When we moved to Charlotte our lives were up in the air. We didn’t know how long we’d be staying, nor where we’d be going after my husband’s temporary teaching post concluded. We had little in the way of savings or income since he was finishing the final year of his PhD.
The Lord’s provision for us came by way of a family we’d never met. My brother lived in Charlotte, and a family at his church (which would soon become our church) had a basement apartment that they often let missionaries or pastors use for a season. Even though Ken and Ruth had four children of their own, and a teenager from an extended family member also living with them that year, they welcomed us into their home. We lived rent-free for almost a year. Their faithful example taught us much about living a life of generosity and hospitality.
Thankfully, Charlotte became our home, and we’ve now known the Samuelson family for more than 15 years. We’ve seen first-hand their commitment to God’s Word, our church, and the community of Charlotte.
Late last spring, Ruth was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. She’s been in various treatments since then and is currently enrolled in a drug trial. Last week Ken wrote a post on Ruth’s CaringBridge site, responding to the question he gets on a regular basis, “So Ken, how are you doing?”
It was so encouraging, I asked him if I could share it. Whatever you might be facing today, his words offer wisdom and hope for each of us.
So Ken, how are you doing?
I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked that question since May 26, the day of Ruth’s diagnosis. As you might imagine, life events like this cause one to more easily discard things that don’t matter, and concentrate and reflect on things that really, really matter. Life, eternity, God, and lots of other interesting thoughts.
One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Bill Bright, founder of an international ministry, when he would always say, no matter what had just happened, “This is a wonderful opportunity to trust God.” I was happy to have that quote in my mind, because it is the first thing that I thought about and shared with Ruth when she gave me the cancer news.
In the first few days of thinking about Ruth’s cancer diagnosis and talking about it with friends, my good friend, Karl Doerre, whose wife died after a long battle with cancer, came up to me after a morning workout and said, “Take time to enjoy this.”
Do what? Take time to enjoy this? Enjoy what?
Karl went on to say that over the next years as Ruth and I work through this issue, no matter how it proceeds, it is a great opportunity to learn more about life, our relationship with each other, our relationship with God, friends, support systems, to think deep thoughts, and to take this for what it is . . . an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. That was fresh thinking I needed in that moment.
When Karl said that to me, the next thing I thought about was the first question of the Westminster Confession Shorter Catechism, which asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer in this very old document is, “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” And it doesn’t say, “unless you or a loved one is going through difficulty, then you don’t need to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In other words, our “chief end” continues no matter what our circumstances.
Then I thought about a passage in the Bible from the book of James that says for us to “consider it pure joy when encounter various trials because the testing of our faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2). I’m not happy about my sweet wife’s cancer, but I can still have joy in all things.
So I guess in reflecting on the question, “How are you doing?” I have often said that it is an opportunity for me to test the solidity or sponginess of my theology. If I believe the Bible is a book of nice stories and poems, then now is the time to be very anxious. However, if I believe the Scripture is reliable, filled with promises of God’s goodness no matter what the circumstances, and if what Christ said is true, then it’s time to . . . relax and go about living life and focus on what matters. To lean into the future. Without fear.
So back to how I am doing. I really don’t know how I am doing, and I think it will take years to have proper perspective on this. But for the time being, I’d say “pretty good.” Asking the simple question each morning when I wake up, “How am I going to glorify God and enjoy him today?” is an important way to frame the day. And it really helps me live life today.
I guess I’ll close by saying that until you go through something like this, you really don’t know what your “blessing network” looks like. In the midst of this difficulty, Ruth and I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God, each other, and our family and friends for all of the things we know to be true and all those who express such great love for us. We feel deeply loved and cared for in the middle of this difficulty.
I am not sure how to end this post, other than to say I have learned to live in 24-hour periods and be grateful for all the goodness that each day offers. Especially the “little stuff” that I so often otherwise overlook. The Scripture says, “This is the day that then Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). That means more now than ever.
Blessings from us to you, and we will keep you posted as all this unfolds. Thanks for the love, prayers and support.
I hope Ken’s words encourage you as they did me. Whatever circumstances God brings into our lives today, our mission is the same as his: To glorify God and enjoy him forever. May we do so faithfully.
I also ask that you’d pray today for Ruth and Ken, that the Lord might bring healing and continued hope in the days to come.