Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in His commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed… Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man… Surely he will never be shaken… He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear… Psalm 112v1-2, 4, 6-8.
On 29th January this year we were given bad news of the worst kind: our 22 year old son Sam had a grade 3 anaplastic asterocytoma growing in his brain. This is the poem I wrote as an immediate response, posting it on Stories from the Street, the storytelling website that became such a therapeutic outlet for those painful months; it was amazing to know others were following our journey, sharing in the roller-coaster of emotions with us. I wouldn’t be writing this blog now if it weren’t for the safety and support I found there as I poured out my tragic story. I called this poem after Samson’s mother in Judges 13.
The words are spoken.
They don’t so much hang in the air as fall
As swift and devastating as a blade
Slicing my mind, piercing my heart,
Leaving me frozen
I know what they mean:
Pronunciation of a path of pain, a coming death,
Which is not mine, but yours, my son.
As you collapse beside me
My womb begins to bleed.
And I am simply Samson’s mother,
And all my life contracts to this,
A nameless woman with a calling
To help you walk the road before you,
To meet your destiny with peace.
Can there be strength found in such weakness?
For all your hair will go before too long…
Will there be honey found inside the carcass?
And can one family be of any value,
Stumbling blindly forward, wielding a jawbone,
Angry beyond belief, thirsty enough to die?
Give me a pillar to push!
I am but a nameless mother,
But I will leave my mark
No fear! How is that possible? No fear in receiving bad news and no fear in anticipating bad news. But I don’t think the psalmist means us to think that we need not fear because there will not be any bad news – the context doesn’t allow that interpretation. He talks about ‘light dawning even in darkness’ and ‘in the end looking with triumph on his foes’. It is surely about no fear despite bad news…
How can this be? Only through trust… only through ‘fearing’ the Lord! “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26v3. Peace or fear? Ah, this is the huge test of what we really believe. Is our God really bigger than any threat or anything that can happen to us? “Do not fear what they fear and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the One you are to regard as holy, He is the One you are to fear, He is the One you are to dread… and He will be a sanctuary” Isaiah 8v12-14. Do we really believe He is completely good and that He will keep His promise to “work everything for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” Romans 8v28? Do we truly know He loves and cares for us, or is it tempting to think He must be having an off-day and has forgotten about us? “The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid..” Luke 12v7; “He who watches over you will not slumber… The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life” Psalm 121v3,7.
This obviously can’t mean that nothing we think of as bad will happen to us, because bad things do happen! But it is about seeing the bigger picture, the spiritual realities and the goal of eternal life. As Jesus says in the Luke 12 passage, we are not to fear losing our physical lives here and now, but it is about our spiritual destiny, which is in our Father’s hands. Or… perhaps it is about ‘losing our lives’ now, as He said elsewhere, dying to self that we may gain eternity.
What do we believe? Do I trust the word of God, the things Jesus said? Am I at peace? On Monday morning we have the potential of more bad news… or maybe good news. Or maybe indeterminate news! Uncertainty is very unsettling and the hiddenness of this disease is one of our biggest challenges. But we need not fear if we trust in the Lord: that is what the Scripture so clearly says. He will help us, He will deliver us, His glory will be seen through this: I believe that – whether Sam is healed or not. There is always grace for today – not for tomorrow! – but for today. It is a journey of faith. It is learning to trust that even when we don’t understand why this is happening, the Lord is with us, giving us grace and strength; that He is in control – and even showing His glory in the midst of our suffering. Amen. “There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out all fear” 1 John 4v18
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27v1. Father, help me trust your perfect love!