Nicole and I began a new chapter to our story in September 2019 when we packed up the last box in Colorado, closed the door to the moving truck, and headed for Texas. All of our possessions and treasures were stored and we started the drive.
This was new territory for me as I had never lived so far away from where I grew up. I knew that this journey was going to be a difficult one leaving what was so familiar: a great job, the captivating mountains, and most of all, beloved friends and family.
We were driving down the highway, chasing the sunlight as we journeyed to the Lone Star state. I looked over at the beautiful woman next to me in the vehicle. Nicole, my love, sat looking ahead, with a look of determination in her eyes as she beheld the road in front of us. Her healthy, growing hair was gently swaying in the breeze. The sunlight was glinting off her eyes as the passing cars went by on the roadway. And before we knew it, those passing cars turned into passing mountains, as we neared the state line.
When we officially crossed over into Texas, I looked over at Nicole when she didn’t know I was looking. In that moment I saw something in her eyes: a look of hope. This look on her face is unforgettable as I’ve seen this look in her eyes on several momentous occasions before.
The first time I saw this look was on our wedding day when she was coming down the aisle towards me. She was in the most brilliant and sparkly white gown holding back tears with eyes full of love and joy as God would make us one that day. She read vows that she wrote herself with such passion and promise for an unseen future ahead. “I know one thing for certain,” she said. “God will always be with us.” Those words of faith, trust, hope, and confidence moved me deeply and I was truly convinced that she would faithfully carry out her vows all the days of her life no matter what was up ahead.
Photo by Sarah Christine Photography
I saw that look again just over three years later when she was wearing yet another gown. Except this time, it was a green hospital gown that clothed her body. Although very sick and frail, she was still just as beautiful as on our wedding day. She was hooked up to machines and tubes as the medical team prepared to wheel her back for the life threatening, life altering Whipple Procedure to remove her cancer. Nicole looked me square in the eyes and squeezed my hands as she told me, “I’ll either be cancer free here on earth or I’ll be cancer free in heaven. Cancer doesn’t get the victory here.” I will never forget the look of certainty and focus on eternity in her eyes when she said those words to me.
Once more, I saw this look when doctors told Nicole that her back pain caused by cancer treatment left irreversible degenerative changes that she would live with for the remainder of her life. After almost two years of best efforts at improving her quality of life through physical therapy, we both knew that we would have to try something different if she wanted a chance at further healing. During a conversation, we asked one another if being closer to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston could possibly bring this healing and recovery. When God opened the doors and we made the decision to move, Nicole looked at me once more with the same look as before: “Let’s always remember that God is so much bigger than all of this and He has a plan for us,” she said. “We are going to give this life our all and glorify Him no matter what happens.”
Which is what brought us on the drive we were on to our current destination: Texas.
I write this to you as words of encouragement today. Maybe you are reading this and are in a place where you are getting weary, afraid, running out of options, or needing to try something new but don’t know how or where to start. There is a source of strength that is available for times like that. And through all of the newness and changes that we are experiencing right now, I remember where that strength comes from as I ponder the looks that I have seen from my beautiful wife: eyes fixated on the wonderful things unseen.
More than self-determination, we need God-filled determination. When we approach the hardships of this life with our own strength and try to lean on our own understanding, we find that it is limited and it eventually gets used up. The moment we change our perspective from self to Savior, we realize that we have an endless supply of strength to keep going.
The core verse for this was penned by Paul, in his second letter to the church at Corinth. In the fourth chapter, in verses 16-18 he writes:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV)
I think getting focused on the here and now and losing sight on things eternal can be so easy to do. The cancer diagnosis, the surgery, the pain prognosis, the move: all of these things were daunting to look at. But there is a way to persevere through these circumstances:
Paul tells us to take courage and remember the things that are unseen. These things are God Himself, the Good News of Jesus, and the promise of eternal life through faith in Him.
As I looked over at Nicole in the moving truck, what filled me with so much trust in the Lord was knowing that He was leading us. Ultimately, He is leading us toward His kingdom. Whether or not healing will come, whether or not cancer will come back, He is leading us and that is enough for me. I saw that in my wife’s eyes, and I wanted to share that with you today.
God is able to give you confidence and determination to face the trials of this life. Set aside the things that are seen in this life and let Him fill your vision: a vision of hope and a future, of eternity enjoying Him forever.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.