Romans 15:13 says,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
This verse was so graciously sent to me as I sat in a hospice room last week with my aunt who had been fighting breast cancer for the last four years. Instead of being reassured and comforted by that promise from God that Paul writes to the people of Rome and Christians everywhere, I was angered by it. Gods good promises that I have recited and repeated back to myself all throughout my somewhat simple and comfortable life were no longer sticking when deep and true sorrow was thrown in my direction.
For a while now, I have been feeling anything but love from God. I have been questioning His goodness and contemplating my purpose in even continuing to speak with Him. I didn't mention to many people that I was having these doubts because I felt ashamed and for so many years I had been taught and believed that God is always good and I should “pray without ceasing”. These doubts manifested deeper when my aunt’s chemo was just making her more sick and it was beginning to look like all hope for her being healed was lost. I grew so angry at God for ignoring all my pleas for Him to heal her. All of the comments and promises like “God has a plan for this happening” and “He can bring good out of every terrible situation” just angered me more. I felt like my prayers were useless and others prayers were helpless. It was all a lost cause and God was anywhere but near my family and I. I could not see how He could ever possibly make something as awful as the effects of my aunts cancer or anyone's cancer for that matter into something good.
A couple days into what we knew as our last days with Memel (her nickname given to her from all her nieces and nephews) I tried to push through my anger and resentment towards God and pray for her and my family anyways. Out of all the kind and loving friends that came to visit her in the hospital, one woman came from my aunt and uncles church. No one knew her but she said it was her job to visit members of the church in hospice and their families. She told us that throughout her experiences with people passing away a common occurrence that will take place is they will open their eyes and look off to the left right before they take their last breaths. She was unsure what it meant but liked to believe that is the moment they are going to be with the Lord. No more than 30 minutes later, my aunt was doing just that. She was looking up and to the left. And in that instance, I was struck with awe and disbelief. My first thought was, “I am looking at someone who could quite possibly be looking at the face of God right in this moment”. I stared at her as she stared up and to the left and imagined what she was looking at and how she was feeling. Was she on her knees in praise or being embraced by Jesus? Was she being welcomed by people she had loved who had gone before her? Was she completely overwhelmed with joy to be in the presence of the maker of the Heavens and the Earth? I had no answers for what she could have possibly been looking at in the left hand corner of that hospital room but what I did know was that all my anger was gone and what was left was a peace and assurance that what I had just witnessed was good and holy. All of Gods promises that I had bitterly been holding on to were resonating with me and as I was thinking them to myself, I was truly believing them.
He answered my prayers to heal my aunt and He did it in the full. I don't doubt God’s incredible goodness and faithfulness towards me and my family throughout this trying time anymore. He was without a doubt walking alongside us the entire time but I couldn't see it through my stubbornness for him to answer my prayers the exact way I wanted Him to. God for sure does not always answer our prayers in the ways we expect but He always always always is working in our lives for the ultimate good, for His ultimate good. He wants us to never doubt that He loves us more than our small minds can comprehend and although we are not promised an easy pain free life, He does promise that He will never ever let us walk through it alone.
My heart aches and my eyes usually instantly well up with tears at the thought of my aunt not being here with my family anymore. There is no doubt that moving on in life without her will be difficult but I would never wish for her to be here continuing to suffer now that she is healed to her fullest potential and experiencing unending satisfaction with more love than I can even begin to fathom. This past week God granted me a beautiful assurance of the promises He has made to me. That He loves me, He is very good and He never leaves my side. Through this painful experience with my aunt, I am able to see God as “the God of hope who will fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in Him so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. And I can now say without bitterness and anger, praise be to our God of all hope and goodness for the life of my aunt Memel.