The picture above is of my dear friend, Cheryl. She's dying of cancer and, at this point, it seems as if God is choosing to receive more glory through her passing than through her healing. This picture was taken while my friends Jeremiah (worship pastor at Grace) and his wife Marcie were singing to her in her hospital room. Jeremiah said that Cheryl was his worship leader on that evening. It is honestly one of the most moving pictures I have seen in quite some time.
I don't fully understand why things like this happen. It was only a couple of years ago when Cheryl's husband passed away of cancer. Shortly after he passed away, she was also diagnosed. Unless God does an absolute miracle (which He is more than capable of doing), her two children will be left without parents in the span of a few short years. My heart hurts for them and I'm full of questions that probably will never be answered this side of heaven. What I do know is that God's ultimate goal for His children is Christlikeness. While my ultimate goal can often be peace and comfort, God's ultimate goal for His kids is to be more like Jesus. It's often things like this that refine us and shape us and develop in us the character of Jesus. Through this whole process, I and many others have seen Cheryl respond with an unmatched Christlikeness. She's fought so bravely and so valiantly. I would call or visit in an effort to try to be an encouragement to her, but I believe I received so much more encouragement from her than she ever did from me. In my last visit to her in the hospital, as she was working hard for every breath, she said that she was "so blessed." Her body may have been failing but her spirit was still very much alive and Jesus was still working in her and through her. I can only imagine the pride in God's eyes as He watched His dear daughter respond with the character of His only Son.
In his book, TheThree Battlegrounds, Francis Frangipane said, "Satan is tolerated for one purpose: the warfare between the devil and God's saints thrusts us into Christlikeness, where the nature of Christ becomes our only place of rest and security." We live in such a broken world. And, because our world is broken, our bodies can be broken too. A broken world has cancer. A broken world loses loved ones. A broken world creates questions we may never have an answer too. But, a broken world can thrust us into Christlikeness and we serve a God who can turn "misery into ministry." Isaiah 61:3 reminds us that God comforts those who are filled with sorrow and He can turn our ashes in to beauty. It's just what God does.
While our hearts hurt for Cheryl and her family, they also rejoice because she is a daughter of God. And, from the moment that she was conceived, I believe that God was looking forward to the day when they would meet in heaven for the first time and He would be able to say to her "Well done, Cheryl. Well done, my good and faithful servant."