This photo illustration—Sean Meza, assistant pastor of First Love Calvary Chapel in Whittier, CA, portraying Jesus with open arms—was taken by Steve Marquez.
It Takes a Fight to Rest
By Pastor Steve Marquez
People who have been given the devastating news of their having a terminal illness are said to be in the “Stage 4” of life. Stage4 Ministries desires to serve them and their caregivers. The ministry is run by Steve and Monica Marquez. Steve, formerly pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Smith, AR, is a Stage 4 cancer patient fighting Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC), better known as kidney cancer. Steve and Monica are available to speak at churches or other groups to encourage people that they can have hope in this world and—through Christ—hope for the next. Visit www.stage4ministries.com for more information.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest … Hebrews 4:11a, ESV
Rest is hard to find. We look for it almost every day, but it eludes. As a cancer patient, I go through the gamut of emotions. Sometimes my emotions are a gauntlet that I have to battle through. Although this may not happen each and every day, it does often enough for me to notice. True, there is the emotional roller coaster of doctor visits, labs, and scans that reveal the progress or regress of the disease. Some results are a rocket lifting the spirits to the highest of heavens, others to the lowest of hells. Most of the time I live in-between, struggling and even groping for the rest that brings peace.
The context of Hebrews 4:11 is Joshua taking the Children of Israel into the Promised Land of rest. But they had to fight for that rest. The writer of Hebrews says that there is another Joshua that would bring a rest that would never end. Jesus’ name is the Hebrew word ַעֻ֗הושְי (Y’hoshua), which when translated into English directly is Joshua. The Greek transliteration is Jesus. What Joshua could not do, our Joshua (Jesus) did; he brought rest.
The battle of a person who lives with some sort of destructive, debilitating disease is intense and emotes with a fervor that brings a sense of despair. This kind of war does not lead to rest, but to battle after battle after battle. Cancer treatment is harsh. My chemo pills do things to my body that I don’t even understand, but I feel. I am fatigued most of the time, and I get muscle cramps (Charlie-horses) in my mid-section and legs. It also lowers my immune system. When I would go into a church, concert, or other places where people were close, I would wear a mask, especially in flu season.
I was never terrified of COVID-19. After having a part of my right lung removed due to a large tumor, mask-wearing on a regular basis was difficult. I did wear the mask, though, so others would feel comfortable. A few weeks ago, I started to feel bad, like I had a cold. Then, according to our home thermometer, my temperature registered a consistent 100-102.9. I went to the emergency department of my local hospital. They did a COVID-19 test on me that came back positive.
Rest would have to sit out a little while longer while I fought through another disease. The fever went away, but the body aches were bad—with an exponentially greater fatigue that wouldn’t allow me to do anything but lay in bed. I am not a person to lay around at all. I want to be working and accomplishing something productive. About a week into this battle, I started to feel better, so I decided to get out and walk a bit. That was a mistake! Everything came back. This time it felt like the worse flu I had ever experienced. I waited another week before even trying to do anything. After about 20 days, I started feeling better and ventured out to the beach. It felt so good to get out, listen to the waves, capture some scenes with my camera, and praise God for the creation he had made and my ability to enjoy it.
But my wife’s experience was a different story. Without going into great detail, when she was infected by COVID-19, she came close to death. She should have gone to the hospital on many occasions, but she decided to fight at home, with her doctors’ close monitoring through remote medicine. Several times in the middle of the night I woke up and watched her struggle to breath—or even stop breathing all together—and shook her to wake her up. It was a frightening battle. She is getting better now, and is in out-patient physical therapy, occupational therapy, and lung treatment at a local hospital. It reminded me of Epaphroditus in the book of Philippians: “Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians 2:27, ESV).
I could not find peace in the situation; it was too intense. But I could find peace in Christ. My wife told me that when she felt as though she was going to die, she prayed to the Lord that if it was her time, she was ready to be with Him. That is peace. Again, not in the situation, but in the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Our great Joshua showed us the entry way into rest through His cross. But here, like the Joshua who led Israel, we will have battle after battle until we cross the true Jordan and are face-to-face with the One who is our rest. That is where we will find true peace. That is where we will forever have rest, a shabbat, one that will be full of joy in our great God and Savior. I am looking forward to that day.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.