then you know that a frightening disease like leukemia becomes only leukemia, just leukemia, to be endured because Jesus has overcome leukemia, and death, for us.
Loyal? When My Side Is Losing?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
It was family night at the Handford home, and we were enjoying a baseball game on television. The family room echoed with son Paul's yelling for his team. They were bound to win, he assured the family. After all, they'd been ahead all season long. But after a while, the game shifted. Two runs one inning. Two more the next. The underdogs were ahead, and now Paul was suddenly yelling wildly for other team.
"Now wait just a cotton-pickin' minute, Paul Handford," Mother said in her deceptive Texas drawl. "You can't do that. You can't change teams in the middle of the game just because they're losing!"
"But, Mother, they're losing!"
"Yep," she answered, "but you've got to stick with them. You owe them that."
If you want to know about loyalty to a team, let me tell you about my brother-in-law Roger Martin, Joy's husband. He was a great baseball fan when he was growing up in Oklahoma. But the radio station that came in most clearly in Oklahoma (back in pre-tech 1948) was a Chicago station. That meant Roger heard the Cubs games most easily. He decided, when he was14 years old, that the Chicago Cubs would be his team.
You understand he knew the Cubs hadn't won a world series since 1908. But he reasoned they'd get lucky soon. He resolutely set out, on purpose, to cheer for the Chicago Cubs. In the decades-long drought years, with no pennant in sight, Roger stayed a loyal Cubs fan. But he wasn't just a fan; he was a fanatical fan!
The other day someone asked Roger (now 85 years old) how many Cub players he could name from memory. He rattled
off the names of 436 Cub players and the positions they'd played! Now that is loyalty!
But he had to wait for 68 years (and the Cubs 108 years!) before they would celebrate a World Series win again. In 2016, finally, the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in a World Series.
That's the kind of loyal friend I want to be, and the kind of loyalty I want my children to have. So, yes, Son Paul, I expect you to be loyal to your team even when they are losing. It just might be that your loyalty and support will strengthen and hearten them so they'll become winners. Proverbs 17:17 says,
A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.
Families need that kind of loyalty. Friends need that kind of loyalty. Employees need that kind of loyalty. Citizens need that kind of loyalty. Christians need that kind of loyalty. Especially now. When times are hard. We don't see much of it in our culture today. But a friend loves at all times. Otherwise, how could we say we are truly a friend?
Does God Enjoy watching Us Squirm?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
My husband Walt loved to fish. Me? Not so much. I do not like worms that squirm, and for some reason, worms always squirm when I try to put them on a fishing hook. So Walt decided to teach me how to fly-cast for trout instead. He'd
found a beautiful little stream in North Carolina, and I could use a pretty little hand-crafted lure on the hook instead of a worm. But that was a disaster, too, worm or no worm. Fishing line and rod were apt to land up in the stream along with the lure when I tried to cast. I think Walt finally decided I would never make a good fishing buddy.
I thought of squirming worms recently after an experience with a friend. She was in charge of a women's retreat at her church. She needed 40 registrations to guarantee the conference grounds. She had only 38 in hand. The deadline was noon that day. It was 11:45 by the clock on the wall. She prayed and prayed. She had only 15 minutes left before she had to cancel the reservation. Why didn't He help her by sending the last two needed? Now it was 11:55. The phone rang. A woman made two reservations for the retreat. The retreat was on, after all.
I thought it a wonderful answer to prayer! But my friend was discontented. Why had God let her squirm all morning? She said,
"Sometimes I think God just likes to see us squirm."
Did God enjoy seeing her worry? Did it give Him pleasure to watch her squirm? Does He sit up in Heaven and amuse Himself by dangling good things in front of us and then snatching them away when we try to take them?
No! Not my God! Not the God of the Bible. Not the God who loved us so much that He let Jesus die in our place so we can live forever in Heaven with Him. No, that God doesn't take pleasure in seeing His children squirm. In fact, Matthew 7:9-11 says,
What man is there among you who,
if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father who is in heaven
give good things to those who ask Him!"
So why didn't God answer my friend's immediately? I don't know. Perhaps both women needed to learn God is "working together all things for good to them that love Him," as Romans 8:28 says. Perhaps He was being a loving father and teaching a needed lesson, as Hebrews 12:6 says. "The Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes those He accepts as His children."
I cannot guess what God was doing that day, but I am very sure He didn't make my friend squirm just so He could gloat. Lamentations 3:31-33 plainly says,
For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief,
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
For He does not willingly afflict,
Nor grieve the children of men.
No. Whatever God's reason for delaying the registrations, it was certainly not because He enjoys watching us squirm. So I must learn to trust His goodness and His wisdom, whatever He is doing in my life.
Do People Have a Right to Expect Us to Act Like We Talk?
A Word of Encouragmeent from Elizabeth Handford
My husband and I sat in a Chicago court room, awaiting a hearing to complete the adoption of our baby boy. The adoptive couple whose hearing was in progress seemed to be in trouble. The judge found out they'd bought the child in a commercial transaction. He was incensed. "You mean," he said, his anger barely controlled, "you paid somebody ten thousand dollars for this child? That is absolutely unacceptable. I will remove this child from your home immediately."
Stunned silence fell on the courtroom. How must those adoptive parents feel? We waited quietly while the judge considered the options. "All right," he decided. "You may keep the child, but I will appoint a guardian ad litem who will monitor you weekly for the next six months." His husky voice rose to fill the courtroom. "You cannot break the laws of this country with impunity."
His words etched themselves in my heart. No matter how I longed for a baby, I could never pay for one! When God gave
us six more children to adopt, we were meticulously careful not to make it even seem like we were buying the child. I believed that judge. The law was on his side. He spoke for truth and justice. It was right for me to obey every word he said.
Soon after, the judge was elected governor of the state. Not long after, he was indicted for breaking innumerable laws to build massive personal businesses with state monies. He'd used federal funds to build superhighways to serve those businesses. He was tried, convicted, and sent to prison.
When I read that indictment, I felt betrayed. The judge had used words like "honor," "justice," "truth," and "law," while he personally and blatantly dishonored them. Don't we have a right to expect a judge to obey the laws he requires of others?
Yes, it is my right, and yours. You have a right to expect me to live by what I say I believe. A citizen has the right to expect elected officials to keep the law. A church member has a right to expect his pastor to live the godly life he preaches. A employee has a right to expect his supervisor to be fair. A child has the right to see his parents live by the standards they hold for him.
And there's a parallel obligation. Citizens ought to keep the law. Church members ought to live like what they say they believe. An honest supervisor has the right to have an honest employee. A child ought to obey his parents. Philippians 2:14,15 says,
In everything you do,
stay away from complaining and arguing,
so that no one can speak a word of blame against you.
You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God
in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people.
Let your lives shine brightly before them.
The truth is, many of the people watching us secretly hope that what we say we believe is real. They yearn to see proof of what we say is true. Yes, they may be "crooked and perverse," but they have a right to see us acting like what we say we believe. And perhaps, then they too will come to believe.