Friday, February 3, 2012

"Soaring Like an Eagle": In Memory of Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956-February 3, 2009)

“‘To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:25-31, New King James Version).

Today at both The Center for Theological Studies (CTS) and Men and Women in the Church (MWC), the blogs are dedicated to a woman who touched my life in manifold ways. I could write a book about her and still continue to write long after it. There are not enough books, chapters, or pages in the world to contain all that she meant to me within them. She was my mother, teacher, best friend, and biggest fan—
 Teressa A. Richardson.

Each year at this time, I give a short glimpse into life with my mother, my experiences with her, the kind of person she was, and the things she said and did. And it never grows old to think upon the things she taught me. I am blessed by God to provide yet another glimpse today into her life---and examine once more the lessons she taught me that it would do me good (and all believers) to never forget.

As a recent graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, I often heard the questions in my apologetics classes regarding God and the existence of evil. “If God is a good God, how can evil and suffering occur in the world?” “If God is just, why has He done nothing about it?” “If God is good, why would He even allow it in the first place?” It seems that atheists never tire of posing questions that, in their minds, seem to be legitimate questions that supposedly “knock” God off His throne, put themselves in His place, and take His glory for their own.

This past summer 2011, I did some Internet evangelism at the Amazon chat room with atheists. The whole forum was titled “The Existence of God.” From the outside, it seemed as if there were a large number of Christians at the forum. When I entered, however, there were very few. Except for me, there was only one other person who, as a Christian, wanted to win these troubled souls to Christ.

I met a guy named Walter who, after a week of my witnessing attempts, disclosed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was in his 60s, and the doctors told him that he had (at most) 6 months to live. I got to share my mother’s story with him of how she battled breast, lung, and brain cancer for three years. He told me, “Your mother was a strong woman.” I responded, “No—it wasn’t her strength that saw her through; It was her God that saw her through.”

The Book of Isaiah was one of mom’s most beloved books of the Bible. She loved all of the Scriptures, but Isaiah’s words had special meaning to her in her life and life’s circumstances. Through her cancer, she clung to the words of Isaiah 40 and it is my prayer that her story and life would inspire you by God’s grace to continue on the path that is set before you.

In today’s text, the Lord asks Israel, “Why do you say, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God’?” (Isaiah 40:27) Israel got to a place where the nation felt as if God was unjust to them. It seemed that the Lord no longer cared for the people “who were called by His Name,” that the ones He loved, the ones He delivered out of Egypt, He no longer had compassion for. It seemed to the nation of Israel that God was no longer just. This is why the Lord asks Israel’s question: “Why do you say... ‘my just claim is passed over by my God’?”

Mother could have easily arrived at this same place. She was a woman who loved the Lord, served Him fervently, and raised her children to do the same. She had every reason (on the surface at least) to point her finger to heaven at God and say, “Lord, you no longer hear my cry. You no longer care for your servant. I have done everything to walk godly before you, and you no longer care about me or my condition.”

But that’s not what she did. No---mom didn’t do what many have done (and many contemplate doing). Instead, she simply quoted the words, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” It is because of her faith in the Lord that she continued to pray to God, even when she didn’t understand all the answers.

Someone reading this post today feels like the nation of Israel in Isaiah 40. Wherever you are at this moment in your life, you thought you would be somewhere else. Maybe you thought you would be married, or at another job, or promoted in your current job, or in the prime of your life instead of struggling with a life-threatening illness. Perhaps you have been given those three words that could forever change your life: “It is cancer.” If this is where you are today, do not despair; God has not forgotten about you.

What did the Lord tell Israel? “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary...He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isa. 40:28-29). The same God that gave strength to the nation of Israel is the same God that gave my mother strength during her battle with cancer. And the same God that gave her strength is no respecter of persons---He will give you strength as well.

How did Mom renew her strength? She went to God in prayer, she talked to the Lord when it seemed as though God had deserted her. She always told me and my sister Danielle, “When you cannot see His hand, always trust His heart.” If she were here, she would say the same thing to you: When you cannot see His hand, always trust His heart. Trust Him and know that those who wait upon Him will see their strength renewed; they will soar like eagles. They will run and not be weary, and they will walk, and not faint. God bless.

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