When you hear the words, “The breast cancer has spread to your liver; you are now stage four,” your world and life as you know it are changed forever. You are faced with a crisis of belief and your faith is tested.
That was my experience in August 2013. During the next year, I would undergo 20 rounds of chemo, 32 radiation treatments, and an ablation of the cancerous lesion on my liver. In April 2014 I was considered to be in remission.
While in active cancer treatment, I read a quote by Oswald Chambers: “A crisis doesn’t make a person; it reveals what they are already made of.” My crisis certainly revealed what I was made of—some areas were good, some needed work.
Here are three truths that were confirmed to me at that time:
1.) God’s promises are personal. I’ve always admired the Bible characters who acted in great faith during their own crisis of belief because they clung to God’s promises like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Paul. But I never needed to claim these same promises as my own. My crisis didn’t create this truth, I already knew it and just needed to put it into action. My health may fail, and and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart (and body); he is mine forever (Psalm 73:26).
2.) God’s presence is permanent. How many times had I heard and even said myself, “God’s with you; you don’t need to be afraid.” I must be honest; this cancer crisis tested my faith on this truth. There were days and nights when I questioned and couldn’t feel God’s presence through the physical and emotional pain. Did that mean He wasn’t there and had abandoned me in my greatest time of weakness? No. Instead His promise was revealed that although He didn’t remove my pain, He was there going through it with me.
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
3.) God’s peace is perfect. Isaiah 26:3 says “you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” I was reminded of this truth and promise on several occasions. When you are in active cancer treatment, your calendar fills up quickly with doctor appointments, tests and scans. It’s those days between the test and waiting for the results that can cause the greatest anxiety. It is in these times that your mind can go a million directions of “what-ifs.” You can’t let your mind wander; it must be steadfast on God and His goodness and perfect peace at all times.
My crisis didn’t make me who I am, it just revealed and reminded me of what I already know in my heart to be true.
Cancer Strikes Again
On April 15, 2015, my faith was tested again when I was told the cancer was back on my liver and that this time it is “not curable, only treatable.” These words can shake your world and trigger a sense of hurt and hopelessness.
My first reaction was anger; not at God necessarily, but at the cancer itself. I was just getting my life back to normal. I was a survivor. I had fought cancer and won. I was an overcomer. But on that day in April, all those victories meant nothing.
The truth that has been revealed to me now is that this cancer battle is not mine to fight! God’s plans are to prosper me and to glorify Himself and not for me to question or try to control. I Chronicles tells us of the children of Israel crying out to God: They “they were helped in fighting them (their physical enemies) because they cried out to him during the battle (I Chronicles 5:20a).
I don’t know what battle you may be fighting right now or how confident you feel in defeating your enemies”; I can only speak for myself. And I’m saying, I’m done fighting a battle I have little-to-no control over. I once thought I was strong enough to fight this enemy of cancer on my own. Being an experienced veteran of this nonsense, I believed I knew what to do, how to think, what to say, how to feel, etc.
That’s so not the case! I am in a battle with an enemy that is determined to destroy me. I have no control on what cancer does to my body. Cancer is not like heart disease or obesity where you can change your lifestyle and you are cured. Sure, I can eat better, think positive thoughts, pray for healing, but in the end it is God’s battle to fight, not mine (I Chronicles 5:22).
I have cried out to Him in the middle of this battle with cancer because I know He’s going through it with me and I know He hears my cries. I also know that God will have the final say of when and where I am healed—here on earth or in heaven—but He will heal me. So have I given up? Not at all, but I have given up using my precious energy trying to be a something bigger and badder than me and I’m trusting God to do the fighting.
Instead, I am concentrating on living! I am determined to make the most of my good days to do the things I want to do, go to the places I want to go and be with the people I want to be with. I try not to (but it’s not always easy) wonder and worry how this cancer battle is going to end but rather fix my mind on God’s perfect peace taking control of what I can and being grateful for the blessings I have in this present moment.