His strength in our weakness

My pastor, Nancy Bontempo, had her first appointment with an oncologist last Thursday and I hadn’t heard the results so I asked her about it in our prayer meeting before church this morning.  It wasn’t good…

She said that the oncologist was nice, but he told her he wants to do two rounds of chemo, then surgery, then radiation.  She asked if there were any other options and he said no.  She could barely make it out to her car after the appointment and that night she experienced terror for the first time ever as the reality finally sank in.  She says she feels healthy and strong and she had allowed herself to believe this would just be a breeze.

Before some of you write to tell me that there are other options, she has since come to that conclusion herself.  She has been researching clinics in Chicago and Madison that have less invasive forms of treatment and she’s going to seek a second opinion.  She’s asking for prayer that God will lead her to the right doctor.  She has also cut sugar and carbs out of her diet and is trying to eat mostly fruits and vegetables.  She is determined to do all she can to beat this while still relying on God for strength.

This morning, she preached on 2 Chronicles 20:1-22, where King Jehoshaphat and all the people in Judea and Jerusalem cried out to God because a huge army of three nations was coming to wage war against them.  God told them to face the enemy and watch Him fight their battle for them.  They put their choir up front singing songs about God’s unfailing love and they never had to lift a finger in battle.  God fought for them.

She ended with this quote from Charles Spurgeon:

“God doesn’t need your strength: He has more than enough of power of His own.  He asks your weakness:  He has none of that Himself, and He is longing, therefore, to take your weakness, and use it as the instrument in His own mighty hand.  Will you not yield your weakness to Him, and receive His strength?”

Towards the end of the service, one woman got up and told about a time when she wasn’t feeling well and God told her to “choose life”.  Four days later she was given a devastating diagnosis.  She was very sick, had surgery after surgery, and was in a lot of pain for several years, but she kept Deuteronomy 30:19-20 on a three by five card close by where she could read it:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

Eventually, she got well.  She could have given up through the whole process if God hadn’t forewarned her to choose life.

When my pastor was about to close the service, she said that she was aware that another woman in the church had put something in the bulletin.  What wasn’t in Nancy’s bulletin but was in everyone else’s was a call to surround Nancy and pray for her.  The entire congregation got up and surrounded Nancy and the elders prayed for her.  Friends Community Church loves our pastor and we are all in this with her.

I can’t leave this story without saying a personal word.  Having so recently lost my older sister to cancer, I have occasionally wondered why I am going through this again so soon.  I know that sounds selfish.  This isn’t about me; it’s about Nancy.  But there is something I didn’t learn with Sherill’s death that I think I am needing to learn.

Sherill had said over and over again that she knew God was going to heal her, and she wasn’t talking about in heaven.  She believed that God would not only heal her but would straighten her back again here on earth.  God didn’t heal Sherill in this life.  When she died, I went through her personal library and pulled out all the books on miracles and healing and put them in a big box.  I was so angry with God that I felt like making a big bonfire out of the books.  I thought God had failed her, but perhaps Sherill was grasping at a promise God never made.

Nancy firmly believes that God has promised to never leave her or forsake her.  Will God keep that promise?  No matter what the outcome, I am beginning to think He will.  Maybe that is what I am supposed to learn from this.