Every day, a notification pops up on my iCal at 7:55 a.m. with the names of 5 people to pray for, all cancer patients. Fun fact: it actually pops up on my iPad and my iPhone, but my iPad is half a second ahead of my iPhone, based on how that notification arrives. [Apple, can you look into this?!]
It started with my cousin Ashley’s name a couple years ago, and then I just kept adding to the daily calendar event. The once-“Pray for Ashley” became “and Sabrina” then “and Amy” then “and Ellison” and more; it started showing up on my screen with an ellipsis. If I had faithfully added to it with all those I’ve met and been asked to pray for, there would have been far more than 5 names, but while I didn’t type their names out, I mentally added them to that list and prayer time.
For me, this notification and these names are a daily reminder of the pain people are walking through and the burden of this terrible nemesis called cancer. Of those 5 names, 1 is in remission, and I thank God for that and for Ashley’s life. But now it’s also a daily reminder of the grief those 4 families and loved ones walk through daily, marred by the pain and loss cancer causes. I know there’s a lot going on right now and it can all feel overwhelming. In fact, I told my friend Monica that, if these are not the end times, I for SURE do not want to be around for them (probably not sound eschatology from a double Wheaton grad, I know. But you get the point).
I created this image after hearing about a loss of one of these five names over the weekend, someone who showed me great care and who prayed for me in my cancer battle, whose family is very near and dear to me. Life lived in the tension means my heart is broken again, for my friends and what they’re walking through as well as for the one who passed. I know in my head that’s odd and wrong since he is now healed and whole in the Savior’s presence, not wishing for a moment he were back here. Yet, I’m inclined to grieve for the years he won’t live, for the experiences his family won’t have with him, for what could have been.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it many times to come: life is complex. Grief is complex. Hope is real, and I know that earthly healing and victory over cancer are nothing in light of the eternal healing we have in Christ, yet pain and grief are real, too.
I love Ellie Holcomb, and the lyrics of her song “We’ve Got This Hope” keep coming to mind:
“Even when our hearts are breaking,
Even when our souls are shaking,
Oh, we’ve got this hope.
Even when the tears are falling,
Even when the night is calling,
Oh, we’ve got this hope.”
Lest that sound too rose-colored-glasses and happy-Christianese, it may help to know that Ellie wrote that album amidst her dad’s cancer diagnosis, so there’s nothing trite or trivial in those lyrics. No, they balance the complex reality of our eternal hope and present sorrow in this life lived in the tension. The best songs, the truest ones I put on repeat in the storms of life always do that.
Even when our hearts are breaking and the tears are falling, we’ve got this eternal hope in God. Even when the world feels like it’s imploding, we’ve got this hope in Him. The tears and broken hearts and world’s implosion don’t cease at that truth [though they could—looking at you, Psalm 46], but they’re mitigated in some ways by the reality that we live into our tears and broken hearts and we press on in an imploding world with the reminder Jesus gave: “…in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).
The pain and loss, the racial injustice and systemic issues, the pandemics and chaos are real, yet so is the already-but-not-yet fact that He has overcome the world and is our Hope.
Today, I’m leaving this image here as a reminder, a “speaking myself into believing” anthem which I say and sing out loud to claim, remembering that we WILL see the goodness of the Lord. My confidence isn’t rooted in my own ability to believe that (which is weak and falters) or the things of this world (hello, dumpster fire that is 2020).
I will remain confident of hope because of who GOD is and because of His faithfulness amidst all the storms and chaos and injustices and sicknesses. He is still good, and He is still on His throne.
I’ve been tempted to remove the 4 names who have passed away from my daily notification because new names keep getting mentally added and because the daily reminder of their loss and so many others’ isn’t something I super want to think about daily at 7:55 a.m. But I think it’s something I may need, even though I don’t like it. It reminds me of the good work to be done, the gratitude I have for my healing and the healing of others I know and love, and the reality of living in the tension, something I would like to escape [please reopen, Disneyland], but which I know is a daily reality and calling as a believer.
I will remain confident that I will see the goodness of the Lord because I am called to do so by Jesus Himself, just as I am called to pursue justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God—no matter the dumpster fire of 2020, the loss of another to cancer, or prayers that didn’t end up how I hoped. And each day at 7:55 a.m. when that half-second-separated-double notification arrives, I will live in the tension and trust that He is working and that HE is the hope we’ve got amidst the sorrow of our lived experiences.