The past few weeks, tragic news has crashed upon the shores of my life with resounding frequency.
While still in Scotland visiting my brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and niece, we received news that a dear family friend, Matt Baker, had been diagnosed with fast-growing lymphoma. He was quickly admitted to M.D. Anderson and treatment began right away.
Two weeks after returning home from Scotland, Jason called me with the news that a Godly man in our church died quite suddenly and expectedly from heart failure while on vacation with his beautiful wife in Switzerland. He was only 49 years old. He was not only a pillar in our church, a mentor in our adult Sunday School class to many men, including my husband, a beloved husband and father, but also the only brother to my dear friend Shannon.
And then two days ago we got the call from my brother in Scotland that the third child they are expecting in March is not doing well. The baby is missing part of its leg from the knee down and has cysts in the stomach, facing possible chromosomal issues. The report from the doctor was that the baby may not live, or if he or she does live, could have serious complications at birth and through life. Tough news to take in for any family. But especially when your loved one is several thousand miles away with an ocean spanning the miles between you.
Yesterday the weight of sorrow crashed in on me like a wave. I went to see Matt and Kathe at M.D. Anderson while they waited for Matt to begin his second round of treatment. And while Matt looked great (in fact, with his newly shaved head, I told him he looks just like Bruce Willis!), there was suffering all around me. People laying on couches, sitting in chairs, all with somber expressions and quiet voices. People seriously and desperately fighting the same deadly, unseen enemy in their own body or the body of a loved one.
And all the while, I could not stop thinking about my brother and sister-in-law. I remember well what it feels like to receive news that the little one you are carrying inside of you is not doing well, has life-threatening issues, and where the only road ahead of you, either in the child’s death or life, appears laden with sorrow.
But while sorrow sang its tune in my heart, another tune prevailed that was stronger, louder, deeper, and truer.
I woke up yesterday morning with words from a worship song running through my head: “You are the strength of my heart, You are the strength of my heart, I can rely on You, Jesus I trust in You…” And then I turned in my Bible to the Psalm that morning I was scheduled to read, and there the words were again: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). All day long, that was the song I heard, louder than the sorrow, deeper than the grief, stronger than the pain: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
I found the worship song on my computer, and played it all throughout the day:
When my heart is overwhelmed, I will look to You alone
God my rock, God my rock, God my rock
You will stand when others fall
You are faithful through it all
God my rock, God my rock, God my rock
In the blessing, in the pain, through it all, You’ve never failed me
You are the strength of my heart, You are the strength of my heart
I can rely on You, I can rely on You
You are the joy of my life, You are my song in the night
There is no one as true
Jesus I trust in You
Benton Brown, God My Rock
And as I listened and pondered and grieved and prayed, the phrase, True Heart, kept running through my prayers. Because, here’s the thing, one day, my flesh and my heart will fail. They will. Inevitably. Either literally through a heart attack, or cancer, or death. Or emotionally through bad news, or a suffering spouse, or a suffering child. Kathe Baker’s, Shannon Bloodworth’s, and Robin Ince’s hearts have all failed them over the past few weeks and days. But I know each of them well enough to know what has kept their true hearts beating through it all: God has been the strength of their hearts and their portion forever.
Their hearts have ceased to become a muscle pumping blood through their chests and have become True Hearts. Hearts that despite the crushing sound of sorrow sing a deeper, truer tune: God, You are the strength of my heart, You are the strength of my heart, I can rely on You, There is no one as true, Jesus I trust in You.
I want a True Heart, too. Don’t you? I don’t know when tragic news is going to strike next. And while I don’t want to live in fear, I want to live in readiness, preparedness for the day when I, too, will need a True Heart. Because a True Heart isn’t born in the moment when sorrow strikes; it is born in the day in and day out decisions of obedience and trust and surrender in the days, weeks, months and years before sorrow strikes.
The next few weeks, I want to look at living examples of people who have True Hearts, people who faced sorrow to the tune of Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Because I want to learn from their example. I want to learn to run with the strength of a True Heart, with trust in a True God, no matter what the day holds.
So tune in for more on a True Heart, and in the meantime, pray for Kathe, Matt, Shannon, Robin, and Taylor. Pray that their hearts would continue to stay…True.