When darkness hides His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging Grace…
Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. My younger brother, Camie, was born when I was almost eleven years old. To my little girl self, it was as if my mother had gifted me with a real, live, breathing baby-doll. I think this is part of the reason why I cherish my relationship with him so much.
My brother is now, of course, a grown man. He is the kind of man people are drawn to. Everybody loves Camie. He remembers people’s names. Grocery clerks, bank tellers, his kids’ friends and their parents. To my brother, there are no strangers. He is easy-going. He makes people feel comfortable and at ease. And he makes people laugh. Oh how he makes people laugh! He is fiercely protective over his children and loyal to his wife. My brother loves Jesus. My brother is a good man.
In November of 2014, Camie was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus or esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is rare and in Camie’s case, was a risk factor because of another disorder he had coped with for many years, achalasia of the esophagus (inability to move food down the esophagus). We are thankful that my brother’s cancer was treatable. But, the treatment for his cancer has been so very difficult.
Chemo devastated him. Radiation not only burned away the cancer, it cooked his esophagus and rendered it useless leaving him unable to swallow even his own saliva. He has not been able to take anything to eat or drink by mouth since late December of 2014. There have been multiple hospital stays. Several 911 calls and ambulance rides. Too-numerous-to-count blood transfusions. Bouts with neutropenia, dehydration and nausea. Weight loss. Extreme fatigue. Delays in treatment. Financial concerns. And there was a frightening incident when a bleeding ulcer had to be cauterized.
After all that came the actual surgery. It was a twelve-hour operation involving three surgeons. They removed his esophagus and used the small bowel to fashion him a new one. Three weeks in the hospital and then home. The surgery was successful (thank God the cancer is gone!), but the recovery has been agonizingly slow and incredibly hard. And, it is ongoing.
There have been dark moments during this whole ordeal for all of us, not least of all for my brother. As for me, I have cried out to God and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. There have been tears and sleepless nights and times when I wanted to smash my fist through a wall.
But, looking back, there is an important truth that has sustained me. The Grace of God that was so obvious in the many mercies, answered prayers and kindnesses shown to us by family, friends and medical personnel is the same Grace that rescued us when humanly speaking, we had come to the end of what others or even we ourselves could handle. When there was nothing anybody could do, there was Grace.
This is no cowardly, weak-kneed Grace. It is Grace with a steel-spine. Grace that refuses to bend under pressure. There were times when my faith faltered and my hope sank. But even in the midst of despair, God’s stubborn Grace dug in deeper and gripped me tighter. The anchor held.
In spite of my failure to trust God completely in this trial, I have found that God’s Grace is enough. It has been enough looking back, and so I believe it is enough for whatever lies ahead. It is enough for me, and it is enough for my beloved little brother.
And so I have found the truth of these words to be a soothing balm to my embattled soul:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel