Keeping the Faith, When Life is Hard – #TellHisStory
The news came like it often does: straight out of a clear-blue sky, like a thunderhead that wasn’t on the radar.
The radar on Pam and Ken’s life looked pretty clear:
They had been married 43 years, had huge hearts for ministry and had a bunch of grandchildren who adore them. (Proof: Ken drove 45 minutes to return Piggy and Bunny so that his two granddaughters didn’t have to miss a single night without their best sleeping buddies.)
But there’s this one word that shows no deferential regard. You know the word —
It’s the word that always lands like a thud in the gut.
Ken received news that melanoma had migrated from his skin to his brain and lungs.
But that’s only one piece of the bigger story. Yes: It’s a shift in the plot, an unexpected twist in the story-line, an unwanted chapter in the book.
But for Pam and Ken, that was the place where faith wasn’t just spoken, but lived. It was the moment where all of us who were watching knew this is true:
Faith is more than a mouthed abstraction on a Sunday morning — it’s the only fuel that will get us through the valley.
After the news of Ken’s cancer sunk in, Pam announced it publicly on Facebook. This was the opening of her announcement:
“I just had one of the most precious moments of my entire life.”
Sit with that statement before I move on … Sit with that statement from a woman who just found out that her husband has cancer.
She continued. “I was sitting on the deck contemplating how my life and Ken’s life have changed since Tuesday.”
She wrote about a thunderhead overhead. Turns out, those thunderheads bring some of the most beautiful, gentle rains.
Because — she wrote — the telephone rang. It was her prayer group. Each woman took turns praying aloud into the phone for Pam and Ken.
“As they prayed, I watched the sun rise above the neighbor’s house,” Pam wrote. “Thank you, Jesus, for giving me this blessed assurance through this amazing experience.”
She returned to the deck the next morning, holding her cup in her hands, and later typed this to her Facebook friends:
“I was out on the deck again this morning with my coffee, reading all the pamphlets containing the word cancer. An Asian woman came down the bike trail right next to our house. I have often crossed paths with her on my walks and we would greet each other. She called out to me, “You walk today?” When I said “no,” she asked, “Why not?” I ran out to her and briefly explained my husband has cancer. I was not even sure she understood what I was saying. Her response? “I pray for you,” and she grabbed my hands. “You’re a Christian?” I asked in amazement. And then she prayed to Jesus in her broken English for Ken and me. Join me in praising God for holding me 2 mornings.”
And then, on the third day, Pam returned to the deck as the sun peeked over the horizon. Pam wrote:
“I am on my deck with a cup of coffee again this morning waiting with joy to see what blessing God has ready for me.”
This is the mark of the truest saints. This is expectant faith, believing that God is good, even when life looks bleak. This is what can happen when everything breaks. And for all of us, something will break. We could limp around on fractured faith, or we could lean on the Reason for the hope that we have.
Christ is more than a crutch. He is the way for the broken and the bloodied and the battle-weary souls.
When the thunderhead appears overhead, I might be inclined to stay indoors and draw the shades. But maybe? Maybe I could go outside, and sit in the gentlest rains, expectant for the blessings, watching for “one of the most precious moments of my entire life.”
Don’t we all want a faith like that? We want a faith that is not the mouthed abstraction of a Sunday morning theology. Not some diluted joy based on circumstantial evidence. We want the joy that marked the life of a Savior. For the joy — the joy! — set before Him, Christ endured the cross.
I want the peace that surpasses understanding, the peace that pervades Heaven, and the peace that descends on places like backyard decks because I believe enough that a blessing will come. That God is the silver lining on every cloud.
I want to live eyes-wide-open, with expectant joy like Pam, who lifts her cup and her heart every morning “to see what blessing God has ready for me.”
I wrote this post here, back in 2013, right after Ken was diagnosed. In a few short months, Ken had gone home. I asked Pam if I could repost this story for you today. She agreed. I asked if she would share with you about his last days. This is what she told me:“When it became evident that Ken would be going to his heavenly home, he printed copies of a picture that hung in his study for years. It was a picture of Jesus hugging a man as he entered heaven. Ken placed those pictures in several rooms, so that he would be reminded of his eternal home as he moved around his earthly house.
On the evening of his death on December 12, 2013, the hospice nurse was present to adjust his meds.
She came to me and said, “His breathing has changed. Come quickly!” I immediately found the song “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin on his playlist, crawled into bed beside him, and listened with him. In the song, there are these lyrics: “I will rise, when He calls my name.”
In that moment, his breathing stopped.
I miss him greatly but have been supported by the Christian community over and over again. I have the assurance he is with his Lord and Savior, and I know God is with me while I continue my life in grace.”
Road photo by Susanne Nilsson. Sourced via Creative Commons on Flickr.
Hey Tell His Story crew! It’s always a joy to gather here every week. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great. And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Bible study author Leah Adams. She’s writing about how we’re not defined by our mistakes. (And a quick plug in here for Leah’s Bible studies. My heart has been so encouraged by her Bible study workbooks! Find Leah here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂
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Crying…that’s what I’m doing Jennifer! What a beautiful testimony to the beauty of God’s grace and peace in our darkest hours. I’m sure God used this experience for his good and to quote you “These holes are neither barren nor lifeless — but are places for God to plant something new.”
Thank you for sharing this again and thank you Pam for sharing.
In tears . . . Oh, to have such faith and joy in the midst of sorrow. Yes, all through the grace of God and submission to Him. May He continue to Pam and her loved ones.
What a beautiful story! Makes me cry. I need Jesus to hold me too. I’m glad Pam has found so much support and her hope inspires hope in me too.
I love her expectant faith. Yes, I want more of that! Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. May God bless your friend as she continues to live life here without her precious Ken in the flesh.
Expectant faith! Beautiful! This is the kind of faith I want too. To have such joy in the middle of such hardship is a blessing I can only imagine.
A true blessing and thankful for the opportunity to read this post today. May we all live with expectant faith. Thankful Pam was open to sharing her sweet husband’s homecoming with us.
Beautiful. Shedding tears for the kind of faith that expectantly waits for God’s blessing in the midst of the darkest valley. How much we can learn from such a touching story!
What a beautiful story of faith lived out through the hard times. It’s not easy, but it sure makes life easier!
This is what faith is for. Thank you.
Pam’s faith overflows through your words, Jennifer. What a beautiful story! You know…I simply can’t imagine being in that hard spot. Something inside me screams, “No! No! No!” to the difficult road death offers. But to face it with such faith…wow. Thanking Jesus for offering a detour to death’s eternity. Thank you, both Pam & Jennifer, for sharing.
I pray for that strength of faith on those days when the thunderheads roll into the blue skies. That is a beautiful story of God’s goodness and care for our every need. Thank you for reposting and updating. Blessings!
What a story, Jennifer – through Pam’s faith and testimony, I can see Job actually fall on his knees and bless God, even after hearing the terrible news of the loss of his family and livelihood. This is jpy and persevering. This is faith that touches the hem of a robe. This is walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death WITH…. I want to live eyes wide open, too!
Wow, I am tearing up reading that ending and looking at that picture. What a beautiful reminder that even in the sadness and grief of death there is hope. Beautiful.
I so want my faith to be like Ken and Pams. Just wow!!! SO MUCH THIS: “Faith is more than a mouthed abstraction on a Sunday morning–It’s the only fuel that will get us through the valley.” My mom lives her life every day like that too. She has never let her mental illness get in the way f her faith. During the hard times, she has held onto her faith. This story again reminds me of my fave verse: Psalm 30:5….this story and so many like it are the embodiment of ‘weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” That joy comes in knowing we are not alone. That joy comes in knowing that we are being prayed for. That joy comes….
You’re the best Jennifer!! Thank you so much for this story and all the love you show us through your writing!! I have no more words but lots of thoughts! Jesus is my joy! Blessings to you!!
Hushed…sacred and holy faith…praying for God to continue to sustain Pam…Thank you, Jennifer…added your post to my post 🙂
wow…what a beautiful story of faith, hope, love and joy in the midst of a struggle. Reminds me of Margaret Feinberg’s, “Fight Back With Joy.” I pray that Pam will continue to be surrounded by prayers of the faithful, joy of the Lord and the stillness of peace that surpasses all understanding.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Full of hope, love and God’s restoration. Much love to you both today.
As Karilee would say, “So many amens.” What a sacred, holy place I am in right now reading this.” I want to sing,
♫Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up, Lord
Come and quench this thirsting in my soul
Bread from Heaven, feed me ’til I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole. ♫
Thank you for re-posting on THIS day. xo
Pam, Precious sister I have never met. You are in my prayers. Christ in you gives you what you need each day, each moment, each breath. You are loved – by those close to you whose faces you know, and those here, who you may have never met, but who hold you in their heart none the less.
This story touched me on several levels. I am so grateful you shared it. Praying for God to continue to be with & bring His comfort to Pam. Always good to be here!
Oh I remember this story. I was as touched by it then as I am now. What faith! What a legacy. Thank you for re-posting this wonderful reminder of the bigger picture. A reminder that, all too often, we cannot choose our circumstances. We can, however, choose how we respond to them.
Then, imagine my surprise when I scroll down to leave a comment and see MY NAME as the featured author today. You bless me so, Jennifer Lee. Thank you! Thank you!
Tears. Many. So beautiful….
If I can approach the loss of a loved one with such faith and grace, I will be indeed blessed. I loved this story. It gave me hope that I will have peace no matter what happens in my life.
Jennifer, this is a beautiful story, but what captured me was the photo of the coffee mug–with a little tiny chip out of the edge on the rim. Life just is not perfect…..
Bittersweet tears are burning my eyes, thinking of Pam hugging her husband good-bye while listening to “I Will Rise.” Such sadness now; such glory to come! In between is God’s grace to comfort, empower, and supply. Please thank Pam for us, for allowing you to share her story. Powerful encouragement!