On the top of page 955 in my Bible is scribbled this note, “Monday, December 12, 2011: God’s word to me at diagnosis of cancer.” This scribble marks my utter fascination with the eighth shortest book in the Bible: the Book of Haggai, what I call a “prophet for the 21st Century.” It was this simple two-chapter book that God used throughout my 2012 cancer storm and continues to use now in the year of rebuilding to assure me of His purpose, His presence, and His plan for my life.
Here’s the background: The Babylonian nation came sweeping down across the land of Israel. They captured Jerusalem and the people were held there in bondage exactly 70 years. After the 70 years, Daniel, who prophesied in Babylon, tells us that God began to move to bring the people back to the land. When they came to Jerusalem, they found the city in ruins. The walls were broken down and the temple was utterly destroyed.
They began work first of all on the temple. They managed to lay the foundations and perhaps just one row of stones — and then the work began to lag, and after a while it ceased altogether and for 15 years nothing was done on the temple. It is at this point that Haggai the prophet rises up to speak. And Haggai delivers four messages to these people — all within a space of about a year and a half, all concerning the rebuilding of the temple.
It is this story that has held my attention now for yes, a year and a half.
The first and key word from Haggai is this, “Recognize the Season!” In The Message, Eugene Peterson renders the first two verses of the Book of Haggai this way,
1 On the first day of the sixth month of the second year in the reign of King Darius of Persia, God’s Message was delivered by the prophet Haggai to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and to the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak:
2 A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: “The people procrastinate. They say this isn’t the right time to rebuild my Temple, the Temple of God.”
God through Haggai exhorts the people to recognize the season — stop procrastinating, stop being in denial and LET’S GET STARTED! What a word that was for me when in December 2011, I was forced to recognize the season — to stop being in denial, and GET STARTED fighting the cancer that had invaded my body!
- What a word that was for me during 2012 as Philip and I recognized the season of the Battle to defeat the dark angel of death called “cancer” and fought without ceasing with every weapon we had — prayer, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation.
- What a word that was for me after the treatment was over and when we recognized the new season of grieving our losses and sorrow over the trauma endured during the year of Battle.
- What a word that has been for me in this year when we recognized another season and that we were no longer fighting or grieving, but instead we were rebuilding and that with the season of rebuilding came another season of surgeries and seemingly unending suffering!
- What a word that is for me right now as I watch and recognize still another new season as our Cancer Comfort Outreach begins to blossom and Philip and I are challenged with how to grow this ministry according to the plan and purpose of God to reach those suffering with this awful disease.
For years, I have found myself asking God with regularity: What are YOU doing, Lord? It’s my way of tuning into the Spirit of God, of staying in step with the Spirit as St. Paul tells us to do in Galatians 5:25. Well, in essence what I am asking God is “help me to recognize the season, Lord.”
If I want my life to be about what God is doing, I must recognize the season and stay in step with His Spirit! Even if that means a season of battle, a season of sorrow, a season of building, a season of suffering and now a season of challenge.
What season does God have you in? What great and glorious plan is He wanting to unfold in your life that is just waiting for you to recognize the season and heed His call to stop procrastinating, embrace His purpose and JUST GET STARTED?
If it’s a season of suffering or illness, know that I am praying for you. I know that season and I can assure you the Kind Savior Jesus is right in the midst of that season, ready to strengthen and comfort you daily, even moment-by-moment. If it’s a season of building or of challenge, then I pray for God’s strength to be with you. And if it’s a season of quiet, a season of peace or joy or harvest, then lean in to it and enjoy every moment.
Because this side of heaven, the seasons are always changing and we can never know what is just around the corner.
Next time: Haggai’s Second Word — don’t miss it!
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.