When I sat with the group of veterans from my church at a local donut shop in town, the last thing I expected was a blessing. I had prayed that I could be a blessing to them.
Disclaimer: be sure to read good fun loving humor into this next paragraph:
Jamie and I have a standing argument over who is God’s favorite. Clearly she’s wrong; she’s so certain that God loves her more than me, but I KNOW I am His favorite! 😊 I plan to spend the next few minutes giving you proof of just how much God loves me, and I bet you’ll agree I’m His favorite too, unless of course you want to believe YOU are His favorite instead! 😉
2nd Disclaimer: You would be right. I think we’re actually ALL His favorite!
Let’s start with a bit of background info before I jump into my donut shop experience. Almost two years ago my five year old son was diagnosed with cancer. He is the bravest, wisest, strongest person I have ever known! He inspires me daily to live a life worthy of being alive.
As soon as my husband and I became parents of a child with cancer we entered into a community we had not previously known existed. We became a part of a larger family of parents struggling against the same disease. At first this community provided me deep comfort, but it didn’t take long before a new struggle began in my heart.
As I watched my son’s body respond well to treatment, I also watched other children’s bodies respond poorly to treatment. As my son experienced very few hiccups in the protocol for treatment of his cancer, other children were encountering setbacks in their treatment protocols. As my son thrived in his battle against cancer, other children lost their lives.
I began to struggle with guilt. I felt wrong for enjoying the victory of LIFE that my son was experiencing.
How can I be happy when another child just died?
I don’t want my son to die.
I am a horrible mother for not just being happy that my son is alive.
These are just a few of the thoughts that have plagued my mind for the last two years. I have prayed, but the thoughts remained. I have shared with trusted friends, but the thoughts remained. I have journaled, and even looked at scripture for comfort, but the thoughts have remained. For. Almost. Two. Agonizing. Painful. Years.
When I walked into the donut shop, I had no idea God intended to address this struggle with me head on. He had appointed that day to be the beginning of the END of my struggle with guilt! Praise Him, Praise Him!
As each of the men shared their stories, I was reminded of parts of my own battle.
One of the men referred to the stories of soldiers who had lost their lives as heart wrenching. I thought of the heart wrench I have experienced over other parents’ losses.
Steve Russell shared how he had wondered if he could or would take a life given the opportunity. I thought of how I’ve wondered if I could or would be able to praise God if my son lost his life.
Steve Jack talked about the challenge of having to push men out of an airplane when they were hesitant to jump into the combat field. He has always wondered if he may of pushed a man to his death. I thought of the moment I stood in my laundry room shortly after my son’s diagnosis crying to a friend on the phone because I had to give poison (chemo) to my son. When he didn’t want to take the medicine I had to give him a choice between taking his meds or loosing his electronic privileges. I’ve signed waivers and consent forms acknowledging that the chemo can actually cause additional types of cancer and other major health problems like heart and kidney failure. I have often wondered if I’m pushing him to a different type of death as I push each medicine dropper into his mouth.
Thomas said he didn’t feel worthy of people who had given their lives for him. I thought neither do I.
Troy shared about his father’s battle with PTSD after his time in the military. He shared about the destruction that lasted long after the sacrifice of service took place. I thought of the changes that have happened in my own family as we’ve learned to cope and adjust to childhood cancer.
Of the five men I met with, one of them served on the front lines. They all give Rob a hard time, especially Troy, because he’s the only Army man in a group of Airforce men (kind of like Jamie and I tease one another about being God’s favorite). Rob talked about many things that touched my heart.
He mentioned how he had to sacrifice his feelings on the combat field as well as after coming home from war. I thought of how I’ve often laid down my own feelings to be a good caretaker to my son.
Rob also shared the thoughts he has battled as he has worked through seeing fellow brothers die in front of him. As I listened to his story the Holy Spirit began to whisper to me.
So I spoke up and said, “It sounds like you’re saying you struggle with guilt over being alive. Is that what I’m hearing?”
“Oh yes,” all the men agreed. That’s when the Holy Spirit yelled at me. YOUR NOT ALONE! IT’S NORMAL TO FEEL GUILT WHEN YOU SURVIVE SOMETHING THAT TOOK SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE.
I was stunned. I finished out the interview knowing God was moving mountains in my heart. He wasn’t content to let me sit in my misery, mourning over the pain of this struggle. Instead he had appointed this day to meet me in the middle of my messy life. He came to me.
Over the next week I searched the scriptures looking for answers to what God says about guilt. I learned the most amazing things about the sacrifices in the old testament. One of them is called the guilt offering. I learned about a special guilt offering which took place annually on the day of atonement.
I learned how these old testament offerings were a picture of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Jesus had everything in heaven. He was seated on a throne. He commanded an army of angels, but He left all that behind to come to us here on earth. In the old testament, before the day of atonement, the high priest would leave his family and take off his priestly garments to spend a week with the lower priest. During that time he would do the work of offering daily sacrifices. This was normally work that was considered beneath him, and this required great humility on his part. Here’s what Philippians says about Jesus:
“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His advantage; rather He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.”
Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is our high priest. But the comparison doesn’t end there. On the day of atonement the High Priest needed two goats. One to sacrifice and one to remain alive. He cast lots to determine which goat would live and die. Once he sacrificed the first goat, he would lay his hands on the living goat, confess all of Israel’s sins over it, and send it out into the wilderness. This goat was called the scapegoat.
Friends, Jesus is not only our High Priest, but also our sacrifice, AND our scapegoat! God revealed to me the COMPLETENESS of the work Christ did on the cross.
Those are some BIG revelations, but God wasn’t finished with the conversation He had begun at the donut shop when I had planned to be the blessing to others. This past weekend I was reading in the book of John. I came across the story of Lazarus’ death. Something interesting caught my eyes.
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
Do you see that last statement? Mary stayed home. Is this the same Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet while he taught in her home? The one who Jesus said grasped something deeper than Martha had when she was busy frantically trying to cook and clean instead of spending time with the savior? I wondered why she would stay home, and I thought maybe it was because she was angry with Jesus. The Holy Spirit whispered keep reading.
Jesus and Martha have a short conversation. Then this happens:
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.
When I read this I immediately understood that Mary had not stayed home because she was angry, much like my guilty thoughts had not remained with me because I wanted them to. Mary had remained home because she was deeply grieved, and my thoughts had remained with me because I was deeply grieved. But Jesus was not content to let Mary remain grieved any more than He is content to let me remain grieved. Jesus called Mary out of her grief and to his side. He asked for her.
The Holy Spirit yelled at me again. JESUS IS ASKING FOR YOU!
Whoa! I knew right that minute that it was time to end my grieving. My savior was calling for me, and I just wanted to be by His side!
I walked into a donut shop two weekends ago thinking I’d somehow encourage a small group of men. Instead God began a week long journey of healing and VICTORY in my life. He saw my grief and my guilt and He came to comfort me, and He used a sweet group of veterans to start the process.
I think it’s interesting how sacrifice can lead to victory. Without the sacrifice of soldier’s lives we can’t win wars. Without the sacrifice of Jesus’ life we can’t win the war that wages for our souls. Without the sacrifice of my own will I can’t win the war to overcome sin in my daily life. And without the sacrifice of these veterans, I might not have won the war that guilt had waged in my mind.
The truth is too often I live in defeat rather than victory.
I know there are still spaces in my life that I have not fully accepted the sacrifice Christ has made for me. The cross cost much more to Christ than I will ever understand, but when I try to count the cost, I am reminded that Jesus LOVES ME!
Not like a new car kind of love.
Not a pretty flower or hugs and kisses kind of love.
Jesus loves me with a I’ll give up every comfort, every pride, every power I have and humiliate myself just to prove my love for you kind of love.
So you can see why I think I’m God’s favorite. I mean I am just a tired-crazy-flawed-Jesus loving-parent of a child with cancer-MESS! Thanks to Jesus though, I am no longer a guilty survivor. Oh, no! I am a VICTORY SURVIVOR. I have survived so much in this life; all glory to God for that!
Thank you Jesus for your SACRIFICE for me. I am so thankful that you love me enough to die for me. I can’t imagine my life without you. Thank you for the men and women who have given their lives in service to my country. Thank you for the blessings you’ve poured out on my son as he has battled against cancer. Thank you Jesus that you have given me victory! Amen.
Stay tuned next week to hear what Maggie has to say about SACRIFICE!