I feel that I am living in a time of manifest, engulfing evil. Not that I’ve studied him, but the Old Testament god Moloch comes to mind. Rampaging, burning everything in his path, mercilessly devouring sacrificed children. Daily in the Middle East, ISIS sacrifices Christian children, as well as those of other faiths. Yet the people in the West do not see it, or they simply turn their heads. We Americans, I would venture to say, are momentarily sun-blinded by our cell phones, our iPads, our Facebook friends. Every day, I ask, “Where is the outrage? Who stands against this in church?” At times, I feel like a voice screaming in the wilderness. I hear the trees move above me, their branches scraping the rushing wind, I even hear my own footfalls on the leaves. I walk the path God entreats, but where is my fellow man, my fellow Christian? When will he save his brother?
Tonight, I stood on a stile on south beach by the club, facing the southwest. The wind must have been blowing at least 25 to 30 knots. I thought of walking the beach around to the next beach access, but then I realized my cries for help, if such were uttered, would go unheard, die unanswered. My voice would carry only into the next breaking wave, then to be scattered with bits of blowing foam on the beach and into other turbulent breakers. As it was just twilight, I thought I would save my trek for a calmer day. Sound preparation in body, mind and spirit is the steel of valor.
I am thinking of one man in particular as I write this blog.
This, I reflect, is the year of cancer. Almost everyone whom I know has either had it, or has it, or is in the process of vanquishing it. One cruel, wily, often merciless opponent. Cancer killed my father and my best friend, Dusty. I never really understood the pain until my Aunt Jo Anne had suffered from metastatic breast cancer which resurfaced in her spine. She was brave, even on morphine, she was oh so brave. Like many who have endured radiation and chemotherapy, she had trouble eating. Food was tasteless to her and she, in particular, couldn’t stand the smell of turkey—too much like her chemotherapy said she, but she did love a tasty, tender filet mignon!
What of this cancer? This Dad killer, this Dusty killer? I pray about it. I pray for Jesus healing hands to rest upon the shoulders of those afflicted whom I know. I have even asked God if I could trade places with some of my friends, if I suspected they had it. When you love someone that much, you’ll give your life for them. I remember praying that prayer once for a girlfriend and minutes later almost choking on my lunch. It was as if God were testing me, saying, “Did you mean what you said? Never forget that I, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, can seize your life from you in an instant.”
As I think of this latest friend, a Marine’s marine and Vietnam vet who now struggles with Agent Orange-induced cancer, I am 700 miles away, powerless to help him. Many days I have pondered tactics: “What other treatments should he consider? What other courses of action? “When should I go to see him?” I have beseeched the Lord on his behalf, but no prayed-for-miracle has presented. The only thought I have over and over is this: “The Lord often saves his bravest warriors for his toughest battles.” If you knew my friend, you’d know this fits him to a T. I have seen this with my father, with Dusty, with Aunt Jo Anne, with Dana and many, many others. Some, like my dear friend Marie, have beaten cancer, this scoundrel, this wrecker of lives, at least three times. I have often wondered how she did it: Special DNA? Tough German stock? (Sorry P. C. zealots, you’ll find none of your free speech suicide pills here.) Bravest warriors? Toughest battles? I think back to the story of David. David and Goliath which I reread again today.
Goliath strode onto the battlefield supremely confident of his power, his prowess in battle. Heavily armored, he terrified the Israelites:
(King James Version,1 Samuel 17:11) When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
David came as a humble servant of the Lord:
(I Samuel 17:26) And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
For the Lord had prepared him well for this day, this battle, unpretentious shepherd though he was. The Lord had prepared him well. He had fought both a lion and a bear to free a purloined lamb from their clutches:
(1 Samuel 17:36) Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
David displayed the confidence of the Lord’s will with him such that Saul allowed him to go into battle to save the Israelites from certain slavery and servitude under the Philistines.
Think of it: the once mighty, now fearful king trusted the fate of his kingdom with a mere shepherd:
(1 Samuel 17:37) David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. David invoking the spirit of the Lord, together with his “sling” and his “five smooth stones” confronted Goliath using even the same language that Goliath had in describing what would be his end. In that instant, I can hear the subtext—David in effect saying, “I am your equal”:
(1 Samuel 17:45) I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
(1 Samuel 17:46) This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
So today, I think of my friend battling cancer and heart disease with “his sling” and his “five smooth stones,” the love and grace of the Lord, Jesus’ miraculous power to heal, which assured David victory against Goliath on the battlefield:
(1 Samuel 17:47) The Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands. My friend must summon the same courage David drew upon if he is to be victorious. In this last valiant effort, twirling the sling of the might of the Lord above his head, he must draw upon the exquisite power of the Holy Spirit with steadfast aim to lead him to sure victory.
As I reflect upon the cancer that threatens to take my friend from me, the Iran nuclear deal’s passage in the Senate this afternoon, the murderous wrath of ISIS and even the anniversary of the 911 attacks here in the United States and abroad, I humbly ask the Lord to confer upon my great friend, and also upon me, the courage of David knowing :
(1 Samuel 17:47) …the battle is the Lord’s.”