"Dad-dee, her don't feel better? Her sick? Is she haff to be in da hah-pit-tul?" She did this several times.
It was all I could do to keep smiling and not ruin her fun. It just tears your heart out when your child knows they are "sick"... not "I've got a cough sick" but sick as a way of life. Abby knows this about herself. She is very self-aware that her "sick" is different than other kids. She also grasps on her own, that her "sick" is life threatening as she will ask us, "Mommy, do I get to grow up and be a big girl? Promise?" Try getting on with your day after being asked that.
If you watched the video of her, you can see several effects of the cancer treatment: when not distracted, she rocks herself and makes humming noises, she docile compare to her pre-Leukemia days. In some ways she is very mature (about illness, doctors and pain) but in other ways she is "frozen" at three years old (language development, motor skills, mobility); and she often can go for hours basically expressionless when the chemo is hitting her.
Once in a while on really good days, we get a little peek at her real personality when it is able to cut through the medicine, weakness and pain for a brief appearance. We long for the day when she will be free of the fog of drugs and continuous discomfort.
Joel 2:25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..."
We pray God will restore abundantly the time she has had taken from her in which her suffering has brought faith to those whose faith had wained, and allowed many to see God when their spiritual eyes had grown dim.
And to answer the anonymous question yesterday, "if there is a God, why does he let your daughter suffer like this?"... we answer with her testimony that at four years old she has inspired more people to pray, more people to appreciate their own lives, and more people to grow in compassion that most of adults will an entire life.
The answer is, that suffering is not from God... suffering is the result of the sin-curse, and as Solomon tells us, "the sun rises and falls on the rich and poor", "the rain descends on both good men and evil". In other words, we are ALL subject to the consequences of sin which brought sickness and death into the world. None of us get a pass, even our dear children. We can thank OURSELVES for this as it is the result of humanity's rebellion against their Creator.
The difference for those who love God, is that our suffering is turned to blessing, our suffering is comforted by God, and our suffering is used to bring glory to Him who then rewards us eternally for our brief discomfort in this life.
We HATE that Abby is sick and suffers. But we also know that her suffering is not in vain, not without purpose, not without blessing, and not without ultimately being repaid by eternal reward. That is what separates genuine Christianity from the unbelieving world or superficial religion.
If you are suffering today, I've put a list below that wrote a few years ago that tells you how Christians are uniquely blessed through suffering while the world suffers without hope.
- To produce the fruit of patience Rom. 5:3; James 1:3-4; Heb. 10:36
- Through adversity Christians learn the blessing of long-suffering and delayed gratification.
To produce the fruit of joy Ps. 30:5; 126:5-6
It is easy to be joyful when times are good but you have authentic rejoicing when you experience it through suffering.
- To produce the fruit of maturity Eccles. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10
Through affliction we discover the true reality of living in a sin cursed world. When we endure suffering with the attitude of Jesus Christ we are perfected, established and strengthened.
- To produce the fruit of righteousness Heb. 12:11
Adversity, when responded to according to God's word, will train us to be righteous and holy.
- To silence the devil Job 1:9, 10, 20-22
God permits suffering and when we respond to it in a Christlike manner the accusations of Satan against us will be in vain.
- To teach us Ps. 119:67, 71
The more we suffer the more God's word becomes real to us and the less we will stray from obeying the Lord. It then becomes a good thing that we have suffered because it has resulted in increased Godliness.
- To purify our lives Job 23:10; Ps. 66:10-12; Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Prov. 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:7
God tests, strengthens and purifies us through affliction. Our faith is much more precious than anything the world can offer and like pure gold it is refined in the fires of suffering.
- To make us like Christ Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12-13; Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7-10
As we suffer, we come to understand and better relate to the suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf. Through persecution and affliction we are conformed into the image of Christ manifesting through our bodies a living example of Christ's sacrifice for us.
- To glorify God Ps. 50:15; John 9:1-3; 11:1-4; 21:18-19; Phil. 1:19-20
Every time we respond to suffering with a Godly attitude, we bring glory to God in such an unselfish manner that it directs attention solely to God, and not to us.
- To prevent us from sinning 2 Cor. 12:7, 9-10
God may permit us to suffer in order to keep us humble and to keep us from the sin of self-exaltation.
- To make us confess when we do sin Judg. 10:6-7, 15-16; Ps. 32:3-5; Hos. 5:15; 6:1; 2 Chron. 15:3-4
There will be times when God uses suffering to force us to confront our sin and confess it. Enduring the effects of a sin cursed world heightens our awareness of sin and deepens our understanding of just how truly awful sin really is.
- To chasten us for our sin 1 Pet. 4:17
Suffering may often times be a direct result of our own personal sin and God may be chastising us for it. Adversity motivates us to carefully examine our lives for holiness and devotion.
- To prove our sonship Heb. 12:5-6
Adversity is like an identification badge for the Christian. Scripture clearly says, "that whom the Lord loves He chastens". So any time that you suffer you can be sure of two things: that you belong to the Lord, and that He loves you.
- To reveal ourselves to ourselves Job 42:6; Luke 15:18
When the pressure is on you can be sure that what is deep down inside of a person will come boiling to the top. When you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice. There is no way to fake what you are truly all about when you are under great stress or enduring significant adversity. You can be sure that what you are genuinely made of will surface not only for you to see but also for everyone around you to see.
- To help our prayer life Isa. 26:16
There is no doubt that affliction helps our prayer life. For most people greater suffering equals greater prayer.
- To become an example to others 2 Cor. 6:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:6-7
When we respond to adversity in a Godly manner it provides a living example for all those who observe us.
- To qualify us as counselors Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5
There is nothing like real-life experience to qualify you as a teacher. It is an academic exercise at best to proclaim truths that you have not lived and experienced.
- To further the gospel witness Acts 8:1-5; 16:25-34; Phil. 1:12-13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-17
By enduring suffering with a Godly attitude we participate in validating the power of the Gospel. When another person sees you rejoicing in the midst of affliction they can't help but wonder where you derive the power for such a response.
- To make us more than conquerors 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37
As God proves faithful to see us through adversity we become more and more confident about the things of God. We become increasingly victorious over sin and "more than conquerors".
- To give us insight into God's nature Job 42:5; Rom. 8:14-15, 18
Through suffering we know more about God and His purposes. We better understand His attributes, His nature and His sovereignty.
- To drive us closer to God 1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10
Whether we have actively strayed from God or are just in the sanctifying process of growing closer to him, suffering is an important means to push us and turn us towards God.
- To prepare us for a greater ministry 1 Kings 17-18; John 12:24
Like the potter's clay that is worked and reworked, or the lump of dough that is kneaded until soft and blended, affliction breaks us down, makes us soft and prepares us to be used by the Lord.
- To provide for us a reward Matt. 5:10-12; 19:27-29; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Cor. 4:17
It is a wondrous truth that God permits us to suffer for His glory and yet it turns out to be an incredible blessing for us, not only in this lifetime, but also through the eternal reward we will receive in Heaven.
- To prepare us for the kingdom 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12
Suffering prepares us for our eternal life with God. It conditions us, trains us and equips us to reign with Christ forever and ever.
- To show God's sovereignty Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10-12; Gen. 45:5-8; 50:20
The suffering Christian is a tangible demonstration of God's sovereignty, who in His infinite wisdom can take all things (good and bad) and work them together for His ultimate glory and eternal purpose.