A few years ago I happened upon the blog of a woman who had just been diagnosed with cancer—only a few days before her wedding. She wrote something that has stuck with me all these years. She said, “Tomorrow I will have cancer. Today I will have cake.”
At the time I was writing a novelette about a girl in Ravensbruck concentration camp during World War II. As a child I was fascinated with that time period and with concentration camps in particular. Yet something baffled me. What gave Christians, people who knew without a doubt they would spend eternity in heaven, the strength to keep fighting? To live through such horrible suffering? I don’t mean suicide; I mean why didn’t they just give up and let their bodies stop trying, stop fighting for each breath?
Little did I know that years later I would be in my own kind of prison, trapped within my body, suffering pain and exhaustion every day of my life. Years later, the answer to that childhood question would be vital to my own well-being.
As a teen I sought God in my questions, and He gave me an answer. Two answers, actually, as to why His people kept fighting for this life which can be so despicable at times.
First of all, we live for others. There are so many people on this earth who do not yet have that assurance of an eternity of joy. Many of them rub shoulders with us every day. We live, we endure suffering for one more minute because in that minute we just might have the chance to point someone to salvation.
Corrie ten Boom
Look at Corrie and Betsie ten Boom. When those sisters were in concentration camps, they spent every moment of their time seeking ways to understand God more clearly, to love Him more deeply, and to pass on that understanding to the prisoners around them. Many people accepted the saving grace of God because the Ten Booms were there suffering beside them, because those women chose to live another day for as long as their bodies could muster up the strength.
The second reason God showed me those people were able to keep living brings me back to my opening paragraph. They chose to eat cake. They chose to find joy in God and in life, no matter what horrible things they were going through physically and emotionally.
I named my novelette “I Will Dance” because my character found that joy. She knew that God was still good, that there were still things in life worth praising. Even as she stood with painful toothpick-thin legs on that filthy prison floor, she would choose to dance.
She also knew that the day ultimately would come when she would dance before Jesus on those golden streets of heaven. This suffering is only temporary. “I will dance today. And I will dance forever.”
In this world my own dancing has to be done internally, emotionally. The joy is expressed in my heart, but my body does not allow for much dancing with my legs. (I can, however, still eat cake!)
When I die I hope no one says I will “rest in peace.” No, I did all the resting I need here on this earth. I hope you all will say, “Dance in peace, girl, dance!”
sxc by galofgray
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