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Geaux Therefore

The Official Blog of NOBTS and Leavell College

on Monday, November 16, 2020

Dr. Kathy Steele here in this post draws from her experience with cancer in 2019 to encourage readers today. Today, as a cancer survivor, Dr. Steele looked back over some of her journal entries at that time and saw that some are relevant to what many have experienced during 2020 and the difficulties of COVID-19.

Since last March, when we all began to be directly impacted by COVID-19, we have experienced many highs and lows. I know in many ways this has been challenging to just about everyone. I share with you here some from my journal that was posted on Caring Bridge as “God Prepares Us.” Below the entry are some comments I have added to them pertinent to today.

From my journal as I faced cancer treatment:

May 24, 2019

This has been a busy week! But I was thankful that tests were scheduled and being completed, because each test moves me closer to beginning treatment. As you can imagine, there have been “highs” and “lows.”  I was very thankful that due to the MRI results, things began to move forward much more quickly. Life is full of the polarities, isn’t it?  The MRI results were not all that great—showing concerning involvement in the lymph system, and possible problems on the other side of my body, but those results also moved the whole process forward much quicker.

Wednesday the chemo port was inserted (that was definitely a day of rest! Thursday I had the PET scan, and an echocardiogram. Today I went to “chemo school” and wondered if my feeling of being overwhelmed with all the information was similar to the “syllabus shock” our students feel each semester?  Fortunately my “instructor” gave me great written material (no powerpoints ... :-) ).  But best of all was when I saw my PET scan results online, and saw that the cancer has not spread to other parts of my body!
I know this will not be an easy road (that was obvious today in Chemo School), but I continue to remind myself that God is in control, and He will use all that we experience in this journey for His glory and our good. I almost always find when I can find meaning in suffering, it is easier to bear. 
Some have asked me if I am “mad at God.” I am not an expert on suffering, but I think Paul’s thoughts in Philippians 1:29 contains a key idea about how to approach suffering: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him but also to suffer for him...”. It is so opposite of our way of thinking—but suffering is “granted to us” ...a gift... a privilege. It is never easy, but suffering enables us to identify with and know Christ more and more.

You may be tempted to deny that this time of COVID-19 has caused any suffering for you, but all of us have experienced some losses during this time—even if it is just the loss of our normal routine and the loss of being able to make concrete plans for the future.

The journal entry continues:

Paul states in Phil. 3:10-11 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11. And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  Of course, we all want to know the “power of his resurrection”.  But we are not interested in “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.”  Yet that is how we come to know Him more!  We often build a  sense of “identity” with other when we suffer the same thing together. There is a different kind of “knowing” when you have suffered the same thing as another person. And our suffering in this life gives us a different kind of “knowing” Christ. I want to know Him more! So I see this as an opportunity to know Him more. Of course, I will not begin to suffer all that Christ suffered just physically, but I will understand in a deeper way all He sacrificed for us —willingly!

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely been an opportunity to know Christ more, to understand more about how He suffered and sacrificed for us. This is a time that we can either relinquish control to God and trust and praise Him (as Christ did), or we can go through this experience kicking and screaming, and being mad at God because it just isn’t fair.

“After all (we might be tempted to say) Lord, you know I obeyed you in (fill in the blank) and now things are all messed up.” It is as if we believe that when we obey, everything should go well, without any complications or difficulties. May we come to know Him more through this pandemic!

Dr. Kathy Steele is Professor of Counseling occupying the James H. and Susan E. Brown Christian Counseling Chair, and Director of Clinical Training.