“But she said, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me.” (Ruth 1:20-21)
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you are probably somewhere between denial and acceptance or you have past through this journey. I went through them. I’m still going through them.
Tomorrow I start radiation. Six weeks, everyday. I am left to wonder how I might fair through all of this. I have heard that some people fair better than others. The biggest complaints are a sunburn feeling, including some as bad as blisters and fatigue. Considering that I am fair skinned and grew up having allergic reactions to the sun called a sun rash at the beginning of every summer….I am a little fearful.
I am also a little angry. I am just healing from the mastectomies. I have worked diligently over the past two weeks to stretch and massage my scar as much as possible in hopes that I might fair better through radiation, but I still wake up every morning tight and I have to stretch again. Sometimes in the mornings I wonder if all my work to gain flexibility is in vain. But the truth is that I feel better than I did a few weeks ago even if I am sore every morning.
Every step of this process has forced me through these stages. Obviously the early days were worse than they are today as I start radiation, but I have gone through denial at each step. Last week I emailed my oncologist just to double check that I REALLY needed to do radiation.
So I can identify with Naomi here. Maybe you can too. Maybe you have breast cancer, or maybe you have lost someone you love or maybe you’re being forced to trek through new territories.
I am tempted at times to think that the Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow, but the truth is…..I think he’s angry for me today too. Let me explain….
I view God in so many different ways. I love the way the Message Bible translates Naomi’s description of God here as “Strong One.” Without a doubt I believe He was strong enough to take away my cancer. But He was also strong enough to allow me to have it as well. AND he is also my friend and I have a personal relationship with Him and I believe He mourns with me and is angry with me and rejoices with me just as my best friend would.
When I was in college ministries I had a student who was angry with God. There was just a lot of junk in her life and it just wasn’t a good idea to defend God at that present moment. I just reminded her that Jesus cried out on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” I can’t know exactly what Jesus was thinking at that moment, but I think He felt forsaken and maybe even a bit angry hanging on that cross in humiliation and unimaginable agony. He had a genuine relationship with the Father, He could be real. You can be real with someone when you have built a relationship with them.
So be angry with God. He is a big God. I have shed a tear or two with Him over these past months and I probably will again tonight as I brave this unknown territory. But He has been my rock so far. He has gotten me through days I never thought would end.
He is the Strong One. He is your Friend.