“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, Whose Word I praise, In God I trust; I shall not Be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4
We are told that most of what we fear never happens, so quit fearing, they say. And yet, God ordained cancer in my body in 2008. How ironic, I thought…The fear of the getting was gone. It was here, in all it’s terrifying prognosis. The diagnosis was a dual cancer, aggressive, Stage 3. The odds of survival were given, with and without this treatment or that. We opted for the plan which included many rounds of chemotherapy and intense external and internal radiation. The risks of the treatments alone were cause for trepidation.
God’s Word says to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Easier said than done…Yet God takes our greatest fears and transforms them into His teaching tools for all sorts of deficiencies in our lives. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” (Psalm 119:71-72)
It would be false to tell you the remedies were easy to endure. The fatigue was unlike any other-immobilizing. Radiation was worse than the chemotherapy. Exactly fourteen days after chemo started, alone in my bathroom, I began pulling huge clumps of hair from my head. I wept. Then God reminded me He had numbered the hairs on my head and now He was subtracting them for a season. Scripture came alive to my heart in a new way and I was comforted…More valuable than sparrows…
It has been eight and a half years since that diagnosis–a difficult journey with many more scares and procedures along the way, but God has given gentle mercy in giving life, not death, at this time. The oncologist pronounced me “cured” last year, adding, “I don’t get to say that often.” (Time will tell.) And I said, “All glory to God.”
The best part of cancer, that fearful friend, is the work of God in the soul. He took away the dread of death and replaced it with a longing to see Jesus. He gave a deep love for Christ not known before; He gave an overwhelming desire to know Him and to be satisfied with Himself above all healing. He gave a deep and empathetic compassion for others who suffer physically and emotionally. Widows and the depressed and the ill have special places in the heart.
God chose cancer, that greatest dread, to teach the sweetest things about His steadfast love, His patience, His tender care. He placed within the soul a deep longing for His return for us–His special people–those whom He has redeemed from their sin to be His very own possession. The greatest fear became a great gift, not to be traded for any earthly desire. We do not often learn God’s lessons for us in the best of times. Suffering is His hard schoolroom and He is the most excellent teacher…for our good…for His glory.
And so, today, prayers for those who are suffering take up pages in a prayer journal. And they go something like this:
Oh God of gentle and severe mercies,
Please comfort raw hearts, confused hearts, terrified hearts.
Wrap your arms around those of your children as they sleep, as they wake, as they go through lonely days of missing a spouse or longing for better days.
Lift their faces to Jesus.
Give them purpose outside themselves, to reach out to others who are grieving in various losses.
Dear Father, who understands all our sorrows and anxieties and panics, let these people know how very close You are to us, how You have ordained all things in our lives.
Teach them about Your always goodness.
Grant the desire to know You and love You more deeply than physical, emotional, or mental healing, (but please heal in Your good and perfect will.)
Break cycles of besetting sins.
May thoughts be brought captive to the obedience of Christ.
May Your glory be on display whether You give life or death.
Surround each one with loving, godly and gentle people who will nurture and care for needs, who will pray and encourage in the things of Christ.
And for those who do not belong to Christ, those who are helpless without You, give them Yourself, grant them repentance and faith in the One who alone can satisfy their deepest need for forgiveness of sin and eternal life by knowing Jesus.
A hymn-writer has penned:
“Whate’er my God ordains is right: though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.
Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet am I not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.”
Job suffered greatly with the loss of his children and his property, yet he was able to say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” During his suffering he was able to avow, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” And at the end of this great trial, after God took his good health and gave him friends and a spouse who were less than nurturing or encouraging, he affirmed God’s sovereignty over all things and proclaimed, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” God gave Job the gift of Himself and he was changed.
Jesus tells us in John 16:33. “…In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
And my prayers end with–“You, O God, are the great King of all kings, the Lord of all lords. You, alone, are worthy to be worshipped and praised. No matter what happens to us, You remain good, always good. ”
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of suffering. To Him alone be glory.