See Part 1 here.
See Part 2 here.
See Part 3 here.
See Part 4 here.
See Part 5 here.
See Part 6 here.
See Part 7 here.
See Part 8 here.
See Part 9 here.
See Part 10 here.
See Part 11 here.
See Part 12 here.
See Part 13 here.
See Part 14 here.
See Part 15 here.
Praise and Doubt
I was on a high the day after Mom was taken to the hospital. My work actually has a weekly lunchtime Bible study group. I had the chance to tell my coworkers things weren’t quite that bad. We studied the book of Romans. I’d also been looking for more fellowship in my life. A coworker of mine goes to a different church, but his men’s group meets on a day that fits my schedule, so I rushed home from work to change and head to that.
It was a blast. I’m told that’s not a normal men’s group, but man was it fun. It was a praise session with music, testimony, and a guest speaker. I sang my heart out and listened about how one needs to be open to letting God work through them. It was so much fun and so needed.
What I didn’t know is that my sister and brother in law had been trying to call me. My phone never rang. I never got any messages. I went to bed, and I went to work the next morning still feeling like things were great. I knew the MRI was scheduled and should have been done, but I didn’t get any news. I didn’t want to push, so I waited.
At about the middle of my morning the next day, I saw a text from my sister.
“Did I do something wrong?”
I had no idea what she was talking about. “No, why on Earth would you wonder that?”
Not having any clue what was going on, I waited for an explanation, but received nothing. When I sat down to lunch, I knew I had a bit more time, so I sent another text.
“Still not sure why you think I would think you did something wrong.”
“I tried calling,” she replied. “You didn’t answer. I tried texting. No reply. At least not up until now. Matt, I’m not in a good place right now. I’m getting some rest, and then I gotta spend time with my kids. It has just been an emotional roller coaster, and I’m full of saying all the wrong things or the right things but at the wrong time. So I’m again going to take a nape, wake up, spend time with kids, and hope for a better day than it has be the last couple.”
I was baffled. I explained to her that I never got a call from either her or her husband. I didn’t have a missed call notification or anything. This is still a mystery, but I’ll hand my phone to whoever wants to see it.
Knowing things were clearly not going well, I called.
This is where things get complicated. My sister said that the MRI didn’t go well. The surgeon had told the family that the tumor had grown. It was too large on which to operate. They were talking about other options, and my sister wasn’t sure if another round of anything was what Mom would want. You can imagine how others might feel at a time like that.
I explained that we’re a family, and what we need to do most is focus on thinking about what Mom needs. She wasn’t sure. She was worried what to do. She was worried how the rest of the family was reacting.
During the conversation, I kept my composure. I wanted to be supportive and listen. This has become my new focus at any point in dealing with my family. Listen, and be supportive.
The second I hung up, the tears came. I fell to my knees crying, but I knew what the right thing to do was.
When we suffer, we praise God.
I folded my hands in prayer and quoted Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
I felt Job was a very appropriate piece of scripture to turn to. But I still couldn’t do much more than cry, so I went to another verse, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
I didn’t quote either verbatim. With Jeremiah, I wasn’t even thinking of the right book. I thought I was quoting Isaiah until I looked it up again. I was stabbing the Sword of the Spirit into my doubt and fear.
None of that changed the fact that I felt it was time to go home.
Let me be clear on something. I’ve told my family this, and I feel the same in my heart. The only member of the family that everyone loves is my mother. She’s the only one I guarantee every single member loves without question or reservation.
Everyone involved is doing the best they can based on the information they have and how they perceive it. The fact is, I know that’s true. But what I knew in that moment was my Mom wasn’t in great shape. My sister was worried, and with good reason. The guy who performed the first surgery on my mother said things looked bad. I think the reason I’m able to listen and be supportive is because that’s all I have to worry about. I don’t have any power in this situation, so all I can do is collect information and offer an ear when it’s needed.
The very co-worker and friend with whom I went to the men’s group, Keith, was there when I got the call and fell to tears. He waited for me to finish, and then offered me a prayer as well. I can’t express what that means to me. I was ready to do whatever was needed, but I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was, so I went to the command chaplain.
We talked for a while, and he said the best idea was to get over there if for no other reason than to learn first-hand what was going on.
It’s what I wanted to do anyway, so I was happy to hear that advice. The problem was I was in the middle of an iteration of class. I went to talk to the chief in charge of our class. He wasn’t sure why I hadn’t already left. I talked to each member of the team I work with and a few other coworkers.
Readers, I can’t express to you how supportive they were. They offered hugs and kind words. They offered to drive me to the airport. They put together a plan that would let me get back home and do whatever I could.
I drove home and bought the ticket. I didn’t want to be a distraction, but I also didn’t want to be a surprise. I asked Elise, a coworker of mine whom I consider a confidant and a sort of Christian adviser. She thinks a lot like I do, and since we talk a lot, I wanted her opinion.
She advised me to call. The distraction my pending visit might be wasn’t that big a deal. I agreed. My family need to know I was coming to support them. I’m still not being completely truthful yet, so I have to explain the rest of the process.
I called Elise to see if I should call my brother-in-law (and best friend). I didn’t want him or my sister working to figure out how to pick me up around their schedule and whatever was going to happen with Mom. Since I thought I’d be staying there, I asked Elise about calling my brother.
I called him. He explained what he knew. I made sure he knew I was coming, but that I’d figure out how to get from the airport to his house.
I then asked him if I should tell everyone. Again, I didn’t want my arrival to be a bother. He encouraged me to tell everyone else, so I sent a quick text. Somewhere in there, I found out that Mom was about to be released and taken all the way to Yuma.
I called my sister to figure out when she was driving to Yuma, and we worked out the trip down, but now there was the issue on where to stay. Do we stay at the in-laws (my best friend’s family) or with Dad. I knew I’d be there eventually, but I wouldn’t get to Yuma until 1 a.m., and that’s just a stupid time to get anywhere, especially when there’s a lot of emotional stuff going on.
I called my Dad next. I let him know I was coming. We talked a bit more, and I could already see the friction in the situation. My sister’s concerns that Mom might not want another round of treatment were opposite my Dad’s belief that we weren’t there yet, and that this next round of treatment was the right plan.
Once again, there is not right or wrong in this scenario. The bigger problem is when people start picking sides. I’ve told my father and sister this, but I had this serious actual thought in my head where he and my sister (Mom’s powers of attorney) start this giant legal battle over this decision. Both have since assured me that’s not the case, and I wasn’t exactly in my most rational state, but I was still horrified that a family that wasn’t that united to begin with was about to shatter to a point that couldn’t be healed.
The fact that they’ve assured me we won’t end up in some nightmarish legal battle doesn’t eliminate the general fear I had that our family’s already fragile state was near a breaking point. My plan: Stick to the plan! Listen! Be supportive!
Jay, Elise’s husband and a friend of mine in his own right, took me to the airport. We talked bout the right thing to do. Rather, we talked about what he knew to do. Pray, and read the scripture. I didn’t have a clue how to support anyone, especially when there were still (in my mind) two very distinct sides. My sister didn’t want to casually let Mom go any more than my dad wanted to put his wife through any necessary pain. I knew that then, and I know that now.
So I got to the airport and thought to ask my chaplain to send some verses my way to ponder what’s going on.
Romans 8:30-39, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:11-19, Job 1 and 2, 2 Corinthians 4, Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, Psalm 33:20 (which I’d already read and loved), and Matthew 11:28-29.
I immediately started highlighting them. I read each over and over again. I have other verses in my Bible highlighted, and I added them to the routine. Somehow, James 1:5-6 fell in front of me.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
It continues in verse 7-8, “That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
I realized something while reading that. I was feeling doubt when I shouldn’t. I’d prayed to God to take care of my Mom, and he will. The issue I felt was my responsibility was to to take care of my family. They needed support. I felt in that moment that God was calling me to go home, not to worry about my mom, but instead to keep my family united.
It was still an incredibly intimidating task.
Questions and Revelations
What are the other verses?
I hope you ask yourself this. If you did, I’m glad. Let me share all of those verses with you because they helped me, and I hope they’re of help to you when you face something like this.
Job 1 and 2 are chapters. They’re powerful. I took the most comfort from the very verse I quoted (badly) when I called my sister. I’m not comfortable posting entire chapters of the Bible here, but I’d recommend the book of Job to any who feels they’ve suffered. Often when I feel I’m suffering, I think of Job and Christ. My entire family and livelihood haven’t been taken, and I’m certainly not being crucified. However bad my situation is, it’s not that bad.
Psalm 33:20-22: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”
If that verse looks familiar, it’s because I read it a few days prior and mentioned it in the previous segment of this testimony. I think when a certain verse keeps popping up, the person encountering it should pay particular attention. It reminds me to trust in God. I don’t know his plan. I don’t know how things will go, but I know God will provide. I’ve put my hope in Him.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: Most of you probably are already familiar with the words even if you don’t know their real origin. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.”
I might not get what I want out of this situation, but all things happen for my good, and they happen when they’re supposed to happen. This is what I took from that verse.
Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Romans 8:30-39: “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all the things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
While comforting in that time because it reminds me that God and Jesus love us no matter what, that verse is also affirming for my salvation, a thing which some Christians unfortunately believe can be lost. If you are saved (and you should take a hard look at that), you’re saved. Nothing will take that salvation from you.
2 Corinthians 4 is another entire chapter.
2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
And THAT verse is what I turn to when I set myself to a task (like that with my family) I don’t feel I’m suited for. God equips us for our tasks in life. He provides what we need to do his will. His grace is all we need.
Why is keeping your family together such a daunting task in your mind?
That will be the subject of my next testimony. Short version, we haven’t been united in a very long time.
If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog. I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.
Thanks for reading