Rain sprinkled on my windshield as I sat in my car looking at the rays of color from red traffic light slicing through the darkness one Wednesday night after church. It was in that moment I was motivated by the Holy Spirit to pray something strange, something God would faithfully answer two years later.
“Lord, from childhood, You have led me to pray for other’s hurts and pains. As You substituted Yourself in my place, I pray Father God that if anybody in my family would ever get cancer, please give it to me to have in their place. I love You, Lord, and may You be ever glorified in and through my life. Amen.”
A lot happened after that prayer. Life went on, and I completely forgot what I had prayed. One day I found myself walking into our local coffee shop to buy a coffee, totally forgetting I didn’t even like coffee. The owners were friends of mine, and I enjoyed the atmosphere. And on that day, my friends introduced me to someone — Brittany — the answer to my lifelong prayers for the perfect girl.
“Let me introduce you to one of my staff members,” my friend said with a smile on his face. With that comment, the awkward just-met-you-for-the-first-time conversation was initiated. I left the coffee shop that night asking myself if she was the one and remembering what I had forgotten — I don’t like the taste of coffee.
Falling and Obeying
A Facebook friend request several days later kept my attention on the girl from the coffee shop. For years I had kept a prayer journal, and in this journal I had written a list: My Prayer for the Perfect Girl. Brittany was everything I had prayed for.
As our love grew for each other, God began to point us in the direction of marriage. The plan included waiting for her to finish nursing school and begin working at the local hospital. We just knew our lives would include each other and serving Christ somewhere in His great mission field. With my passion for evangelism and Brittany’s medical education, we knew God could use our combined skill set in the mission field. We were so excited about what was to come. I didn’t know what the Lord ultimately would have in store for us, but I knew I could trust Him.
A few months later, God prompted me: “I want you to go to Uganda with your home church.”
I pray constantly for the Lord to be blunt and direct with me, which He is. I just wish I were quick to be obedient. Instead of leaving me behind, God is always gracious and patient. And in my prayers, He consistently made it crystal clear I was going to Africa.
That trip was just what I needed at that time in my life. I came back home with an entirely new perspective: needs vs. wants, the great need to share the Gospel, God’s faithfulness and protection.
I came home, too, with sore eyes for Brittany, a sore body from traveling, and this small bump at the base of my neck. I tried to convince myself that the bump was probably nothing — an infection at worst.
Yet the bump never went away. It actually grew a little bit. Finally surgeons removed the swollen lymph node for a biopsy. I prayed and prayed to God about what it could be, and one day a peace that I cannot describe came over me. In the midst of that peace, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the prayer I had prayed years before at the red light.
I knew God had answered my prayer, and I knew I had cancer. The doctor confirmed the truth several days later.
I was hopeful though. Nothing is too great for my God. His grace is sufficient for me. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Those words became my battle cry to stay focused on Jesus. It was tough, and the war internally seemed to grow more intense.
“What about Brittany and our relationship?” I constantly thought about that question. I had already decided to propose to her. I even had the ring.
Remember what I said earlier? That I need things to be given to me bluntly and directly? Well, God spoke through both Brittany and my friend Josh in just that manner.
“I love you. No matter what happens, I will never leave you or forsake you,” she said. It was so special to hear Brittany tell me those words one afternoon before starting treatment. However, what my friend Josh told me wasn’t quite as reassuring.
“You having cancer is the most gracious thing God could have done for both Brittany and you at this time in your lives,” he said.
Wow. What? My having cancer is God’s grace to Brittany and me? I really didn’t know what Josh meant by that statement. I couldn’t comprehend how that was a good thing. Yet I carried his words with me throughout the next several months as my treatments increased.
He Was Right
Looking back at that time in my life, I can’t help but see God’s fingerprints all over it. He gave me an amazing woman who loves Him with all her heart, whose nursing school experience and tender care made my recovery that much more bearable. Family and friends were there for my every need, and my faith was strengthened through their love. The drives to and from treatment, days of sickness and weakness, hair loss and hair cuts, kind words and careless words, moments of frustration and trust all revealed God’s grace.
And eventually, Josh’s words of wisdom made perfect sense.