God’s Presence in Grieving: A Personal Journey
by Sherry Kendrick, Guest Writer
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
In January 2013, our world was rocked with a diagnosis of internal melanoma with no external site. My husband was given 6-12 months to live by the local oncologist. We were given a referral to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa “just on the outside chance they could help”. By the time we got to Moffitt and all tests were finished, Mike had 150 linear centimeters of melanoma growing rapidly in four different sites. The oncologist with a specialty in melanoma decided on a clinical trial for Mike using two immunotherapy drugs together. Within 2 weeks, Mike and I knew he was feeling better and we were hopeful. By the time they did the next set of scans, the tumors were reduced by 85%. Over the next year and a half, the tumors continued to get smaller. When Mike finished the drug treatment program there was only two centimeters of measurable tumor and it was probably dead tissue. The problem with the drug treatment was it created a secondary condition, and Mike developed a drug induced pulmonary fibrosis. In February 2018 five years after the melanoma diagnosis, Mike died peacefully as he lay down to rest in the morning.
That is the factual medical story. However, if I left the story there, it would be incomplete. Following Mike’s death, the Lord brought me to Psalm 16 which has become my way of telling our more important story - the story of how the Lord has preserved, protected and provided for us with His presence.
Psalm 16:1 & 2 begins: Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
As Mike and I entered the world of cancer treatment, we knew a couple of things. First, while the medical community might help and give good care, the Lord would be our place of refuge. We recognized that this time could come only from His sovereign hand. Mike had no preexisting conditions or hereditary reasons to have melanoma. The Lord was taking us on a journey of His design. Apart from Him, this would not make sense. Second, God alone could preserve us. He would sustain, uphold and keep us by His steadfast covenant love. The medical community could not do that for us.
When I hear the word preserve, I immediately think of canning, preserving food. My mom preserved our food each summer, to be used that winter. The vegetables and fruits were preserved safely in jars for our good. This is how I have visualized this verse. As I watched the Lord sovereignly take us on this cancer journey, I also watched Him sustain, uphold and keep us safe through it. A diagnosis of melanoma is not safe. Knowing your death will come sooner rather than later does not feel safe. Week after week of treatment and the agonizing wait to hear reports from scans would not be in a category labeled safe. Being in a medical crisis brings many emotions that do not feel safe – fear, pain, uncertainty, and anxiety – to name a few. Mike and I experienced all of these. I am not minimizing the severity of our suffering; but for five years, despite walking in this crisis daily, Mike and I found safety. In the preserving jar of His choosing, the Lord kept Mike and me in the safest place we could be - in His care, for our good. As we drove to Moffitt the day we were going to find out if there was even a possible treatment plan, I opened an email from a spiritual mother and it read, “I don’t know where your journey is going to take you today, but I know the Lord is already there.” It was a timely reminder that nothing was happening in our world that the Lord did not already know. He was not absent and He was indeed with us, holding and keeping us eternally safe in His care.
Father, as I acknowledge that You are indeed my Lord, I also acknowledge that I have a deep need of Your sustaining grace.O Lord, preserve me, keep me safely in Your good care as I seek refuge in You.Amen.
Sherry Kendrick has a degree in elementary education from East Tennessee State University and over 30 years experience in Christian education, children’s ministry and public school elementary education. She loves children’s curriculums and tends to collect them. Sherry has lived in Naples, Florida for 32 years and currently serves as the Children’s Director of Covenant Church of Naples. Sherry was married to Mike Kendrick, a PCA pastor for 36 years. She has been a widow since February 2018. She is blessed with 3 grown children and one grandchild.
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