My breath was short as I walked to pick Audrey up from school on a warm February day–I choked the words out to my dad as soon as he picked up the phone. It is leukemia. She has leukemia, I gasped for a breath and waited for my dad’s response. It is hard to remember much of what was said in that brief conversation. It was short because I needed to pick Audrey up from school and couldn’t be a mess when I walked into her classroom.
I recall my dad prayed with me and also encouraged me to talk to someone who had walked through cancer and come out on the other side. The next morning, when kids weren’t able to listen in, I called Donna. She is our administrative assistant at church, and she had just walked through a battle with brain cancer–I remember two things about that conversation that I still carry today.
First, she was filled with compassionate sorrow for our family and for Shannon. Her own journey had made her so very tender to the difficult journey of others. Second, as I sputtered on about it hopefully being treatable, and wanting the doctors to formulate a good plan, she stopped me and said, Jennifer, cancer doesn’t get the final word, God does.
God knew I would go back to those words over and over again as I watched my sister battle for her life. When the first round of chemo didn’t bring the counts down as we’d hoped, I clung to those words. When she lay in a bed in ICU and the doctors told us we had only hours left, I white-knuckled that truth–God has the final word; not leukemia. When she traveled to Texas for treatment, I continued to believe that God would have the final word. He alone would provide healing.
This past Sunday, we sang,
The cross has the final word
The cross has the final word
Sorrow may come in the darkest night
But the cross has the final word
There’s nothing stronger
There’s nothing greater than the name of Jesus
Soon, it will have been 5 months since Jesus called Shannon home. I have made it very clear to our daugthers. Leukemia did not win.
Shan did not lose her battle with leukemia. Cancer did not have the final word in her story. The cross always has the final word.
Because, Shannon’s story didn’t end on March 3 when leukemia took more than what her earthly body could handle–Shannon’s story simply took a turn Heavenward.
Sorrow may come in the darkest night–But the cross has the final word.
If I don’t get this truth. If I don’t understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection speak the final words over our earthly stories, then all hope is lost.
But, because the cross gets the final word in every Christ-follower’s story, we grieve–deeply–but with great hope and expectation. This worship anthem is right, there is nothing stronger than the name of Jesus. Leukemia is not stronger or higher than God’s ability to heal and restore. He had the final word in Shannon’s earthly story and HALLELUJAH her life continues in her glorious eternal home.
What is it today that you fear will have the final word? Perhaps it isn’t the final word in a life or death situation, but it might feel that oppressive. You may be fearful that poverty (or never quite having enough) will have the final word this month, perhaps brokenness and feelings of inadequacy seem to be getting the final word today, or chronic pain (physical or emotional).
Will you be brave enough to say, with me, today, the cross has the final word. And can you trust that the God who didn’t spare His only son from the cross, will speak a good word over you?
If you’d like to read about not asking why in the pain of saying goodbye to Shannon, check this post out, Instead of Asking Why.