He Gives and Takes Away

Debbie Wold, RIP

We don’t always get to choose our glory.

All of us are always pursuing glory of some kind. In fact, falling short of the glory we were made for is part of our curse. There is good news about that, but I’ll come back to it.

We pursue glory. We have ideas about what is good and we go for it. Some have big ideas about glory, making lots of money to enjoy finer things or even more altruistic glory like finding cures for cancer. Others want glory of simpler, smaller kinds: a loving family and job with purpose and visiting fun places on vacation. Humans make up their own ways to give and receive glory from one another. But glory is an issue for all of us, one way or another.

Related: Many years ago I told the following to Debbie, and I’m admitting to you all now, that I went through a season of being mad at God about the story He had for her. The Bible says King David was angry at God when God killed a man (Uzzah) for touching the ark of the covenant while trying to protect the ark from falling off a wagon-cart (2 Samuel 6:8). David thought he was doing something special that would honor God, and so he was upset that God didn’t appreciate that. David was wrong. David hadn’t paid attention to what was required.

I also was wrong, and can see that my error was not appreciating how much glory God was writing in Debbie’s story.

When our church started and Debbie started coming it wasn’t long before she really started growing. She herself acknowledged that she was opening up in ways she hadn’t, she was digging deeper in God’s Word in ways she hadn’t. She always shot straight with you, she didn’t have interest in playing a part, and yet she didn’t try to boss everybody else like only she knew better. She often volunteered to take another family’s kids out to go bowling or to make pottery or to do some other fun activity for the afternoon.

If you would have asked me how someone in Debbie’s position could be growing in Christ more and how they could be doing anything better I’d have told you to see how Debbie was doing it. She was a textbook testimony of honesty and humility, in faith becoming more like Christ. It was glorious.

So when she found out that she had cancer, and of a kind that was probably going to cut her life short quickly, I wondered, “Why her?” She didn’t need a wake up call. She was responding to God’s Word. Like David, I thought Debbie was already doing things that should please God. Why mess with that by making it harder?

Because God had chosen more and greater glory for her.

He had already given her faith, now he was perfecting it.

though now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7-8)

Through seven brutal years of “fire” — chemo and new kinds of chemo and experimental drugs and radiation and doctors’ visits and traffic to and from the visits and days of sickness and fatigue and other side effects and the relentlessness of questions from caring people — God guarded her by faith and proved her faith in a way that is more glorious.

She acted sort of surprised when I told her that I was upset on her behalf; to my knowledge, though she sometimes questioned if she had enough faith, she never questioned God’s work (nor did her husband, Dave). She was never angry with God. And now she has finished her race and her testimony is more glorious than any of us would have chosen for her. While we usually say, rest in peace, by God’s grace we can say of Debbie, rest in praise.

This is not everyone’s story, certainly not everyone’s hope. These things can’t be said for those who put their faith in the glory of a long life, who put their faith in the glory of their own wisdom and strength. It is for those who know that they have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It is only for those who believe in Jesus Christ who showed His loving glory by dying on the cross.

When some strangers came to a couple of Jesus’ disciples and said that they wanted to “see Jesus,”

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:23–25 ESV)

The glory of Jesus is a greater glory because of His death, and the glory He shares with those who trust in Him is guaranteed because of His resurrection.

It’s okay that Debbie didn’t want a long service, but she didn’t get to choose her glory. And what she did choose is to put her faith in God who raised Christ from the dead, and she wanted above all for you to hear that good news. Even though we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, He sent His Son to forgive our self-seeking, short-sighted pursuits.

There is no glory for those who die without Christ, in the present life or the life to come. But for those in Christ, we have hope for this life and eternity.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:42–43 ESV)

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! And thank You, Lord, for the glory you let us see in Your servant, Debbie.