"Consider it pure JOY, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
I apologize that I have not written more frequently; life has just been busy these days! I had two wonderful weeks with my best friend of 16 years, Nicole and my amazing little sister, Ranai. We had so much fun playing with precious McKinley, and their incredible hearts just refreshed mine! I am 2 'easy' chemotherapies down and only 10 to go! Besides an icky cold that I just cannot seem to get over, I am feeling great! Oh, how I praise the Lord for that. I now have to get a shot every Saturday to boost my neutrophil levels, which makes me feel like I have the flu on Saturdays. But Tuesdays (chemotherapy days) are really just a tired day, and by Wednesday morning, I feel just like me again :) It seems as though the toughest part of this journey is behind us now. It is wonderful to see an end in sight! I was thinking the other day how 'comfortable' this cancer has become, it is just a part of our lives now. During the time of the initial diagnosis, surgery and hard chemotherapy, I couldn't get through a moment it seemed without completely relying on the Lord for my strength. It was by far the hardest time of my life, but now I look at that time with tenderness and sweetness of heart. For when there seemed to be none of me left, God was everything. I needed Jesus in a desperate way that I had never really needed Him before. It was a treasure. My prayer now is that even though my health is restored more each day, that my heart couldn't get through a moment without my Jesus.
Many friends have asked me over the past months and weeks if I was angry with God. I think everyone kind of expected me to be angry with Him. "Randi, you are only 28, you have a little girl, you love God, you make wise health choices, WHY would He allow you to get cancer?" Oh, I have felt a vast array of emotions since I was diagnosed on October 23rd, like shock, sadness, and insecurity but I can honestly say, anger has not been my dominant emotion. It was clear from the beginning that me getting cancer didn't make sense, so we knew God had to be up to something bigger than we could possibly understand. In the book of John, there is this beautiful story of Jesus healing a blind man that has given my heart so much peace. Jesus sees this man who has been blind from birth. His disciples (aka best friends) ask him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Isn't that such our human perspective, that we want to blame our sufferings and trials on something or someone. We believe the lie that we must have done something to deserve this. I think some people call this Karma. But Jesus doesn't work like that. Jesus replied to his disciples, "Neither this man or his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (John 9:1-3) I read that, and all I hear is God saying "Randi, I love you, I have beautiful plans for your life, but I am allowing you to go through this so that my power may be displayed through you." That brings my heart more joy than I can possibly explain. I used to read the verse in James 1 listed above, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers when you face trials of many kinds..." and I thought he must be crazy to think we should consider it PURE JOY when we face really hard challenges. Not to just be joyful amidst pain, but to call our trials, Pure Joy. It is completely opposite to everything this world teaches us. In the face of hardship, this world tells us to be angry, sad, bitter, and to wallow in self pity and despair. But now, I get what James was telling us. I get that through Jesus alone, we can consider our trials pure joy. It is through our deepest losses and struggles that we realize how desperately we need a savior. When we finally get that, there is PURE JOY. Joy is not happiness, it is not an ever changing feeling dependent upon our life circumstances. It is a confidence that the King of the Universe is on our team, that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He has plans only to "prosper us, and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. God never promises that we will be happy on this earth, because this is not our home. He actually promises the opposite: "In this world, you will have trouble." John 16:33 I am so thankful that we have an eternity of perfection with the King to look forward to. That we can see the pain and brokenness in this fallen world, and know for certain that this is not where we belong, and that one day, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4 I'm so thankful this world is not our home and that God doesn't see things the way we do. I relish in Jesus' words: " Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22 Over the years, my precious hubby has often reminded me, "Randi, don't let this rob your JOY!"
Today, I received a care package from one of my closest friends who is facing a tremendous trial in her life. After being completely blown away that my sweet friend would take time to encourage me, I dug into this precious, sunshine package and pulled out a devotional called, Jesus Calling. I opened up to May 4th and started reading the love letter written to us from Jesus’ perspective: "The more you give to Me and My ways, the more I fill you with inexpressible, heavenly joy." That's it! The key to having JOY is giving ourselves, our dreams, our struggles, and our deepest desires to Jesus. As our pastor reminded us last weekend, "CHOOSE JOY!" We all have a choice every day how we will face the trials of this world: do you choose anger and bitterness, resentment for feeling that God is ripping you off, or do you choose JOY: trusting that God is working in us and through us for His bigger purposes. Someone once told me JOY stands for Jesus, Others and Yourself. I love that! If I want Joy, I need to put Jesus first, then others, then myself. When faced with this cancer, Matt and I choose JOY. I don't want to waste a moment feeling angry: "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10 I have seen too many people suffer in bitterness and resentment, and it robs them of the abundant life that God has for them. I know some of you sweet friends are reading this and are wrestling with those feelings of anger, and that's okay. ( I have wrestled with a lot of emotions!) God is not afraid of or intimidated by our emotions, he just asks us to bring all those feelings, good or bad, to Him. Flesh it out with God, yell at Him, let Him know exactly how you are feeling, and then when you get it all out, leave it at His feet and experience a peace and joy that will bring freedom to your soul. God asks us to give that burden to Him, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 Joy, peace, rest for our souls, that is what God wants to give us. He doesn't want us to miss out on all His glorious plans because we choose anger and bitterness. Friends, I know some days life seems impossibly hard, but I pray that today you will trade in your despair and anger and Choose Joy! "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 Oh, how much we treasure and love you!
Joyfully in HIM~
"Be joyful always." 1 Thessalonians 5:16