Being backed into a corner brings clarity.
When you are fighting for your life, that punch list of Thursday afternoon errands (Grocery store: Eggs, toilet paper, broccoli; Dry cleaners: pick up winter coat; Office Max: Business envelopes; Make dentist appointment) is nothing more than ephemera tumbled into a northwesterly breeze. The corner – no visible exits, no trap doors, no possible way out – strips life down to its essence. Who are you? Who is your God/god?
In the last week, two people that mean a lot to me have received a cancer diagnosis. Both are still learning what their course of treatment will look like. The word “cancer” is certainly not a death sentence, but it is a teletransporter that moves people from the blessed ordinariness of Thursday afternoon errand runs into a corner-shaped place.
I remember getting a Saturday morning (!) call a few years ago from a doctor who told me he strongly suspected cancer after reviewing some test results, and having that stunning sense of clarity about what mattered (God, my family) and what didn’t (pretty much everything else I was planning to do that day). Turns out I didn’t have cancer, and I segued out of the corner and back into the tchotchke-filled busyness of family, work and church task-doing. But I do live with the awareness that many of us will find ourselves in the corner at some point as we journey through our broken world.
Yesterday’s Bible reading showed me a way to pray for those who find themselves in the corner today. King Jehosaphat lived more than 800 years before Christ’s birth, and learned that his people were about to be attacked by a numerically-superior army. Desperate for deliverance, the people fasted and assembled themselves before Jehosaphat in Jerusalem. There was no military strategy that could save them. They faced annhiliation.
Pinned in that impossible corner, Jehosaphat prayed. He cried out, reminding both God and his people of God’s promises and character. His prayer ended with these words:
“…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chron. 20:12)
You can almost hear a pin drop in the next verse:
“All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.” (2 Chron. 20:13)
In Jehosaphat’s case, God then sent his word through the voice of a prophet. On the surface, nothing had changed. The people were still in a corner. God’s solution, in the form of some logic-defying directions from the mouth of a man, may have seemed impossible. But they responded in worship and obedience, convinced that they were not alone. God was with them in their corner.
So as I ache for these two who’ve received a cancer diagnosis – and for all of us who may find ourselves in the corner five minutes or five years from now – I pray for God’s healing and comfort, and I remember Jehosaphat’s words of trust and surrender from a place with no easy way out.
God in their corner.