We all have to make choices in life… everyday. Some choices are like traversing class five rapids. They end up crashing us into the rocks. We wish we had taken a different path. Other choices we make take us on the smooth waters where everything is pristine, delightful, just as we had hoped. We relish the peace and serenity that accompanies the choice.
The hardest times are when we don’t really have a choice, when life happens and we find ourselves in a situation we had not anticipated or prepared for. No one chooses to have cancer, a stroke, or Alzheimer’s; no one chooses to suffer the devastation of any disease. Yet, it is what it is. Now, what?
New choices must be made. One of the most crucial choices is attitude. How will we choose to respond to suffering? Will we choose anger, irritation, edginess? Or will we choose optimism, praise, looking for ways to serve others?
As we are aging, a number of friends have passed away in recent years. Three particularly stand out. Why? Because God spoke to me through how they handled their demise. Each one had cancer, a disease that crushes the spirit of many people as it snuffs out their very lives. Not with these three men. Ron expressed with eager delight one day, “I really look forward to my chemo treatments because I have a captive audience on those days. I get to spend extended time with nurses and other chemo patients, telling them about my wonderful Lord and His love.”
Lee, another cancer victim, expressed these words in the midst of his pain as cancer built in his body, “This past year, since I was diagnosed with cancer, has been the best year of my life. I have drawn so close to God. His presence is stronger in my life each day.”
Dennis, our most recent friend to move on to glory, was so animated in our phone conversations that we would never have guessed he was dying. He shared with us an opportunity he had to speak of God’s goodness in a church just weeks before he passed away. He was exuberant as He shared with us the goodness of God in the midst of His trial.
With each of these men, I was reminded that attitude is a choice. Although, all three experienced excruciating pain as they succumbed to the ravages of disease, they all maintained a focused attitude of praise to God, taking their eyes off their own suffering and setting their gaze on Him and how to encourage others.
Two verses come to mind. James 1:2 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” and Hebrews 12:2 “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross….”
Truly, like Jesus… Ron, Lee, and Dennis counted it all joy as they endured their trial.