In June 2012 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I don’t tell you this so that you will feel sorry for me or even so that you will offer up prayers on my behalf (although prayers would be welcome and appreciated). I tell you to let you know how this blog and future writing came about. Going through surgery and chemotherapy was the closest I ever got to a “valley of the shadow of death” experience that the psalmist alludes to in Psalm 23. This fiery trial that I had to go through, although not pleasant or easy, has given me new eyes and a fresh vision. Truly it has been a gift that has given me a greater and fresh revelation of God’s mercy and grace.
During this difficult time, while taking the bible study “Missing Pieces” by Jennifer Rothschild, I came to realize that I not only deserved cancer and sickness but death and separation from God. I deserved it because I am a sinner. The bible says the wages of sin is death and I, like every human, am a sinner so I deserved death. But I did not receive death; instead I received God’s mercy. The definition of mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. In other words, not getting what we deserve. The only one who could enforce this death sentence, was also the only one who could who could absolve me. God the father was able to forgive me and cancel my death sentence because Jesus paid the price for my sin. Jesus took my sins upon His body and paid my sin debt with His precious blood on the cross of Calvary. He took my punishment and in exchange gave me eternal life with Him.
Thank God that I did not get what I deserved but not only that, I got what I didn’t deserve. Grace is defined as the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. James 1:17 says "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." The beautiful world all around us, the tender love of family and friends, the delicious food we eat, the warm cozy home we live in, are all manifestation of God’s amazing grace. Grace is being treated to God’s best even though we did nothing to deserve it.
Several years before I found out I had cancer, God was telling me to write down things I was thankful for. I was not a good listener and started a list, but soon got busy and quit. He also was urging me to read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp which I highly recommend, but I put off reading until recently. I am on my way to listing my thousand and more gifts, but more than that, I am seeing everything with fresh eyes. Like the song says “I was blind but now I see.” God’s grace and mercy had always been with me but I didn’t always see them. Now I see everything as coming from the Father’s hand. Trials, joys, laughter, contentment, struggles, harmony - these are all gifts of grace.
Sometimes it takes the long, dark, bleak night to truly appreciate the bright new dawn.