VIEW FROM THE HILL

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN PAUL PENNER
The last days of August are upon us. Life, in all its grandeur, is completing yet another circle. The early-planted spring crops are showing their fall colors. Within the mature plants of corn, soybeans and sorghum, new seeds of hope show promise of a new life yet to come.

As I reflect on this, I cannot help but recall the events of another time in another place. Sept. 11, 2001, has a special place in my life beyond the terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of thousands and shook our nation to its core.

On that day, my only daughter lay on an operating table in a Falls Church, Va., hospital while doctors worked for 10 hours to remove a tumor that, in retrospect, seemed unreal because of its immense size.

The risk of removing the tumor, however, was quite real. Nothing could prepare our family if the outcome was not good. We could only rely on God’s promise to walk with us, to carry us when we could not go any further, and give us hope when we had none.

Oh, what a difference a little time makes. Hope has returned. Our daughter is a walking miracle.

Scars exist, both on the outside and within, but they are nearly invisible to the casual observer. One never gets over the experience to the point where you can say, “It is as if it never happened.” You cannot return to your life as it was before such an event, even if you tried.

Nor do I desire to return there even if I could. That is not to say I would have preferred to live my life absent of the pain and suffering. Who wouldn’t? I have come to a place where I see life differently than before.

I assure you, lights did not go on in my brain and, suddenly, I had all the answers to life’s persistent questions. Believe me, it is more like trying to teach an impatient, unruly little child a simple task, over and over, and not knowing if anything ever sunk in.

I am reminded by Foghorn Leghorn’s question to his bookish nephew, “Is any of this getting through to you, boy?”

There are days, even now, when I need to review the lessons. I have asked myself, “Why do some lessons take so long to understand, when other people seem to get it the first time they are hit over the head with reality?”

One of those lessons revisited me when I observed a longtime family friend and his beloved wife prepare themselves and their family for her inevitable departure from this life to the next.

In the midst of all the pain and suffering, there is joyful anticipation of the coming transition. In the midst of the battle, when it seems all is lost, there is a confident peace and knowledge that a loved one is about to be ushered into the presence of Jesus Christ-in paradise, where chaos and the ravages of sin and disease do not exist.

In the center of the battle, while the body of a beloved wife and mother is rapidly showing increasing signs of succumbing to the ravages of the disease, they display a trusting faith and reliance on the Creator of the universe that says, “In You alone are my hope and salvation.”

In the midst of financial and professional challenges that seem unending, there is a confidence that God’s providential care will see them through the toughest of times.

These people are not perfect. They are human like you and me. However, I was encouraged when they honestly declared, “Through it all, we are not offended by God, nor do we blame him for this. God is good!”

Imagine, if you will, the body of a loved one, decimated by the effects of cancer, the seemingly endless trauma of round after round of chemotherapy and recovery, the ups and downs and uncertainty of whether the disease has been defeated-and yet, be able to say “God is good.”

Like me, there are people in this community who need to hear this story of hope and be encouraged. They, too, are walking through a dark period, where few things makes sense anymore. Whatever the crisis, the effect on the lives of every family member can be devastating.

I do not speak from a position of my own strength. I have nothing to offer that is brilliant or hopeful. I can only point to something greater than I can offer.

God is good.

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