Faith is easy when things are fine. The sun is shining, birds singing and you’re feeling good. It’s so easy to see God everywhere you look. What happens when nothing seems to go right? How strong is our faith when we feel broken, hurt or even angry? These are the times when God is speaking to us the loudest. These moments of pain and suffering are not lost with Him. God is opening a door for you even if you are only focused on the one that just got slammed in your face. I have had the most personal growth in my most painful times. My greatest ‘ah ha!’ moments came from stumbling and seeming to fail. The greatest inventors of all time failed more times than they probably could have counted before they got something right. They kept their focus on the prize. Just as steel is tempered with blazing hot fire, so too are we. So too is our soul.
Have you ever made a wrong turn and found yourself driving down some road you’ve never been on before? Of course! We all have! How many times has this happened and you discovered something interesting on that ‘wrong road’? Maybe it took you through a really bad neighborhood (my wife can tell you MANY stories of how I have the uncanny ability to find the ‘hood’ in EVERY city we’ve EVER been in!) and you were frightened. God is there too. An inadvertent drive through a bad neighborhood will have you realizing how good your life is or maybe even point out something you need to change in your life… God, teaching us to grow. Challenging us to examine our life choices.
Watching my brother Steve succeed and be declared cancer free 3 years after a bone marrow transplant only to be hit hard with a bronchial infection that slowly suffocated him to death made me question his faith. I remember having the conversation with him after 2 hospitals denying him a lung transplant. Steve lived on the 19th floor of a building overlooking Biscayne bay. He spent many hours gazing out over the bay and would post daily pictures of a sunrise or sunset colored storm clouds. He was tethered to an oxygen generator with hose enough to go anywhere in the small 1 bedroom apartment. He quoted bible verses nearly daily on his facebook. “Steve” I said. “I can’t believe after all of these setbacks and getting your hopes up only to have them dashed…If I were in your shoes I think I would be seriously considering a swan dive off the balcony to the tennis courts below!” Without hesitation he looked at me and said: “I can’t climb over the railing”. He was joking of course but his next words really resonated with me. “I just do the next thing I need to do”. Steve wasn’t focusing on the ‘what if’s’ or the closed doors, he was just putting one foot in front of the other and walking towards the next potentially open door. He didn’t doubt for one second God wasn’t with him, God wasn’t holding him close.
As much as I admire my brother’s strength and courage, I just couldn’t fully wrap my brain around that kind of faith or soul strength. Little did I know at the time, God was teaching me through Steve things I would need in the very near future! It wasn’t until shortly after receiving my diagnosis of CLL that these lessons would begin to resonate within me.
Being the youngest of seven, I have always been very competitive. I have always felt the need to succeed in whatever I take on and get attention for my accomplishments. I would rather win someone’s respect and admiration rather than their pity. When I was diagnosed I had the same choice Steve faced. The same choice everyone has when facing a huge hurdle or life changing event: Lie down and let it consume me or stand tall and fight! Being a highly competitive person I could not entertain the thought of lying down and crying ‘woe is me…’ Sure it knocked me down hard for a bit. My wife said ‘today we will cry but tomorrow we will roll up our sleeves and fight this with everything we have!’ In the days and weeks that followed I would slowly begin to see myself gaining the same strength of faith as Steve had. Our conversations about faith and cancer began to ring in my ears and at times, I feel him with me. I feel his love.