Last August my 6-year-old grandson was diagnosed with leukemia. I took the low road to acceptance of his final diagnosis, like so many of us would in that situation; I just denied that it was possible. It could not happen to one of my grandchildren. It was a disease for someone else, not someone I love dearly.
There were several weeks of tests and blood work that preceded this diagnosis. There were daily ups and downs in my grandson’s normal abilities to function as a 6-year-old while this testing continued. Some days he could not eat. He was losing weight every day; you could see it in his face, and his bones were now bulging. Some days all his joints would ache so acutely he could not walk. His siblings would lift him into a baby stroller to visit us next door.
During that time it was easy to reassure myself that God would not allow this to be true; my grandson could not have leukemia. I had known one other child of a very close friend who had died at the age of three with leukemia; again this problem could not affect our family, could it?
Then the day came when the blood work confirmed the reality of what our family had feared most. Our grandson had a cancer known as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Yet, I did not have a sense of doom or ownership over the issue. It was still in someone else’s world, wasn’t it?
Reality sets in, but so does hope
A few days had gone by and I was still quite sure I would handle this without too much emotion. After all, our God was with us. That was when the phone rang and the person on the other end said, “Would you like to donate to the Children’s Leukemia Foundation?” Then it hit me.
I tried my best to stop sobbing over the phone, but I had to put it down as I tried to hold back the flood of emotion. I wanted to talk to this young lady and tell her, yes, I not only wanted to contribute, I needed to contribute. It was all I could do to finish the phone call; she was patient and could sense my anguish. It hit me with that phone call; it now seemed all so real for the first time. I would have to come face to face with the cancer raging inside my grandson’s body.
I needed help. I felt blessed to know where to find that help. Christ said these words for us to hear in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I was sure that Christ meant exactly what He said. I felt compelled to come to Him in a way I had not come to Him and our Father in a long time. I needed a trusted source to help ease this pain that brought me to my knees. What I knew in my heart was this: Christ had promised to help any who would seek Him. This was also one of those times when I knew I would need help no matter the outcome of the cancer that was assaulting my grandson.
The next verse tells us this, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). It was essential for me to assess this verse with renewed understanding. Christ said if I would yoke myself with Him, just like a team of oxen must work in unison, then we have the ability to accomplish much together. If I were to pull this plow alone, I would not make much headway; I would not get around the wall that I was hitting. I needed to remember Christ was with me; we were yoked together and pulling this plow.
I am quite sure that I have read these verses in Matthew a dozen, if not a hundred, times. In times of crises, we often feel like we are hitting a wall that will not let us pass. I wanted to get around this wall that had hit me. I also wanted my grandson to know he was not alone. Not only did he have his siblings to lift him into a stroller, not only did he have his parents and grandparents to lift him and carry him, he had a Savior who would make his life have purpose, no matter what his future held. How do you tell a 6-year-old with leukemia his life has purpose when he cannot stand up or even feed himself?
Hope can be encouraged in others
I needed help to deal with reality. My grandson needed help much more than I. He was coping with reality in a much more permanent way. I wanted him to have hope. Can eternal hope fill a 6-year-old? That is a hard concept for even adults to grasp. I now realize that sometimes we must have hope for others like him too young to understand what hope really is.
Christ gives hope for all mankind, not just those who are well. All have access to this hope for which Christ came to the earth—to remove the power that death has over us. We have this promise from Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” I know we can be assured of that promise, a promise the scriptures tell us God put into motion before men have a record of time.
My grandson needed us to share that with him by our words and conviction. We had to hold hope for him, the hope that Christ would offer to him, no matter how the battle with leukemia might end. He would have a future one day. He would be released from the pain that he felt today.
Then it hit me. This is what I can do. I could not stop his pain, I could not cure his disease, but I could assure him he would be rid of this conflict one day. That was something I could do to help him battle the cancer that sought to engulf him. This is the hope that we all can hold for those who battle diseases like this. We can reach out and offer that same hope of a better future to all who need to understand the purpose for which Christ came. This is what faith looks like.
Christ said in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” No matter what may attempt to destroy my grandson or anyone else who encounters pain or disease, we are assured that Christ did come to offer a more abundant life for all mankind.
My grandson has passed a one-year milestone since the leukemia was confirmed. Today he rides his bicycle down our street as I look out my office window. He still has some bad days, but most of his days are just the average days of a 7-year-old youngster. He has four more years before we will know whether the battle has been won. But I am not alone. My grandson is not alone. Our family is not alone. There is a yoke that binds us to a Messiah who holds the keys to a future for my grandson, for me, and for all mankind.
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