There is Joy in Sorrow, Perseverence in Pain

“This is the day the Lord has made…let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad!”

Everyday is a gift. Everyday we are given the opportunity to embrace life with exuberance, with thankfulness and with hope. A thankful heart coupled with hope puts the love of the Father on display and just like a light in a dark place; it awakens hope to everyone in its path. I pray hope is awakened in you friend, as you hear and see the words of this testimony.

Let the name of the Lord be praised!

You and I both have two things in common. Both of us enter into this world and both of us will depart from this world. Over the past seven or eight years I have experienced some difficult challenges health wise. All the while trusting God, I have been battling to overcome in all three realms of my being. In the spiritual realm, I’ve been leaning on the promises found in the scriptures, pushing deeper into the Fathers heart and crying out day and night, “Jesus rescue me from this pit.” In the realm of the soul, that being our thoughts, our will and our emotions, I have struggled fiercely to fight off depression. I have had to learn how to silence the voice of the accuser and how to tune into the voice of truth, the Spirit of truth who leads me in all understanding. I am learning to wake up each morning and consciously choose life. Thirdly, in my physical body I became sick with various unusual symptoms that totally depleted my strength. Through shear determination and the power of Holy Spirit I learned how to persevere. It seemed at the time I had no other choice, persevere or die. Scripture says this:

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulation, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

I’m not sure I actually exulted but for the first year I trusted in God to heal and restore me to good health. With the counsel of some friends, I decided to visit the local physician. Over the next seven years I saw a total of sixteen well meaning doctors and specialist and even had one minor surgery. Each time before the visit, hope would arise in me. Each time nothing changed. I want to tell you it is not fun living the scripture, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” My heart was sick. Throughout this journey I always believed in the power of prayer. I was a regular recipient at local prayer teams. I visited healing rooms, I attended healing schools, participated in healing conferences. I’ve been prayed over a thousand times seeing people on the left and on the right restored. And as I celebrated their blessing, still I wondered and cried with disillusionment while whispering my one word prayer, “Abba.”

Before I continue, I believe Jesus will always provide bits of encouragement that will serve to sustain us among rough seas and raging storms. This is what He did for me.

A few months ago I arose early in the morning from a restless storm tossed night. Still dark outside, I sat at my desk, Bible open, coffee in hand and struggled to fight off another day of merely surviving. It was as though my soul was in a tug of war between light and darkness, peace and despair. ¬†On one side of the rope there was peace and joy. On the other side, hopelessness. Suddenly…surprisingly, I became aware of being in two places at the same time. I knew I was sitting at my desk, however at the same time I had entered into a heavenly dimension. As I looked, there before me was a long rustic table. It was made of large, hand hewn and well seasoned timbers. The table’s finish was smooth and the overall texture was warm and inviting. I raised my eyes to see Jesus at the far end of the table. When our eyes met it was like looking into the depths of the deepest ocean or even more, I seemed to see beyond the most distant galaxies in heaven above. It was like looking into the eyes of eternity. His eyes and His smile are completely beyond human comprehension. At that moment, as time disappeared, I truly experienced the immensity and weightiness of unconditional, undeniable love. With a smile that lights up a thousand universes, He seemed to motion towards the table where I discovered what looked like an ornate jelly jar. I looked closer at the label on the jar. The letters seemed to be alive and spelled out the word, “JOY.” In my mind I began to spread the jelly over toasted bread and eat one piece after another. It was sweet in my mouth and refreshing to my soul. The tug of war in my soul was over and once again light had prevailed. Just as suddenly as I had left this earthly existence, I realized I was back sitting at my desk. Two stirring thoughts provoked me as I contemplated what had just happened. First I thought, “Hey! He really does prepare a table for us! He really does!” (Psalm 23) ¬†Secondly, remembering Jesus didn’t say a word, I thought to myself, “His eyes speak more than a thousand words!” I wish I could convey to you how this encounter with Jesus, as brief as it was, would sustain me and continues to sustain me each and everyday. So now, each morning, I try to imagine His face, and the long rustic table, and the wonderful taste of joy He sets before me. Today, I have decided to choose life! Today, I choose joy!

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

So over the past year I have been experiencing a gradual recovery. Strength is returning. Hope is returning. Many of the symptoms have totally disappeared. I am starting to remember what it’s like to feel good again. My prayer life has been rejuvenated. Even my smile has returned. It feels like I can breath again.

Now through all this, Julie and I never stopped seeking and serving the Lord. We still held our weekly meetings. We still served in the capacities we were called to serve, even as the road seemed to change coarse quite often. I guess I’m saying, I never laid down or quit. It never even entered into my mind to stop running the race, but I have learned and lived out what the Apostle Paul spoke of, “His grace is sufficient. His strength is made perfect in weakness.” If you can see ahead in this story, you’ll see another storm coming.

So a few weeks ago, after a routine visit to the doctor, a routine procedure and routine lab test, I was blind sided by a phone call. The words that came over the phone so impacted me that every thing started going black and I had fight to keep from passing out. I felt like a drowning man but somehow managed to call a friend. Barely able to speak or breath, my friend sensed the severity of the situation and he began to pray and declare scriptures over me. It was as though he was giving me spiritual CPR. I wonder if you can see the progression in every circumstance we could ever face, as Jesus says, I am the Way…the Truth…the Life? I quickly came back to life and was able to drive home. The words that had caused such trauma were, “You have malignant melanoma.”

Although we all face leaving this world, when death slaps you in the face, it’s devastating. As much faith as you have, the thought of death never leaves you. You carry it with you night and day like a heavy bag of rocks. I believe just the thought of barely emerging from a seven-year fight only to enter into another battle of this magnitude was overwhelming. I wasn’t sure I had the strength or fortitude to take on a battle of such immense proportions. Do you know the scripture, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue?” The report spoke death, not life, and opened the door to fear and doubt but I was determined not to walk through those doors. So here is what happened next:

First we rallied friends and family to pray. Julie kept saying over and over, “We do not agree with cancer and we do not agree with death, in Jesus name! I called on friends to help me with the armor, to hold a shield around me and to lift my hands. Do you remember when David’s nephew stepped in to help David slay the giant? We most certainly need friends to help us battle these giants. Next, I sought the Lord in prayer and asked Him how He saw this situation. Immediately, I was compelled to go to Romans 8. I prayed Romans 8:11 fervently, believing every word and reminding the Lord constantly of what his promise is.

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Next I went and spent several hours with some friends who operate in an inner healing ministry to the soul. The Holy Spirit revealed some past events, people and even generational bondage that I wasn’t even aware of. Bringing things into the light, repenting, forgiving and putting everything under the blood of Jesus always leads to freedom and life. In this whole process I started seeing people different. I started to see each day as a gift and I am more thankful for even the smallest things throughout the day. It made me want to take more time for the people I encountered in normal everyday life. I became really interested in the check out lady, the security guard, the store clerk, and the construction worker. Somehow I began to see all these people in a different light.

As for my family, I thank God for everyday I have with them. I thank God for my wife, my best friend, my soul mate, my life long companion who has been with me every step of the way. She has always been in my court and she has always wanted the best for me, expecting me to excel in everything I approached. I am her hero…Julie is my Princess. I am thankful for my two sons who carry so much love and integrity and I could not be more proud of them. They are both caring and kind and are a reflection of the goodness of the Lord. I am so thankful and excited for our new daughter Jen, alias “Fer Fer,” and the blessing of many grandchildren in the years to come. Ask me what is the fruit of this momentary light affliction and I will tell you without hesitation, “Thankfulness!”

So with a little apprehension but a positive attitude, I underwent the required testing…and then you wait and wait. Monday morning, I’m at the job site. Life goes on, right? The phone rings and Julie on the other end is singing, “It’s a good day in the neighborhood!” “It’s a really good day in the neighborhood!” “A really, really, really good day!!!” “Your test came back and you have a clean bill of health! No cancer! None!” Do you know what it’s like when your swimming under water, you’re running out of breath and then suddenly you break the surface with a gasp and breath in a fresh breath of life sustaining oxygen? Yep, that’s what it felt like. And now I have three new favorite words, “Thank you Jesus!”

Years ago Julie had written my name next to the story of Naaman in her Bible. Honestly, today I feel like Naaman. The Monday morning I received the good news I had prayed and reminded the Lord what Psalm 91:9-10 says. During the process, four different people said I was healed. In our Friday night tent meeting, a trusted Father and a friend prayed for me and said I was healed. One of our daughters, a college student said, “I’m not worried at all. He’s healed!” Even the Holy Spirit said, “Jeff you’re o.k., there is no cancer in you body!” I look back and say, just a mustard seed. That’s all it takes just a mustard seed. So when death came knocking at my door my reply is not today death…not today. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know that full well, and besides only the Lord numbers my days. His plans for me are good and thankfully, it’s time to dream again!

Then let him be gracious to him, and say, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom’; Let his flesh become fresher than in youth, let him return to the days of youthful vigor; Then he will pray to God, and He will accept him, that he may see His face with joy and He may restore His righteousness to man. (Job 33:24-26)

Thank you Jesus!