Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Jesus Doeth All Things Well"

From time to time, usually when my pain spikes and I can't pinpoint any particular misbehavior on my part which caused it, the what ifs attack. What if the doctor has misdiagnosed my pain? What if the long diagnostic delay has made this permanent? What if the medicines are more harm than help?

A friend and new breast cancer survivor tells me she thinks these anxieties come with the territory of prolonged or chronic illness. For her, every new twinge could be the first warning that the cancer has returned. For both of us, some of these questions are legitimate areas of further medical investigation.

For that reason, two weeks ago I sought a second opinion on a key aspect of my care. Our conversation and the wide variety of tests ordered seem to corroborate some of my concerns, particularly the one about the accuracy of a key element of my medical history.

This raises a new sort of what if, one I had swept under the rug of my thoughts until now. Really, I don't know anything for certain until all the test results are in and the doctor herself interprets them to me. It is still in the realm of possibility, however, that the primary diagnosis which has guided medical decisions for a decade will be revised or even replaced.

That said, I do already know that my what ifs are generally neither helpful nor faithful. If God is sovereign and loving, as the Bible teaches and I believe, no illness or physician error, if that should prove the case, can touch me without His permission. If He has permitted difficulty, it is for my good, for the building up of the body of Christ, and for His glory. He is trustworthy.

Sometimes when the what ifs attack, testimony from someone who has already walked a similar path can penetrate my troubled emotions better than abstract truth. The dominance of narrative in the Spirit-breathed Scriptures makes me think God designed us this way. One day recently, American hymnist Fanny Crosby's witness out of her lifelong blindness provided the help I needed.

Before Fanny Crosby had reached two months of age, a common cold resulted in permanent blindness when a newcomer to the town treated her in the stead of the regular family physician, who was unavailable at the time. The stranger turned out to be an impostor without any medical training whatever and left town, never to be heard from again.

Concerning this tragedy, Miss Crosby wrote, "In more than eighty-five years, I have not for a moment felt a spark of resentment against him, for I have always believed from my youth up that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do" (Smith and Carlson, Favorite Women Hymn Writers, 32).
What work was that? Teaching at a school for the blind in New York City, becoming the first woman to speak before Congress, befriending Presidents, writing a prodigious quantity of poems and later hymns, and serving the poor. "Indefatigable" comes to mind when I read of her life.

On another note, also from Miss Crosby, these words on prayer also strengthened feeble knees to persist in intercession whether or not I can see any results:
In one of her last messages, she said, "God will answer your prayers better than you think. Of course, one will not always get exactly what he has asked for. . . .  We all have sorrows and disappointments, but one must never forget that, if commended to God, they will issue in good. . . .  His own solution is far better than any we could conceive" (Ibid., 37). 
One of my favorites of her very many hymns is the following one on God's guidance throughout our lives. For some reason, I have never sung it in church that I recall but made its acquaintance instead through the Rich Mullins recording from The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 2. (See below for a link to listen on YouTube.) Whether the hymn is new or familiar to you, I pray that you find Miss Crosby's words still speak to your particular need and what ifs today. Jesus doeth all things well, friend. Let's remember how He has done so for us and share our stories with each other.

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.



[If you are reading this in a feed reader or email, you may need to visit the crumbs blog directly to view the video.]

The book cited in the quotes provided most of the information here. The remainder comes from the documentary The Fanny Crosby Story, available to rent and stream at Amazon or for purchase as a DVD at Christianbook.com if it is not available at your local church's library.


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