When I was just 37 years old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember thinking: This can’t be happening! I don’t have time to have cancer. I am perfectly healthy with no risk factors for cancer and absolutely no family history of cancer. My kids start school next week. My house is for sale. I have to go to work. I teach the youth in Sunday school. I am way too busy for this!
Suddenly life as I had known it came to a screeching halt. I was immediately uncertain as to what my future would be like and how much of a future I even had. I was plagued with the questions that are so common to those newly diagnosed with a potentially devastating disease: What about my kids? What if I don’t live to see them grow up? What if the doctors don’t have the cure for my kind of cancer? What if it is worse than they think?
As I struggled to walk through the confusion and fear of having cancer, God consistently demonstrated His immeasurable mercy, love, and grace and carried me through one of the most challenging experiences of my life. These are some of the lessons I learned on that journey.
God knows and God provides
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8, NIV).
I clearly remember reaching the altar after my dad walked me down the aisle at my wedding. I looked at my husband-to-be and the pastor and quietly said, “Well, I made it this far but have completely forgotten everything I am supposed to do, so you will have to tell me.” And of course they did. That is where I suddenly found myself again. I had come to this place in a battle with cancer and was bewildered and perplexed as to what to do next. On one hand, I was desperate for more information. At the same time I was overwhelmed by it all—all the supportive friends who were sharing their own experiences with me, the different doctors’ recommendations, the endless amount of information on the Internet, the books I had been given—all of it. And then the God of my life reminded me that He knew what I needed to do next. He knew the next step, and He knew what would be the right decision for me. After all, He was the author of it all. So I decided to depend on Him to guide me and help me sift through the daunting amounts of information before me. I decided to trust that He would make His will for my life known, just as He had so many times in the past. And of course, once again, He did just that.
Trusting God to lead me is one of the greatest challenges I face in times of uncertainty. It can be difficult to relinquish control of my life to someone else—even to God. But I must remember that there is no one who knows me better—and what I need at every moment of every day—than the God who created me.
I know why I was created
“Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7, NIV).
I was created to give God glory. I knew that before I was diagnosed with cancer, and I am just as certain today. When cancer invaded my world, people asked me if I ever wondered “Why?” I remember telling my mother that I hadn’t felt inclined to ask “Why?” She said that is because we knew why: To bring glory to God. She was right. Just as with every other celebration and heartache, the answer to “Why?” remained the same: “To give God glory.”
We are at our best when we are doing what we are created for. A car is not very helpful as it sits in the garage, and a book is unable to share its knowledge if left unread. The Bible says I am “formed and made” for God’s glory. Therefore, I am not fulfilling my purpose if my life is not giving glory to Him. Praising and worshiping God is where I find peace, fulfillment, and hope in this life because that is why I was created.
That doesn’t mean I am wrong to have human emotions. God gave me every emotion that I experience—including fear, frustration, anger, and insecurity. But He has also provided what I needed to deal effectively with those emotions and to be victorious through each trial in my life. And so throughout my journey with cancer, I strived to give God glory even with my tears, my frustrations and my weariness. I wanted to “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV).
God is on His throne
“God is seated on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8, NIV).
When my life was filled with confusion and chaos, there was nothing more reassuring than to be reminded that God was, indeed, still on His throne. It was only from my limited, human perspective that life seemed so out of control. Then God would once again remind me that He had me perfectly balanced in the palms of His hands at all times. I had to trust that He was there. Trust that He was sovereign. Trust that He loved me. I had to keep believing that there was nowhere I could go where I would be removed from His presence and protection. I had to rest on His promise that He would never leave me.
Believing that God is always on His throne and that He is always sovereign in a world filled with trials and adversity brings me a peace that is unattainable by any other means. When my heart is filled with uncertainty, God is the author of peace. When life is painful and filled with suffering, God is the source of healing and comfort. When life seems so desperate that I am unable to see my way out of difficult circumstances, God remains the author of hope. Understanding God’s sovereignty provides peace and reassurance even in the darkest moments of my day. I will not fear because God never leaves His throne. I just need to continue to reach out, reach up, and grasp Him and His hope for my life.
I have heard stories over the years about the unexpected peace and quiet in the eye of a storm while being surrounded by powerful winds wreaking havoc and destruction. My cancer journey was like being in the eye of a storm with chaos swirling around me. That place of peace in the eye of the storm was God’s presence, and I had to constantly strive to remain there—focused on Him and His promises. Instead, what often happened was I became consumed with me. My circumstances. My health. My job. My friends. My children. My husband. All of it. I had to constantly challenge myself not to focus outward on all the chaos and circumstances surrounding me, but instead, focus upward on what is steadfast and true—my ever-constant, always dependable, never-changing God. He is in control. He is on His throne. He is orchestrating His plan for my life. He orders the world. He knows the number of hairs on my head. My life is in His hands. He is carefully holding me, loving me, caring for me. He is the Great Physician—not only of my body, but also of my mind, my heart, and my soul. Since my circumstances constantly fought for my focus and my attention, I had to remind myself that I had a choice to step into the gusting winds of confusion surrounding me or remain focused on God and experience the immeasurable peace He was able to bring to my life—even in the center of the storm.
The lessons remain
I am still left with the profound lessons from my battle with cancer and my unwavering gratitude that God allowed me to survive. People often asked how my experience with cancer changed my life. The complete answer to that question is still being determined, but I do know that I have learned a great deal about God and my relationship with Him. I have experienced even more difficult circumstances in my life since battling cancer, and the truths I learned about God and His plans for my life have resonated through them all. God is indeed good. He loves me. He hears my prayers. He always provides. I can trust Him. He is faithful. He has prepared me and equipped me for what lies ahead. He will give me rest. He is on His throne. Through it all God remains the same, and so does my purpose in life—to give Him glory.
Excerpts taken from Cindy’s book:
This Can’t Be Happening: A Story of Hope for Those with Cancer and Those Who Love Them