Some Pretty Weighty Thoughts to End the Year

My plans for the blog this week went out the window. I hope to get back on track next week, but for now I wanted to close out this year thanking one friend – plus two –  in particular for their amazing and inspiring example. I wonder if God had me change my plans?

Let me explain….

Last Christmas our little church was brand new.  Redeemer Church had our first meeting in January 2012. One of our first outreaches involved putting together a group of vocalists to sing Christmas carols at two events in the area in which we were planting the church. Our rehearsal was held at the home of my friend, Liz. Our first “practice” was at the home of her dying neighbor. I certainly wasn’t surprised that Liz had gotten to know her neighbors well enough to know this dear lady was in her last days. Since I met Liz nearly 35 years ago she has consistently demonstrated a heart for others.

This Christmas Liz is the one fighting for her life. Only God knew what no one else did when we sang for her suffering neighbor that day. In a matter of weeks Liz would learn that the cancer which had been surgically removed two years prior had returned with a vengeance.

For the past eleven months Liz has courageously fought this vicious disease. With the help of family and friends, she has gone to more appointments than she can count: blood tests, chemo treatments, scans, follow up visits…over and over; week after week; month after exhausting month. There has been some encouraging shrinkage but not enough to suspend the treatments that leave her exhausted, among numerous other side affects.

Watching my friend suffer with grace has been no surprise. Liz’s sturdy faith and affectionate relationship with her Savior has been well established for decades. From her “what should I give Jesus for His birthday this year?” questions every Christmas to the numerous seasons of enduring trials and disappointments by crying out to God for help, I have watched her demonstrate a sweet and tested dependence on the One who rescued her from a life of sin in her teen years through the prayers of her mother.

Many things have struck me about Liz over this past year. But the one thing that I will carry with me is how eagerly she fights to think of others. A box full of candies for the nurses in the chemo ward (including some sugar-free options for those who can’t have processed sugar). Mary Kay samples left over from her business for those of us who got to help with transportation to her appointments. Thanksgiving and Christmas ecards for friends. A request for me to bring her daughter a bagel from Panera. Simple, thoughtful expressions of others-oriented kindness from a woman who is fighting for her life.

I don’t know what 2013 holds for Liz. But I know a miracle healing will happen. I pray she will be healed to spend more years on this earth leaving the fragrance of Christ in her wake.  But her healing may come another way. She has said that she knows how Paul may have felt when he said:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for [Frank and Joy’s] sake (Philippians 1:21-24). 

Please pray for Liz. The choice is not hers but God’s. For the sake of her husband and family (and especially her teenaged daughter) her remaining is certainly the best option. God knows. Her life is in His hands.
The “plus two” friends I would also like to thank are Lisa and Susan. I have also benefitted over the past year as I’ve watched them model sacrificial love and care for our friend. Only God knows the countless times they have reached out to spend time (for Lisa, at great expense); give money; call or text; pray; cry; bring or send surprises; clean; cook; laugh. Friendship comes in many colors but these two godly women shine as those who have incarnated the love, mercy, compassion and sacrifice of Christ to a sufferer. I want to be like them.
None of us know how many days we have left on this earth. Our days may be few or many.  But there will be A Day when we will take our last breath. It could be sooner than we think. Are you prepared for That Day? Do you know where you will spend eternity when you die? I don’t mean to be morbid — just lovingly honest. Liz knows that when she dies she will be able to finally thank the One who took her place on the cross and satisfied the just demands of a holy and righteous God. She is not perfect. She’ll admit that to you or anyone. The past year of suffering hasn’t been without understandable struggles and sinful reactions on her part. But she knows that every one of her past, present and future sins have been forgiven because Jesus Christ endured God’s justified wrath so He could forgive her — and declare her not guilty.
Whether sooner or later, Liz will be welcomed into heaven — an eternal home earned by her Savior.
Will you?
This time last year Liz was completely unaware that her life might be shorter than she anticipated. Without giving in to fear, aren’t we wise to make sure that we, like Liz, are ready to meet the Lord face to face?  Liz isn’t afraid to die because she knows she has been made right with God. In fact, a part of her longs to finally meet Him.
If you don’t know Him, talk to a Christian you know and ask them about Jesus. Or just stop now and pray. Tell him in your own words that you want to know Him. Ask Him to forgive you of your sin and thank Him for dying in your place on the cross. Give Him rightful ownership of your life. He loves you. He’s pursuing you. And 2013 could be a wonderful one for you. Not because it will be easy.  Let’s face it, being a Christian means being like Liz — someone who thinks of others more than herself.
Christianity isn’t an easy life. Why should it be easier for us than it was for the One who said we “must take up our cross and follow Him”?
Oh, if you don’t know Jesus, I pray this will be the year for you!

1 thought on “Some Pretty Weighty Thoughts to End the Year

  1. Sheree…Thank you for honoring our dear sister, Liz. Well said! Listening to a video podcast from Cornerstone Simi Valley (Francis Chan church) from Todd Nighswonger – The Pain of the Mission.
    Much about how Christ did not call us to a life of adventurism or comfortism but to join Him in a calling of discomfort and pain, following in the footsteps of Jesus. He lead the way. He went before us. Very sobering to me. Reading Liz’s blog reminds me of this mission. I pray that I would Trust Him fully a little more closely in the New Year because of Liz’s example.

    Stephanie A Smith

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