Last month, I was teaching the story of Noah at my work bible study. I’ve heard the children’s tale since I was a toddler. But in preparing to teach, I really dug in.
Noah had never seen rain. He was far from an ocean. Then God came to him and told him to build a boat bigger than any football stadium you’ve seen, gather two of every single kind of animal, and watch the unthinkable happen. He worked on this unlikely God command for a hundred years. It made no sense and people thought this “one righteous” man had lost his mind.
Do you know, after Genesis, Noah is mentioned over and over? Ezekiel writes of his (and Daniel’s and Job’s) righteousness. 2 Peter talks about how he was a preacher of righteousness. But my in favorite, Hebrews 11, he is named in the faith hall of fame. It begins:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
And goes on: By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.
I was thinking about this faith as I saw friends’ “word of the year” pop up in my feed. I’m not really a word of the year girl. But as 2018 kicked my butt (along with so many of my friends and family), I wanted to spend some time in consideration over what I hope 2019 will bring.
Fewer challenges? Less whiplash? Certainty?
No. That wasn’t it.
In addition to other struggles that I and those close to me have faced this year, the last half has been littered with personal health challenges. I’m a healthy person. Low blood pressure, great cholesterol, no big risk factors, etc. Things started acting up in August. I thought it was a respiratory infection and doctors treated it accordingly.
By October, there were lots of unrelated symptoms. Searing shoulder pain. Headaches. Abdominal pain. Trouble breathing. Leg cramping and feet tingling. Chest pressure. First I was diagnosed with pneumonia and pleurisy. After serious medications but limited improvement, I started seeing specialists.
Along the way, assorted things popped up. They found a new lump in my breast. Panic. Turned out to be another innocuous cyst. Relief. An endless female cycle. Panic. They found minimal ovarian growths. Relief. Cardiologist. Panic. All clear. Relief. Gastroenterologist needed to explore with an endoscopy. Panic. Just a case of gastritis. Relief.
Then I saw the neurologist. The headaches were bad, and I don’t historically have them. She thought it might be vitamin deficiency (which it is as well) but she ran a brain MRI to rule things out. Then she called. Could you please come in tomorrow? We’ve found a cyst pressing on your brain stem.
So Bray and I sat there two weeks ago, looking at a big black mass in my head. Cyst not tumor. Maybe pushing my brain stem. MRI with contrast made it look less dangerous. And our meeting with the neurosurgeon last week informed us it was an arachnoid cyst that might not need to be operated on if it wasn’t growing. Another scan next month to figure it out.
Would I need brain surgery in February? It’s a straightforward procedure but as the surgeon said, still it’s brain surgery. If not, then what of all these symptoms? Am I back to square one?
Which brings me back to Noah. And faith.
Confidence in what we hope for.
Assurance about what we do not see.
When he was warned about things not seen, he acted in holy fear. Anyways. Despite the things that he could see. Which clearly contradicted the not seen things he was being told.
I don’t think I will select a word this year. But I am going to select a verse for 2019. Plus I would really love to memorize Hebrews 11 this year. Go give it a read. If that’s not a wake up call for all of us in working out our own faith, then I don’t know what is.
So 2019, I offer you Hebrews 11:1:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.