I was 41 in April 2007 when we were hit “out of the blue” with a diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer. Another bombshell followed: a 50% survival rate (due to the unknown spread of the cancer). Even as believers, we face fear and grapple with multiple unknowns. I trust that this retelling of how our crisis touched the lives of my family, my church, and others with whom cancer bonds were forged will encourage your heart in unexpected ways.
Immediately following diagnosis, the doctors ordered extensive testing to determine the spread of the cancer. We awaited the results. One evening after putting our children to bed, my husband and I sat down at the kitchen table together. “We are supposed to rejoice,” he said. “What do we rejoice in?”
I agreed with the rejoicing part but honestly was at a loss to respond. I am an optimistic, positive person, but numbed thoughts cluttered my mind. All I could think to reply was that maybe the testing would show that the cancer had not spread – that the prognosis was not as bad as we feared. We realized we could hang on to that perspective through the testing process, but what if the results came back worse than we were hoping? What would we be able to rejoice in then?
Luke 10:20 had our answer: “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
What a blessing and unwavering comfort this verse became. Along with a multitude of other passages (e.g., Ps. 16:5, 11; 2 Cor. 4 [especially vs. 16-18]; and the book of 1 Peter), Luke 10:20 continues to be a God-given companion on this unexpected journey. The Word of God never fails to provide rich, abiding, and unfailing comfort.
Isaiah 41:10 is another passage that has repeatedly anchored our souls in the dark nights of uncertainty, as we continue to wait on the Lord.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
God’s Word has been a constant through all the twists and turns, and ups and downs of nearly twenty-one months of cancer surgery and hard-hitting treatment. Scripture reminds us that He is right in the middle of the journey with us. We do not have to fear or lose heart.
Another way He has strengthened us and shown us that He is our God involves the harvest of spiritual fruit. John 4:35 says, “Behold, I say unto you, ‘Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38 and Luke 10:2 also say, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
Just hours after we received the news of my cancer, a dear ministry friend phoned. In the course of our conversation, my heart’s burden to reach others for Christ began to grow in brand new ways. Although I had shared the Gospel regularly throughout my adult life, that night in late April 2007, I immediately sensed an overwhelming burden for others who faced cancer, yet without knowing Christ and the certainty of the salvation He had purchased on the cross. I knew that I was ready to enter eternity, even if it was earlier than I had ever anticipated. Yet the fact that others were regularly facing the same grim prognosis but without Christ, hope, or peace gripped my soul.
In spite of the unexpected “bombshell” just a few hours earlier, that night I had peace in my heart. I knew the confident assurance of the Everlasting Arms enfolding me and the certain reality of an eternity with Christ whenever He summoned me to live with Him. Before hanging up the phone, I told my friend that I could foresee our family experiencing the prayers and support of many believers – a tremendous blessing for which we would be so thankful.
Yet I was also burdened that such an outpouring of energy, resources, and care would focus upon us, instead of toward those in greater need – those without the light of the Gospel. These people needed to hear the truth while there was still time for them to call on God for eternal life and forgiveness of sins. To this day my greatest desire for those supporting us is that they share Christ with those who still do not know Him.
Unknown to me at that time, God was beginning to unfold something incredibly exciting!
That story will come in next week’s post.
Click here for part two.