Saturday, April 7, 2012

Know Your Enemy. Which One, Fear Or Melanoma? Both!

This is a note from Melanoma Prayer Center:

Let's just be blunt honest about it. Whether we're people of faith or not, melanoma is downright scary. Fear either lurks in the background...on our best days, or, it's right up front where everyone can see it and hear it on our worst days. We have days we put our adult face on, laugh at the prospect of melanoma being in our life forever, and dare it to get in our way. And we have days we...don't. So, let's name it and get it out in the open where we can deal with it.

Do you know when we first encounter "fear" in the Bible? Early! Genesis 3: 10 to be exact. God has created everything, pronounced it "good" and humans "very good." Adam and Eve decide disobeying God and listening to a talking serpent will make everything even better and eat the forbidden fruit. Later, God comes walking through the garden and wants to visit with His friends but they're nowhere to be found because they're off hiding. God gives a big divine "Yoohoo!, Where are you two?"

Adam responds, "I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked."

We can still try and hide from God when we are afraid. Fear leaves us feeling vulnerable, like we want to hide. Escape. Have you ever had that change in a mole or your skin and you hid it for as along as you could? I have. Have you ever put off making that appointment because you knew in your gut what you'd be told and you thought by not going to the doctor and getting "the news" you wouldn't have anything to deal with? You hid from reality? I have. Have you ever wanted to bolt from the doctor's office because of fear? Sure. I know I have.

Fear and melanoma intrude into our lives, holding hands. Locked in a death grip. Seeking to lock us in that death grip with them. There's a wise saying that teaches us to "know your enemy."  Medically, we seek to understand melanoma. Can I have a show of hands of all those who like what you've learned about melanoma? We learn right off the bat that it's not called "The Beast" for nothing!

It's a highly individualistic disease. There's no rhyme or reason to it. No pattern. No predictability. No cure. No peace. No lasting peace anyway. And then there's all those pesky, depressing statistics we're each given! You know exactly what I'm talking about. I can see heads nodding and tears streaming. And that's OK.

I want to plant some seeds with this. But frankly, I also want to provide a pressure-release valve so you can let some of your abiding fear subside. Escape through those tears. I want you to find relief. Experience some spiritual healing and wholeness and maybe even feel God's very nearness. Let the tears come. God's big enough to handle them. Give voice to your fears. God's grace is enough to deal with them and to deal with you too!

When our fears drive us to God, they can be a good thing. Fear can keep us vigilant when it comes to our skin and moles. Fear can make us vocal advocates in the melanoma community. Fear can provoke us to telling someone they may want to see a doctor about a suspicious "something." Fear can be a positive motivator and used by God.

Fear can also be our worst enemy because it can paralyze us. Fear can give way to depression. Deep depression. Fear can turn us away from God and cause us to lose hope. Lose faith. If this is where you are, I pray that you'll recognize it and turn to God. If this is where you are, you're possibly on the road to melanoma winning. Don't let melanoma and fear rob you of anything else! You've been robbed of your good health and carefree days. Don't let it rob you of finding shelter in God, comfort in His arms, and peace in this storm.

All through Scripture, at just the right time and in the oddest places, God speaks Words of "Peace." Perhaps among the best known are found in Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd;
      I have all that I need.
  He lets me rest in green meadows;
      he leads me beside peaceful streams.
     He renews my strength.
   He guides me along right paths,
      bringing honor to his name.
  Even when I walk
      through the darkest valley,
   I will not be afraid,
      for you are close beside me.
   Your rod and your staff
      protect and comfort me.
  You prepare a feast for me
      in the presence of my enemies.
   You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
      My cup overflows with blessings.
  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
      all the days of my life,
   and I will live in the house of the Lord

There is no question but that melanoma is a dark valley. Here's a seed to clutch. A seed to plant in your heart and spirit. A seed to let grow and bloom and provide you that Word to speak to yourself when fear rears its ugly head. God doesn't promise, anywhere, to do away with that dark valley. He promises to walk with us through it. He promises to provide what we actually need while there and what we need when we're not in that place.

What has God provided YOU? Where have you felt Him walking with YOU? How have YOU sensed His nearness, protection, shelter, love? More seeds. Let them blossom! Friend, that's the only way you're going to get through this and emerge victorious.

There's another Psalm I turn to and will now plant. Psalm 46:

 God is our refuge and strength,
      always ready to help in times of trouble.
  So we will not fear when earthquakes come
      and the mountains crumble into the sea.
  Let the oceans roar and foam.
      Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

  A river brings joy to the city of our God,
      the sacred home of the Most High.
  God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
      From the very break of day, God will protect it.
  The nations are in chaos,
      and their kingdoms crumble!
   God’s voice thunders,
      and the earth melts!
  The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
      the God of Israel is our fortress.

  Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
      See how he brings destruction upon the world.
  He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
      He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
      he burns the shields with fire.

  “Be still, and know that I am God!
      I will be honored by every nation.
      I will be honored throughout the world.”
  The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
      the God of Israel is our fortress.

We live with an ever-present earthquake, a high mountain, a roaring ocean, a war in our bodies that wants to also rage in our spirits. Yet God tells us we can find refuge and strength in Him! We can find ready help from God when we're in trouble!  And because God is greater than the earthquake, mountain, ocean, and war, we can know peace and not fear.

More seeds. We're human. And on this side of heaven, fear is something that's going to rear up from time to time. We know that. God knows our humanity. Jesus wasn't thrilled about going to the cross. He literally sweated blood over the prospect. God understands! Yet Jesus faced His cross knowing that God was greater than the pain and that God was going to use it for a higher purpose. Friends, we're that higher purpose! YOU are that higher purpose. Fear has been defeated, so has death, so has melanoma, so has sin. All the destructive powers on this earth know they have been ultimately defeated.  They're just hoping to convince YOU differently. They're hoping to convince you that God's a liar and that you have no hope.              

God's still God. He's still greater than the pain, He still wants you to seek shelter from your storm in Him and let Him make a way for you. He still wants to speak peace into your soul and He still wants you to know that you have a purpose and that your life belongs to Him. You're that sparrow He watches over.

When fear wants to speak into your life, turn around and speak to God. When hopelessness wants to rule, hand the scepter to God. When loneliness wants to run the show, remember you've got a Friend Who is always near. no matter what. You're never alone. When you feel you have nothing left to fight with, find your prayer voice and use it! Call on God and let Him fight for you. Even when you face that ultimate fear.

Fear of death. Fear of dying. Fear of that dark valley. We'll all walk that way. We will not walk it alone. We will not stay there, we will arrive at a feast. A feast that fear and melanoma will watch and they won't be able to do a darn thing about it.

Lord, in Your peaceful mercy, give us Your ability to put "fear" in its proper place in our lives and not let it have any power over us. Remind us of YOUR words of truth and promise and help us hear YOUR voice above all others. Fear seeks to drown You out. Sometimes, we let it. Remind us God that You are always in that place that we call "the unknown." We may not know what awaits us, but You do, You are there, You can handle it, You can handle us. So, we give it all to You and ask that You diminish that in our lives that seeks to destroy and make the seeds of Your Word bloom in our lives and spirits all our days. Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!

And be grateful!