The Strong and Gentle King Sings over Me

Editor’s Note: Today we welcome back to the blog Colleen Chao. Longtime readers may remember Colleen’s posts on the True Woman Blog, and she recently shared her testimony at Revive ’21. A few weeks ago, Colleen wrote this heart-stirring update as she walks through a difficult cancer journey. With her permission, we are publishing the update for your encouragement and edification. Please join us in praying for Colleen and her family—may Jesus continue to sing over them with every passing day. —Laura Elliott

Hello, dear friends!

Today was supposed to be Chemo Round 4, but due to some physical complications (I'm all kinds of special, people.), my medical team decided to give my body a few extra days to get stronger. I'll be back in The Chair on Thursday instead. Jeremy started school today, so I find myself with time to tackle some of the tasks on my to-do list—from the comfort of my trusty recliner. Ha! 

But first, an update. :)

After a week of navigating more of chemo's rigorous side effects and layers of physical pain, getting a molar extracted due to an infection in my gums, shaving my head down to the nubs, missing Jeremy’s back-to-school activities and teacher meetings, and postponing our anniversary dinner because I was too sick to get out—there's a not-so-sneaky temptation to despair, to nurse longings for "normalcy" and relief, or to kick into sheer survival mode. But at the beginning of this new week, I'm looking over my shoulder and I can so clearly see that a strong and gentle King saw me in my weepy heap of weariness, pushed through the masses to get to me, took my hand, drew me close, and slowly danced with me through the week, speaking words of hope and promise and goodness to me. All week long He has been with me. All week long He has had merciful words to sing over me. 

On Saturday He sang Psalm 55:16 over me, reminding me that He loves to save his children. It's what He does. "How He will save me I cannot guess; but He will do it, I know”.My heart grew ten times bigger to remember that He will not give me over to despair and darkness and a grievous end. That's not what He does. Even though cancer most likely will take me, He will rescue me from this affliction in His perfect way, and it will mean life and joy and freedom for many others, not just me. 

Midweek He was singing over me truths from the Gospels as I meditated on Jesus' ministry on earth, specifically the throngs who came from miles around to touch Him and be healed. These were people who had suffered horrifically for years and even decades, some with terminal illness, some with incurable disease, some with pain that kept them up every night, some with handicaps that brought about their destitution. But when they heard about The Miraculous Healing Man, they pushed through every pain and limitation to get to Him, desperate as they were for relief and wholeness and normalcy, for freedom from social stigmas, for the hope of becoming a functioning member of their family and community again. 

And Jesus healed them. En masse. He had compassion on them. 

Which begs the question: Is this Jesus who healed the multitudes two thousand years ago, the same Jesus who may not choose to heal me, His beloved daughter? Will the Jesus who showed compassion to the crowds allow a young boy to watch his mom slowly waste away—then grow up without her? Allow a husband to lose his wife and suddenly find himself a single dad?

Even while Jesus was showing the world what His kingdom would look like—healing! restoration! power over dark forces! forgiveness of sins!—He was promising his followers that they would suffer greatly. That would be the way the kingdom would fully come—through faith-filled, joyful, suffering saints. It wasn't comfort and security and ease He was selling.

So He came in this beautiful kind of juxtaposition: to both introduce us to His breathtakingly good kingdom by mending broken people, and to be the suffering servant, knowing agony in all of its layers and grief in all of its stages—so that we would know how to suffer in His footsteps, and the world would look at us and marvel, "They have more joy and more peace and more purpose in their suffering than I have on my best day of ease and security. What's their secret?!" And more people would be forgiven and freed and swallowed up in joy, and the kingdom would grow and grow and grow until one day King Jesus brings it in all of its fullness, and we see

A new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.

Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” (Revelation 21:1–5)

Wouldn't you just love to opt out of the suffering and skip to the good stuff of Revelation 21? ;) I'm constantly and keenly aware of how "soft" I am. I think of the many biographies I've read of saints past, who suffered unthinkable losses and crosses (and didn't whine but counted it a joy and privilege). I think of our brothers and sisters around the world today who are choosing to remain in hostile places, risking life and limb and loved ones in order to share the love of Jesus with people who have never heard His name. And I look at my insidious bent toward first-world comforts and securities and expectations, and I cry out to God to increase my capacity to suffer well, with more and more joy, and to toughen me up while keeping me tender, and to help me relinquish the treasures I have on this earth (that oh-so-quickly become idols in my heart). 

I'm so grateful for God's gentleness with me. He is happy to be with me in my weakness, and He will finish the good work He started in me. He is patiently teaching me how to look death in the face and say,

Time, how short!
Death, how brief!
Eternity, how long!
Immortality, how endless!*

And so today, because of His kindness, I have a new supply of strength and courage and hope so I can take up this cross, deny myself, and follow Him down a path I never would have chosen—but a path that ultimately leads to perfect bliss. 

And oh, friends, there are so many mercies along this way, including the ones that come through you. Again we had all manner of goodness arrive at our doorstep and in our mailbox and inboxes and Venmo accounts this last week. And the way you pray for us . . . ! It is a gift beyond all others. We could not face these days without you: we continually feel so deeply loved, so strengthened, so cheered on for this journey. 

I am on the verge of tears as I think of you all and the incomparable gift you are to me. To all three of us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


PS: I have a tangible prayer request for you prayer warriors: Chemo makes it so difficult for me to string words together. I'm already a painfully slow writer, but "chemo brain" makes me feel like a turtle in wet cement. Mercy. But here's the deal: Moments after I heard how extensive my cancer was back in the spring, I heard just as clearly from the Spirit that I needed to write—that one of the reasons He was entrusting this suffering to me was so that I could encourage others through words. I've been gunshy of traditionally publishing a book (wanting to make sure I was old and wise before I put something into permanent print), but it appears that now is the fullness of time. ;) So I've been praying for weeks that God would supernaturally give me the right words, increase my sloggy brain's capacity to think clearly, and allow me to write something that will deeply care for others. I appreciate your prayers on my behalf as I work out of great weakness and urgency. Thank you, friends! 

 1Charles H. Spurgeon, Faith's Checkbook (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992).

About the Author

Colleen Chao

Colleen Chao

Colleen Chao writes about God's goodness in her journey through singleness, depression, chronic illness, and stage-four cancer. She is the author of In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God: 31 Days of Hope, Honesty, and Encouragement for the Sufferer. … read more …

Join the Discussion