Those of you who follow me on Twitter may already know that my wife’s father has been diagnosed with cancer. His situation is serious, and he will begin radiation treatment this week. Corina and our 21-month-0ld daughter Julia left for Romania yesterday to spend a couple weeks with her family. Timothy and I are sticking it out at home for now.

We’ve always known that we could wind up with ailing parents in the U.S. while we are in Romania or with ailing parents in Romania while we are in the States. People with international marriages face this kind of trial often.

What we didn’t expect was for Corina’s dad to get a bad diagnosis so soon. He’s only 60 and has been in good health all his life.

Reflecting on the difficulties of this present moment for us, I am beginning to see trials as “fiery windows.”

Why windows? Because they reveal to us the faith we have (or too often, our lack of faith!).

Why fiery? Because they not only reveal our faith, but they refine our faith as well.

So I’m up against a windowsill that’s burning, and this is what I see:

  • I see that we have too often assumed that we are in control. We think we are in charge, and it shows in the way we make decisions and map out our future.
  • I see that we take for granted our health and relationships. We’ve always thought that since there’s longevity in our genes, we wouldn’t have to worry about death snatching a loved one for at least another couple of decades. But God is in charge of our future, not our genes.
  • I see that our prayer life is not what it should be. We pray, but too often without a sense of holy desperation.
  • I see that we desperately need God’s wisdom in making good choices.

Here’s a sampling of some of the tough questions we’ve wrestled with and for which we needed wisdom:

  • Do we try to bring Corina’s father here, hoping he might have better medical care?
  • If he comes here and takes a turn for the worst, how do we get him back home? Would he want to end his life away from home and from his friends and family?
  • If our whole family goes to Romania, what would that communicate? Would he assume that our visit means his situation is so grave that it’s not worth fighting for life?
  • Should Corina go now, while he is still relatively strong? Or wait until he’s worse and go later?

There are no easy answers. There are no quick solutions. What’s needed in a case like this is not the discovery of what is right or wrong, but the need for God-given wisdom to make the best choice out of a number of options.

  • I see the beauty of God’s people. Last Saturday, Corina and I were in tears most of the day at the thought of her being away for two weeks. But we spent time with my family on Saturday night and then with our church family on Sunday. We came away feeling refreshed, renewed, supported, and strengthened by God’s people. We’ve already received cards and gifts. A number of ladies in the church want to bring me and Timothy food while Corina is away. It has been wonderful to sense the arms of God around us through the actual arms of people in our congregation.

This trial has been fiery, and it is only beginning. But through this time, Corina and I have begun to sense our need for renewed dependence upon the Lord. We are in God’s hands. “We’re all terminal,” as my mother would say.

My father-in-law has been an example of faith. He believes God can heal him. He believes in God even if he stays sick. “If God wants me home, no doctor can keep me here. If God wants me here, no disease can overtake me.”

Our biggest prayer through all of this is that we will come out the other side looking more like Jesus. It hurts. We ache. We worry. We cry. But the arms of God are strong, and that’s what keeps us going.