Today is a very special day for me for more than one reason. It is my birthday, but it is also the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I would like to share something that is near and dear to my heart. I would love to hear your feedback. Thank you for sharing this day with me.
It was a brisk November day as I made my way across the parking lot and into the doctor’s office. My mind was going in several different directions as I mentally made a to-do list and tried to decide how to spend my day – my birthday. The appointment should not take long. It was just a follow-up from my procedure a few weeks earlier. I was so lost in thought that I almost didn’t hear the nurse call my name. It seemed a little odd that she didn’t stop and have me weigh in – always my least favorite – maybe it was her birthday present to me. The sweet little nurse ushered me into the doctor’s office and not the normal exam room. It was out of the ordinary, but the waiting room was so full I didn’t think much about it. I simply made myself comfy on the couch, pulled out my Kindle and started reading.
Before long, the doctor entered the room with my chart. He had this serious look on his face and then said, “We need to talk.” The pause seemed like an eternity. “The path results came back and it’s not good. It’s cancer.” After hearing the “C” word everything else went into slow motion. Jumbled phrases were making their way through the fog, “Caught it early,” “surgery is necessary,” and “most likely contained.” I couldn’t believe this was happening. I’m only in my 30s. This was just a follow-up. The doctor has to have picked up the wrong file. I simply needed to wake-up. It had to just be a nightmare. The next thing I know I am handed an appointment card for a specialist – gynecological oncologist – in Indianapolis.
As I exited the doctor’s office, I knew that life as I had known it had changed. I walked across the cold parking lot so full of so many thoughts – now what? How will we tell the kids? What will we tell them? How will this affect them? – gone was my to-do list for the day. I immediately phoned my husband and barely made the word cancer come out of my mouth.
My mom drove me home from Terre Haute. Silence was the theme for the rest of the afternoon. With little Maddy in the car our conversation consisted of a look now and then or a touch on my hand. Arriving home seemed so conflicting. This was my home, my refuge, my safe place and I just felt like running and hiding.
Mitch came through the door and our eyes met. Volumes were spoken without a sound. I felt his love, compassion and concern. He held me and said, “We will get through this.”
That afternoon, we decided not to tell the kids. The word cancer would strike such fear and concern in them; we decided it was best to wait until after the surgery. We would have a better idea what we were dealing with at that time.
Over the course of the next few days, the news really hit me. I couldn’t make sense of it all. I had just started as a small group facebook leader for Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study, leading a writer’s critique group, preparing for a conference, keeping up with a new church and my family. How could I possibly serve you God? I must be healthy and strong.
I could not see that this could possibly be God’s desire for my life. You have to be healthy and able to work in ministry, right? You don’t see Lysa TerKeurst, Kay Arthur or Beth Moore speaking from a hospital bed? How could I give to others when I was in such pain? I sat down with my Bible to try and find some help, comfort and guidance. Who could understand these struggles? The disciples were walking with Christ, ministering to people, meeting needs and healing, but they were all strong and able.
I was hung up on my health, my circumstances, and my struggles. I had to find someone to relate to, and then I thought of Job.
Job: Standing Strong in Spite of Circumstances
Job was a man of God who had it all – wife, children, wealth, livestock and health. However, in a short time he lost it all. Satan claimed that Job was only faithful to God because of all that he had and once it was stripped away, Job would turn his back on God. Satan was about to see what Job’s faith was really made of.
I love the description of Job in verse 22 of the first chapter, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (NIV). The Life Application Bible explains this verse even further; “he reacted rightly toward God by acknowledging God’s sovereign authority over everything God had given him. Job passed the test and proved that people can love God for who he is, not for what he gives” (Life Application, 765). Job didn’t blame God, instead kept going.
Job had faith in the midst of struggles I cannot even begin to imagine or wrap my mind around. Even though friends and family told Job to simply curse God and die, he would not give in. He made the choice to continue to have faith, serve and love in spite of his circumstances. He could have easily decided to stop and focus solely on his struggles instead of on God.
The question really becomes, where is your hope? Sometimes we get down because we do not have enough hope. But more often than not the problem is that we have too much hope in all the wrong things. We have hope because of the price Christ paid for our salvation, AND hope in our bank account, AND hope due to our family, AND our possessions, AND hope due to our health, AND… But what if those other things were taken away, like they were for Job? Would we still have sufficient hope? I had to ask myself, “who or what was I putting my hope and trust in?”
Due to my health conditions, God had slowed the pace of things for me. During this season, the word “rely” kept coming to mind. This past Christmas, I was unable to do the normal preparations, so I had to rely on others to step in and help out. During my surgery and hospital stay, I had to rely on doctors and nurses to care for me as well as family members to care for the kids in my absence. Due to restrictions, I needed to rely on others for quite a while. However, I learned through this to rely solely on God. No amount of stress or anxiety will change my circumstances. However, I can rest assured that I am safely held in the palm of God’s hand, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV). The same promise is true for you dear friend. This wonderful passage in Isaiah tells us not to be afraid – even with a cancer diagnosis – because God is with us. He goes on to tell us that we belong to Him, “I am your God.” And then He promises to strengthen, help and hold us. When dark times come, God wants to wrap His loving arms around us. Think of all the ways God has helped you.
When doubts and fears come into our lives, we simply need to turn into the safety that only God can provide. I am certain there is someone reading this thinking, Yeah, that’s great for you, but you don’t know what is going on in my life. You are right, I don’t, but trust me when I tell you I have been in some dark times and places in my life and I wanted to do nothing but hide. It is no secret that we live in very uncertain times and it doesn’t matter whether your doubts and fears are great or small, either way God longs to take all those from you. Trust that He is more than enough for you. In doing so, we will emulate Job and make the decision to trust God no matter what the circumstances may be.
Vitamins – Tough Pill to Swallow
Where are you placing your faith and trust for your health? Are you relying on God, others or yourself? Many people turn to medicines or vitamins to keep themselves healthy and strong.
I do not know about you, but I am not a big fan of taking vitamins. You know what I am talking about, the huge pills that are not only difficult to swallow, but also leave a bad taste in your mouth. This is not to say that I do not see the importance in vitamins, I just prefer to get mine through food – much easier to swallow.
There are so many different vitamins that they had to start adding numbers into the mix, say B12 for example (BINGO! Oh wait, that’s something different). It’s hard to keep them all straight in my head.
When talking about vitamins, I immediately think of vitamin C. It is in several delicious foods like oranges, kiwis and strawberries. The importance of vitamin C cannot be overstated. It plays a crucial role in boosting our immune system, iron absorption, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, just to name a few. It is impossible for the body to store this vitamin, therefore, you have to get your daily supply or your overall health will suffer.
Christ – The Essential C
Vitamins are important in our diet. But there is one C that is essential – no, not vitamin C or calcium – it is Christ. Similar to vitamin C, you need to have a daily supply of time with Christ or your relationship with Him will suffer. Without Him we do not have hope, with Him we have so much more than we could ever hope or imagine, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20, NKJV). This is one of my favorite verses and the driving force behind Escape Clause. When you and I attach these loopholes to our prayers, we are in essence limiting God. This verse tells us that God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly” more than we could ever think or imagine. Let that soak in a minute. Why don’t you and I step back and allow God to move and watch in utter amazement.
Job knew what was important for his health and well-being. He was steadfast in his faith. The same needs to be true of you and me. No matter what circumstances come into your life, Christ is beside you every step of the way. Even in the midst of dire circumstances, Job remains faithful to God. Although Job does not understand why he is going through this suffering, he still declares that God is the creator of all, full of wisdom and the only hope for the future. Just as Job shows, sometimes suffering and the trials in our lives shape and mold us for a special service to others. We have to ask ourselves if we are truly willing to trust God in spite of unanswered questions.
Stop making excuses in your prayers. God can use you no matter your ability; weak, strong; blind, seeing; paralyzed or walking. It is a matter of the inside – the heart, not what is on the outside or our physical limitations. Choose to have a heart for service and God will use you.
In order to have a tight grip on God then we have to let go of the excuses we are holding on to. It comes down to a choice; are you going to limit yourself and God or are you going to fully rely on Him?
The “C” word has been bad news in my family in the past. It rocked me to the core. How could this happen? I have five small children. I thought God was going to use me, how can I work for Him if my health isn’t good? My amazing friends, family and Online Bible Study family stepped up in a major way and sent cards, emails, food, flowers and numerous prayers. I decided to hand over the control – remove the escape clause and simply rely on God and His plan.
Fast forward to the week after my surgery, the phone rang and it was the doctor’s office. I thought they were just calling to check on me regarding the surgery. The pathology results were not due for two more weeks. However, the results were in – everything was taken care of and no further treatments were needed. I was overwhelmed and dropped to my knees and thanked God. He gets all the glory for this result.
I am not saying that escape clauses will never come up again in my prayers, but I have certainly witnessed God working, especially when I set everything aside – my pride, fears and control – to let Him have complete control.
I challenge you to examine your own life. Are you putting limitations on your submission and service to God? If so, let Him edit out all those escape clauses and see the blessings flow into your life.