At church yesterday the sermon topic was “the waiting room” and how difficult it is for us to wait, and how often God doesn’t answer our prayers and requests as quickly as we would like. Or how sometimes he doesn’t seem to be answering them at all. How sometimes, as in Abraham and Sarah’s story, we lose patience and take things into our own hands in the absence of an answer. We struggle with our faith, as they did.

Cancer can be the ultimate waiting room. We wait for a diagnosis and then to learn more about our diagnosis. We wait for test results. Then we are in the ultimate waiting room after treatment, waiting to find out if our cancer will return and if we will ultimately survive our cancer. We wait for years wondering if we are safe, if we have beaten cancer. I know some who have had recurrences at 5, 6, 8 and even 10 years out from their original diagnosis, so feeling “safe” even as time passes is difficult. We are in the cancer “waiting room” for a long time. It’s hard to be in the waiting room, it’s painful.

The point was also made in the sermon, that in our society we want immediate answers. We are the fast food generation, we know what we want and expect it immediately. And God doesn’t seem to work that way. We know many who are not healed and who lose their battles in spite of overwhelming prayer support. The point was made in the sermon that maybe while we want the transaction (I pray for healing and should get healing in return), maybe it is actually the transformation that occurs in others and in ourselves while we are waiting that is key. That there is a purpose to the waiting room. Even for those who lose their battles.

I truly believe that those who lose their battles are finally healthy and free and without pain, and that they will be whole forever. They are forever out of the cancer waiting room. And I truly believe that though we cannot see it from our immediate perspective, there are positive effects from our struggle in those who surround us and survive us. Maybe it’s not about us, maybe there is a bigger picture we can’t see from here.

I still always think of Abraham Lincoln. I read his biography once…he lost his mother when he was a young boy and had a very distant relationship with his father. Both of his siblings died young. He lost his first romantic love to typhoid fever. He lost 3 of his 4 children at young ages, only one of his children lived to adulthood. I can’t help but think that all of the pain he endured, that his many, many hours in life’s “waiting room” somehow molded his character to help him achieve the great things he did for so many people and for our nation. I have a kind of hobby, I love to read biography’s of those who achieve greatness; many have suffered extraordinary pain and have spent much time in life’s waiting room.

I truly believe there is a bigger purpose we can’t see from here, but that we will one day understand. One day we will understand the purpose of pain in this very short life of ours. I love the analogy of a tapestry. From the back it is loose and disorganized threads that form no picture, but when viewed from the front it is a beautiful work of art, and the contrast of the dark threads are what makes the art beautiful.

I look forward to one day seeing the front side of the tapestry of this life.