Light in the Valley of the Shadow of Death (part four)

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

After my first day of treatments at the University of North Carolina Cancer Hospital, I told myself, “One down and thirty-two to go.”  I had just received the first of thirty-three radiation treatments, which would be delivered every Monday through Friday, and also the first of seven weekly chemotherapy treatments.  I was eager to get out my calendar and begin crossing off each day of treatment.  I wanted to watch the days go by until there were no more to cross off.  I scanned the calendar and circled a date in late February.  It couldn’t get here fast enough, as far as I was concerned.

I am eager to get these treatments behind me because they can cause painful and unpleasant side-effects and the sooner I’m done, the sooner the side effects will begin to go away.  I don’t like to linger over something unpleasant.  I’d rather take the worst, all at once, and get it behind me as quickly as possible, than stretch it out over time.  However, it doesn’t work that way with these treatments.  Each day is important and each treatment must not be rushed.   They must take their time and run their course.

Like me, many people going through a difficult time long for it to be over sooner rather than later.  A day can seem to last a month when one is ill, or grieving or anxious.  And each new day can seem to be as unappealing as the day before, because it appears to hold nothing new or exciting – no chance that circumstances will change for the better any time soon.  But Scripture calls us to view such days differently, despite how unpleasant the circumstances surrounding them may be.  So instead of spending time wishing they would pass quickly we are to learn to appreciate every day, taking time to give thanks for each one.   The psalmist writes, This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

Every day, we have a choice of whether to look for the Lord in it, seeking out His company and opening our arms wide for the blessings He has for us, or, to see the day as something to endure and cross off a calendar.  But God has so many blessings for us, all the time, even in times of grief or pain or anxiousness.  In fact, I would say that especially in such times, He has countless blessings.  They are found in His word to us in Scripture, especially in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Ephesians, where we are told how much we are loved, cherished, and protected.  I recite Psalm 91 to myself as I prepare for my radiation treatment and read over Isaiah 43 throughout the week.

God’s blessings are evident in the natural world, in the way the sun dances on bare tree branches or two blue birds sit on a wall eating winter berries.  The world is alive with God’s blessings and He invites us to notice, to give thanks and to acknowledge His presence with us.  His blessing are also found in the kindness of friends who write us notes full of care and encouragement, or who call, bring food to our home or drive us to our treatments.  In each of these instances God is saying, “I love you. I’ve brought this person into your life today.”

When we are too eager to get something unpleasant behind us we are not allowing the Lord to be with us fully in those moments and minister to us.  We miss the evidence of His sweet presence beside us.  We are blind to His signs of hope and promise.  There is never a situation in which He cannot give us these things, if we would but let him.  Therefore a day the Lord has made is too precious and full of blessings to cross off and wish it were over.

So, on the second morning after my treatments began, although nausea and fatigue were vying for my attention, I decided I wanted to live the day, fully, with the Lord, and reach for every blessing He had for me in it.  I chose not to look at my calendar, or to anticipate the end of the day when I would be back from the hospital and I could get into bed and rest.  Instead, I got up, took the pills that would keep the nausea at bay, and ate my breakfast sitting by my large kitchen window overlooking my garden.  I gazed with wonder upon the outdoors and all the activity that was taking place among the birds and the squirrels in my garden.  And I read my Bible and savored every verse.

Afterwards, I sat down at my computer and thought about what to write – and I was thankful I had a day upon which I could see God’s hand at work in creation and use the talents He’s given me to think and write.  I realized, then, I didn’t want this or any day to rush by.  There were beauties to behold, thoughts to think, work to do and day dreams to be dreamed.  Such bounty as this is not to be missed.  A day holds too many wonders to waste wishing it would end quickly.   For each and every day is a day the Lord has made.  He made it for us and He invites us to find what He has in it for us to rejoice and be glad about – for He promised that such things can be found regardless of our circumstances.

About Claudia Dickson Greggs

I am an Anglican priest, author, wife and mother. Writing and teaching about Christian life and faith are passions of mine.
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16 Responses to Light in the Valley of the Shadow of Death (part four)

  1. Rick says:

    Thanks for this posting, Claudia. I needed it.

  2. Sterling says:

    Powerful reminder. Thank you!

    • Tucker Viccellio says:

      Dear Claudia,
      Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought and prayed for you. A friend of mine whom I mentioned about you and what you were going through, said she had the same feeling about her radiation treatments. A counselor told her that when she was going through the radiation, to just remember that there is a lot more that is alright with me than there is wrong. It helped her to focus a lot more on God’s goodness to her. We missed you at our meeting this month and hope you’ll be back with us soon.
      Love,
      Tucker

      • Tucker, I miss our monthly meetings and I look forward to when I can return. I printed out a copy of the draft canons and I’m eager to read them through. My weekly chemo treatment (which so far has been very pleasant — pleasant surroundings and very pleasant people) affords me time to catch up on my reading. I thank the Lord that even that time has it’s blessings — He is amazing. Love, Claudia

    • Thank you, Sterling! And thank you for your prayers. Claudia

  3. Wren says:

    What a blessing to read. Praying for you + w

  4. Helen Pate says:

    What a beautiful message you have given us today. God is at work in your trek through this ordeal and He is using your positivity as a witness to Him and His everlasting presence. Thank you. Thank God.

    • Thank you, Helen. The Lord is giving me an opportunity to glorify Him through all this, which brings a kind of unexpected sweetness to this journey. I’m learning He can bring meaning and purpose to anything in life, if we are willing to let Him. Claudia

  5. Susan Montgomery says:

    When Steve was sick, we began praying “THank you Lord for another day in your glorious creation”. Such a thought helps to point one and one’s circumstances to the giver of life.

  6. Siri says:

    What wonderful thoughts you are sharing here! I certainly need to remember to appreciate each moment. I often think that God must be so disappointed in our rushing by some fabulously beautiful, intricate or whimsical thing He has made. What a blessing it is when I stop and really pay attention to His artistry. Thank you for reminding me to do that. — And of course, we continue to pray for your stamina and healing.

  7. Kirk Vandezande says:

    Claudia,

    Thanks to Siri, I just found your blog. I am pleased that I can keep up with you now, too.

    It’s a pleasure to pray for you, Claudia. I was amused that just after the Jeremiah Community remembered you in our Morning Prayer service, Siri wrote to say you had mentioned me and my commitment to prayer.

    I pray that you will be at peace during your treatment and that the grace you enjoy will overflow to bless others.

    Kirk

    • Kirk, please forgive my delay in responding to your comment. Thank you so much for your prayers — the Lord is answering them mightily. I am now half-way through my treatments and I sense His healing presence with me at every step. It is great to hear from you!
      Claudia

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