Before Sean proposed, we had spent the day hanging out and celebrating having dated for one year. We had a picnic at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. I really think this is one of the most beautiful places in SF. There are ducks and turtles and birds and flowers everywhere, and it’s about a mile walk around the lake so it seems like an adventure but it’s not long. Oh I and I have to mention there is a stone bridge, paddle boat rentals, and a waterfall. Anyway, I remember on this particular day we walked around the lake, ate a lunch I had prepared, took some pictures, and then ventured a little further out into the park. We found a somewhat secluded area, surrounded by bushes and flowers and lush grass. Sean and I spent some time thanking God for the year we had together. As we were praying in this beautiful spot in a beautiful park on a beautiful day, a thought took over me. It was one of those thoughts that you KNOW, and can almost feel it ringing in your insides. God creates beauty. God makes beautiful things. Not only does he create beauty, but he somehow he molds beauty out of things that aren’t so lovely. At that moment, I was ready to trust God with my relationship with Sean. And I was hopeful for our future. I finally thought, “Maybe this could go somewhere.” Good thing, because Sean proposed that evening.
Life is really difficult right now. … There’s a little bit of freedom in saying it. Cancer is rough. Chemotherapy is not for the faint of heart. Each round seems to get a little bit worse, and I have a feeling it’s going to get even worse before it gets better. It’s hard to be on the sidelines, trying to do everything I can to help Sean but knowing I really can’t do anything to bring him relief. This is difficult and scary… can I say it again? Cancer sucks.
And I have to lean on what I know- God creates beauty. Somehow, even with all the crap there is in the world, God turns it into something beautiful. It’s crazy and amazing how good he is at that. I know it is still true in this season for Sean and me. Even though we are going through pain and hardship, God is here with us, and he is creating beauty from these ashes.
Jesus talks about joy. This is a perplexing concept to me at the moment, and I am still working out what that tiny word really means. Joy is evidence of the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
This week, I have learned that joy is NOT putting on a brave face and saying I’m okay. That doesn’t even work for me anyway; no one believes you’re actually okay when you’re not holding back the tears very well. I feel a little bit of pressure to have joy- that because God is working in my life, I should be joyful. But I’m pretty sure that’s not how God works. The prophet Isaiah wrote this sometime around the 8th century BC:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified”(Isaiah 61:1-3).
These words are so beautiful, and full of hope for the future. But something amazing came out of these words. Centuries later, Jesus entered a synagogue in Nazareth.
“And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:16-21).
If you have ever wondered who Jesus is, he laid it out very clearly. He was claiming to be the Messiah that Isaiah spoke of. He was claiming to bring good news, hope, peace, and freedom. Renewal. If there’s any reason to have joy, it’s because of Jesus. But he also went through pain and suffering, as did his followers.
“Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 6:22).
I’m still working out my thoughts about joy, but the more it simmers in my head, the more I am compelled to be honest about this process for Sean and me. I don’t have a lot of joy right now… but I’m also not despairing. I do have hope. Because I know God is good, and with us every step. And I know he creates beauty.
What are your thoughts about joy? Please continue to pray for a quick recovery for Sean from this round of chemo.