When I was a kid, I got to sit at the table with many missionaries who had experienced incredible pain. As I would hear stories of their hardship, I often only attached myself to their words, not the tone of them. I didn't hear them recount God's faithfulness, nor did I take note how they were returning to the pain unafraid. No, all I saw was that God often calls us to painful realities. A trembling question formed: " Is there anything God won't take?" 

I began to not want to hear the stories. Afraid they were somehow contagious, especially if the narrative looked too similar to my own. As a mother shared of her stillborn daughter while I swelled with pregnancy, I was paralyzed with the thought God might allow my daughter to be stillborn as well. As I read the accounts of Elizabeth Elliot, I feared God might take my husband too and so on..

And then, God gently brought us into our own story of pain. First financial, then through miscarriage, and then through marriage woes and international living... So it goes. Until we've now found ourselves here with a diagnosis of our youngest child. 

As I share with others, I sometimes see the same widening of eyes I often had. I see the same computation happening. "If God asks that of her, will he ask that of me?! Is there nothing God won't take?" 

Even now I'm not immune. Now that we're nearing the end of the treatment, I notice a similar fear creep up in my heart. I don't want to hear stories about relapse, afraid they might attach themselves to me. 

As I was praying through my fears this morning, I realized something. God, the incredibly gentle, incredibly kind, incredibly supportive, incredibly wise, deliberate narrator of this story.... Is infinite in his storylines. The Bible holds no two stories the same. 

One of the most masterful things about my God is how he reveals himself uniquely to all who call on him as Lord. Yet, they all conclude the same characteristics of Him. He is good. He provides. He loves us so...And the fruit of walking with him is the same. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Self control. Faithfulness... 

Our God, I'm finding, doesn't type cast. He isn't a lazy writer, plopping new characters into old plot lines. He's more creative, more lovely than that. He takes his beloved children and leads them into stories he wrote with care... each filled with joy and grace and pain unmeasurable. Each unique. Each unlike the other. Each time revealing to those walking their narrative his character, his deep love for them, his relentless allegiance to their good. I have begun to worship him for his incredible ability to take every situation-every evil and terrible and good and whole situation- and weave its threads so that those wrapped in the narrative of his story all say: "what can the Lord NOT do? He can take sorrow and turn it to joy, death and defeat it, he gives fortitude to the much-afraid....Yes, he takes it all. And He gives us abundantly more. " 

As Simon Peter says " Where else can we go? Only you have the words of eternal life."

When I appreciate how God weaves individual stories through time, all tying into this incredible larger narrative... I begin to understand just how precious the church is. I see her purpose more clearly. The church exists so that we can see and be seen. So we can come and know the story. So we can see where God's been, what He's doing now, where He's going. 

There is good work in the seeing: We who are part of His body see Him working in others when they can't see it. We speak that truth over them so that they too can then see God at work. We volunteer to have others see sin in us and gently help us kill it before it ruins us. We celebrate God's goodness in song and testimony and weep together at this world's brokeness as we wait for what we know to be true to be seen. God is coming. He'll make it all right. He makes things right even in the land of the living. Many have resigned they won't see it until heaven, but His word says otherwise and I've seen him perform miracles and do the unthinkable under the same skies I currently live under....No, my God is working even now. I believe those who have resigned to such a reality of "only at heavens gates" have, through much pain, resigned to no longer seeing. I understand how. I just wish them a different hope. 

All of this to say, I don't fear relapse quite so much as I did a few hours ago. Of course I beg God to allow this all to be done when our treatment plan is finished and I believe he delights to heal and may have already. But I simply do not know what story God is weaving. While I see terrible sadness from others who have faced similar, I have also seen a missionary woman share of deep grief and then smile when she returns to it. 

I didn't understand it now. I couldn't see it. 

But now I see, when Christ is walking alongside, he gives the fortitude for the journey. Where he calls, I'll follow because he's there. I can smile at what's coming because as the hymn boldly proclaims:

" because He lives

I can face tomorrow

Because He lives

All fear is gone

Because I know

He holds the future

And life is worth the living

Just because He lives"

This life is worth the living (although I've at times prayed to die) just because (for no other reason) than because He lives. He's writing a narrative I've never read before. I'm honored to be one of millions of characters before me who get to show his Goodness- however he chooses to show it-and experience his deep love and faithfulness during the journey. 

There is nothing he won't take. And that is good news. Because everything he takes he heals. He makes all things new.

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