Drabbles from the Depths

I didn’t know what a “drabble” was until just recently. It’s an extremely short work of fiction of exactly 100 words in length. Nicole McLernon, 21 year old daughter of my good friends Mike and Patty McLernon, recently wrote a “super-drabble” – ten drabbles in a row. She based it on some of the lyrics to my song, Out of the Depths, from our Psalms CD.

Nicole unpacks what it might mean to “wait on the Lord” when you find out your daughter has cancer. Although her piece is fictional, the situation is all too familiar. I was affected by her portrayal of a struggling heart learning to submit to God’s wisdom and truth revealed in the gospel. This is one aspect of what worship leaders seek to do every time they stand before a congregation – help people see how the mercy of God meets them in the midst of their trials.

Out of the depths
“I’m sorry.” The doctor looks into my eyes then back down to the floor. “It’s cancer. Your daughter has lymphoma.”

My world reels.

“But you can treat it, can’t you?” My daughter, my 14-year-old princess? Cancer?

“I’m sorry,” he says again.

This is not happening. I am an oncology nurse. I administer chemotherapy; I hold the patient’s hand when they are too weak to even speak; I call the doctor when the patient does not respond; I am silent with the family after they’ve said their last goodbyes.

“It’s progressed too far.”

“How long?”

“2 months.”

I cannot even cry.

Oh Lord, I cry to You
I stumble out of the room. There is my daughter, sitting there. Her eyes lock with mine. I try desperately to fill my eyes with hope, try to give some strength even in my gaze.

I fail.

Her eyes question me. Oh, God. How am I supposed to answer that question? How am I supposed to deliver my daughter’s death sentence? Nothing in my life had prepared me for the rush of love I felt when she was born, when I first heard her cry, when she was placed in my arms for the first time, when her life began.

When I am tempted to despair
Now, nothing in my life has prepared me for this. For the rush of love I feel for her as I search for words that speak of the end, of the grave, of the long goodbye.

I must sit down.

I walk slowly, haltingly. I lower myself into the seat next to my precious little girl. Her eyes have not left my face.

I take her hand.


Was it a minute? Ten seconds? An eternity?

She speaks.


A deep sigh wells up from within me. I strangle the urge to let it out.

“Piper?” I must do this.

Though I might fail to trust Your promises
“Piper. The doctor said it’s too late. We didn’t catch the cancer in time.”

I am calm. Or perhaps I am dreaming and I shall wake up momentarily.

“What does that mean?”

“It means we…” Oh, God. “We only have a little time left.”

“How long?”

“He said two months.”

Am I really having this conversation?

Only now does she look away. But just because she has flung herself into my arms. I wait for tears to start. For her heart-wrenching sobs that will surely shatter mine.

Here they come.

I stroke her hair, silently. There is nothing to say.

You never fail to hear my prayer
We start radiation, hoping not for a cure but just some comfort. Piper is the bravest of us all. She endures. Still, I do not cry.

I hold her hand, like I’ve held so many patients’ hands before. But this time, I am the weary family member. This time, it is my heart breaking.

I bring in chocolate fudge swirl ice cream one day. Piper smiles at me, her eyes alight with joy. She takes a bite. Her face twists in displeasure and shock. The radiation has changed her taste buds so that she cannot even enjoy her favorite treat.

In every trial and loss
“Mom?” She tries to cover up her disappointment in a brave effort to encourage me. “Thanks for bringing it in.”

She looks so small, sitting there in that hospital bed, wearing that ridiculous gown. We’ve laughed about the gown. We call it her “simply telling us people interesting dragons” or “stupid” for short. Piper has always loved words. She’s always learning new ones, sprinkling her conversation with vocabulary that she’s picked up over the years. She gets that from her dad.

Her dad. My husband. The man is exhausted. I finally sent him home last night to get some sleep.

My hope is in the Cross
We bring Piper home when it is clear that there is nothing more to be done. She said she didn’t want to remember her last days being in the sterile hospital environment. Her words, not mine.

The clouds are rolling in as we pull up the driveway. They are dark. Angry. Threatening.

Piper walks up to her bedroom, possibly for the last time. Weariness shrouds her body. Her shoulders stoop forward and she stumbles on the stairs. She makes no protest when Jack picks her up and carries her.

I cannot follow. I turn and run out of the house.

Where Your compassions never fail
“Are you listening?” I scream to the heavens.

As if in reply, thunder booms in the distance.

“How dare you do this? Are you truly all-powerful? All-knowing? Good or kind? What kind of sadistic monster does this to a child?”

Lightening illuminates the sky, causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. The wind swirls around me, whipping my hair around my face, into my eyes and open mouth. Thunder crashes, as if it is trying to frighten me. I am not afraid. I am furious.

“Can you hear me?” I shout again, expecting no answer.

So more than watchmen for the morning
The rain is pouring now. The trees and clouds perform a wild dance in front of me, driven by a relentless wind. I consider going back inside but I am too angry.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to watch your child suffer and die?” I can still be heard, despite the thunder.

There is a brilliant flash of lightening. The thunder rumbles, far in the distance and suddenly, the tempest is over.

The rain is falling gently now. It looks like heaven itself is crying.

Then I hear it, not with my ears, but in my heart.

I will wait for You, my God
“I killed my Son for you.”

That is all. I hear nothing else.

That is all I need to hear.

Tears begin to well up in my eyes. Tears that have not been shed since Piper was diagnosed. Healing tears for my parched soul.

He killed His Son. For me.

I turn, slowly, and walk back into the house. Up to the second floor. Into my daughter’s room.

She sleeps the exhausted sleep of the very ill. I sit down next to my beautiful, dying daughter and take her hand in mine, gently, softly.

“I love you, Piper.”

I wait.

© Nicole McLernon 2009


24 Responses to Drabbles from the Depths

  1. Daniel Patz April 29, 2009 at 10:47 AM #

    Wow. Thank you for posting this. This makes me weep. Bob, thanks for the song as well.

  2. Scott Holthaus April 29, 2009 at 10:50 AM #

    Thank you for sharing that.

  3. Trace Batton April 29, 2009 at 11:05 AM #

    Thank you for sharing this.

    My niece’s 26 year old husband has just been diagnosed with cancer.

    We are crying out to God on his behalf.

    We love and appreciate you and SGM.

    Trace Batton
    Sovereign Grace Church of Chesapeake, VA

  4. Mark Lioret April 29, 2009 at 11:25 AM #

    ok… so i’m trying to get myself together now, so i can get back to work… wow… beautiful, gut wrenching, honest.. reminds me of Rich Mullins’ song “Hard To Get”
    … “and I know that I’m just lashing out at the One who loves me most..”

    Thank you for sharing this…I pray that if I ever face something like this, I can find this kind of strength – I’ll look at this as an example…

  5. Dluxe April 29, 2009 at 11:59 AM #

    Wow. Should not have read *that* at the office.

    Thanks so much for posting this, Bob. And thank the young author for serving our souls.

  6. Russ Hutto April 29, 2009 at 12:16 PM #


  7. emily April 29, 2009 at 12:32 PM #

    i agree. reading this at the office was a bad idea. i’m unsucessfully holding back the tears. wow.

    it is a gift to be able to express emotion so clearly in words and i’m grateful you shared this. there is so much here that my heart has felt over the past year and have been unable to put into words.

    thank you for sharing this and encouraging my soul today. i have been grateful for this song since the first time i heard it at last year’s worship conference and the drabbles give new dimension to that. thanks.

  8. Satchell Drakes April 29, 2009 at 1:02 PM #

    That was something.

  9. Fred McKinnon April 29, 2009 at 1:08 PM #

    phew … just read when I came back from lunch – where’s the disclaimer at the top that says “don’t read if you have a beautiful princess daughter” …

    Powerful – words are oh, so powerful.

  10. Anthony April 29, 2009 at 2:19 PM #

    As I read this I had many thoughts, but the first was “why listen to the voice of man over the Word of God?” Although it is a sensitive topic, I have walked through a similar road and I learned that a death sentence in the natural, is not necessarily God’s will for His children. In my case, it was a time for learning what the Word of God says about healing and choosing to stand in faith and believe the promises of God’s Word. If I did not do that, my wife might not be alive today, and I am glad that we did. When the doctors and my wife’s symptoms all said “it’s not looking good” and the “voice of darkness” told me that I would not have a wife anymore, I had a choice to make. I could listen to the voice of the darkness (along with what is seen in the natural) or the Word of God that says. The Word of God told me “surely she will live and not die and declare the goodness of God” and “no weapon formed against her shall prosper” and “the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in her to quicken her mortal body unto healing”. And God’s Word cannot lie.

    Two great books on the topic of faith and healing are:
    “Jesus the Healer” and “Two Kinds of Faith” both by E.W. Kenyon.

    • Bob Kauflin April 29, 2009 at 3:33 PM #

      Anthony, thanks for stopping by. If you took your understanding of Scripture to its natural conclusion, no Christian would ever die of a disease if they had enough faith. That teaching not only contradicts church history, but it is simply unbiblical. God is able to heal anyone at any time. But for his own sovereign purposes, he often chooses not to. People with faith escaped the edge of the sword and were killed by the sword (Heb. 11:34, 37). We can infer that some people with faith are healed and some aren’t. Our faith is not ultimately in our physical healing in this life, but in God’s sovereign, wise, and loving care for his children, who have been purchased through the blood of Jesus Christ.

  11. Joe April 29, 2009 at 2:41 PM #

    Yes reading this at the office was not the best idea.

    I have not cried like that in a while. Oh my…

    My heart is gripped by the power of God’s love for me and the unfathomable cost of my salvation.

    I am teaching my Adult Fellowship Group now through a series on God’s Sovereignty in Adversity. This serves as a powerfully written illustration of just that.

    I pray Nicole will bless the church more with her writing.

    Thank you Bob for posting this!

  12. Ken April 30, 2009 at 10:47 AM #

    Anthony, My wife did not survive at age 41. What are you telling me? Not enough faith? She deserved it? Bad person? Thank God He was sufficient even in her death. Anthony, remember Jesus died also by God’s own design. Not because of a lack of faith or sin but by God’s design. I don’t understand but I thank Him for it.

  13. west April 30, 2009 at 11:03 AM #

    Thank you. You have refreshed the hearts of the saints (Philemon 7). Tears…

    And thank you Bob, for always equipping the saints for ministry (Eph 4.12). I wouldn’t have related Nicole’s work to worship leadership. For me, it is far too easy and tempting to sum up my responsibilities in terms of musical accompaniment. It’s where I’m comfortable. In my laziness, I fail to remember that a large part of my job is indeed to help “struggling hearts learn to submit to God’s wisdom and truth revealed in the gospel”. That, at least for me, is the hard work of worship leadership. So thanks again for your commitment to equip the saints to do just that.


  14. Anthony April 30, 2009 at 11:26 AM #

    Bob, I know it is an issue that challenged Believers for some time and I am not saying that God chooses to heal all of the time. I have certainly seen both sides, but a sad and disturbing trend in the body of Christ, is that too many Christians are willing to believe that God wants to use bad more than good to bring glory to His name and I don’t believe that is the case. He came that we may life and have it more abundantly.

    I can say without a doubt that “God’s people have perished for lack of knowledge” because that is what the Word says in Hosea 4:6. This lack of knowledge includes not having knowledge of His Word that says that “He came that we may have life (on this earth) and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). To take this scripture to the next level is to say that God would rather have us well than sick and to have rather than to not have. Does that mean that there will be no sickness or death? Absolutely not; although He does promise to show himself faithful in those times.

    For years, I lived with a defeatist Christian mentality that said “God was allowing all of this bad stuff to happen for his glory” then I learned that it just wasn’t true according to His Word. When a revelation of the Word changes your life the way it has mine, it leaves no room for doubt as to the power of the Written and Spoken Word of God.

    If we (as the body of Christ) fed ourselves with the Word the way we often do with sports, news, soap operas, reality shows, and all of the other nonsense we fill our minds and souls with, we would change the world the way God has preordained us to. The world would see God in us and they would see Christians operating in the power and anointing of the Word rather than reacting to the world.

    I share this with all humility and to His glory alone.

  15. Anthony April 30, 2009 at 4:22 PM #

    Ken, my heart is deeply moved by what you shared.. I believe my follow up message addresses your question (“Does that mean that there will be no sickness or death? Absolutely not; although He does promise to show himself faithful in those times.”)

    I was not in any way implying that because someone dies a premature natural death, it is a result of sin, being bad, out of God’s will, or not having enough faith (there are lots of misled people who do believe like that, and I am not one of them). I am not sure it is an equal comparison to compare the death of Jesus with anything else in history however.

    As you stated, I too, do not fully understand God’s ways and we never will until we are reunited with Him.

    Ken, I am truly sorry for your loss. Having walked through a season of illness with my wife, I probably can empathize more than most. I pray that the God of peace gives you comfort everyday when you sense the loss of your beloved.

    Because He lives…

  16. Anthony April 30, 2009 at 4:25 PM #

    Please also note, my hearts intention was not to in any way discredit the author, start a debate, or offend anyone. I was just attempting to share from my heart (in love and humility)which reflects my personal experiences from my Spiritual Journey.

  17. Ken May 1, 2009 at 10:11 AM #


    Thank you for your kind response.

  18. Bernard Shuford May 4, 2009 at 1:17 PM #


  19. Josue May 6, 2009 at 3:58 PM #


  20. Jeff May 22, 2009 at 2:06 PM #

    I shouldn’t have read this at work, blubbering…everything goes back to Christ, our all-in-all


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