Thursday, November 5, 2009

in a dry and weary land

Today, Chuck and I spent the afternoon sitting with a family member as she underwent chemotherapy treatment. During the course of my lifetime, I have been around all forms of medical patients and in many health care environments due my own physical handicaps, family disabilities, and critical care situations. However, this has been my first exposure to witness cancer treatment up close.

While entering the treatment center, I noticed that there were hospital recliners spaced three feet apart from one another in a large communal room. Sitting in each seat was a person undergoing their treatment, receiving a custom recipe of medicine to aid them in their fight. We walked to the back of the room where our party waited for their dosage to be administered. While waiting, I couldn't help but look around the room and study the faces of patients nearby. There were all types of individuals... young, old, male, female... every ethnicity... every walk of life. Some looked as healthy as anyone you'd pass by on the street. Some did not. All were fighting to survive.

As we sat with our family member, she began to get sleepy and dozed in and out during the course of her treatment (which is not uncommon). Fortunately, we were already blessed to know from her last round of tests that her cancer is officially gone. She must return for three more treatments, but then she is good to go. Praise God.

However, sitting two chairs over from us was a woman who was clearly not as fortunate. She was about my age. Her hair was completely gone. Her body was frail and worn down. Her spirit was clearly deflated. She sat in the corner with the curtain half drawn... all alone. I could not help but wonder about the status of this woman's health, hope, and eternal home as her feeble presence and lack of companionship caught my heart's attention. I wanted to hug her and shower her with everything I could share about Jesus. But it was clear that she was in no position to receive any visitors... she was just too weak to speak. So, I did the only thing I knew to do while sitting beside her... I prayed.

At one point, her face turned completely blood-red because she was not able to breathe and her nausea (a side effect from the chemo) was overpowering all the energy she had to give. The nurses immediately rushed to her side with oxygen while summoning the nearby doctors to come STAT! Suddenly there where ten to twelve medical professionals hovering around and doing all they could for this poor woman. Frantically, the curtain around her closed as moans of her agony reverberated across the room. It was intense and heartbreaking all at the same time.

While still in shock from what was taking place, I scanned the room once more to see the reaction of others. I looked again at the faces of each patient and their visiting family and friends. Strangely enough, no one raised an eyebrow. No one showed emotion. No one had any kind of reaction. It was as if this woman didn't exist... as if everyone who had just witnessed her struggle felt completely indifferent and/or numb to her situation.

By the end of our visit, the woman's vitals had stabled, but I could not fathom how she would be strong enough to get home on her own. Her health was that bad. She was asleep from exhaustion and curled up in her reclined chair... her i.v. still attached and dispensing the final dose of chemo treatment for the day. The hospital staff was monitoring her status and remained at the ready if the situation again became grim.

I left exhausted and heavy burdened for each soul there, for I had spent the afternoon praying for every face I saw... but especially for this particular woman. While we drove home, I continued to think about the events of the day. Then, the Holy Spirit gave me this thought...

How often do we ignore the struggles of those barely making it who are in desperate, dire need? How frequently do we as Christians look around the room but fail to display any emotion or care to the existence of those nearby... those who are drowning in such despair that they can hardly gasp for breath because they are too exhausted and weak from the plague of sin and the strongholds of Satan?

DW's, we are women who are to represent the love of Christ to the lost, and I fear that we have forgotten the importance of sacrificially taking the focus off ourselves and looking into the faces of those who are worse off. I am greatly troubled that we frequently fail to acknowledge those curled up and stripped down to nothing... those in need of comfort... those who need Jesus. Have we become so numb and desensitized that we no longer acknowledge the existence of those lost and their need for our prayers and comfort? Have we accepted defeat from the overwhelming presence of sin in this world that we no longer are willing to stand up for the sake of Christ's cause? Have we selfishly thought, "At least I'm saved by grace," but beyond that, have we given up the hope, the honor to be used by God to turn the eyes of others toward Christ?

I urge you to consider how frequently you share the message of our Messiah to the lost and dying of this world. Consider how regularly you discuss God's love to those outside your comfortable Christian circles. Let us no longer overlook those who are alone. Let us no longer do nothing when we so clearly can do something. Let us spread the gospel as the churches did in the days following Jesus resurrection. Let us go into all the world and show them His love... to the sick, to the weary, to the poor, to the needy, to the widows, to the orphans, to the hungry, to the helpless... let us give them the message... the meaning... the hope we have found in our Savior and King.

Ladies, let us share with others the refreshment that God gave David while in the desert of Judah, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands." (Psalm 63:1-4)


P.S. Today, please pray for all the cancer patients throughout the world who are suffering and struggling to survive. Lord Jesus... save them, heal them. Use our lives to touch their hearts. We praise Your name in all situations, our gracious Heavenly King. Amen.

Thomas Aquinas once said, "Pray as though it depends on God. Act as though it depends on you."

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