Friday, April 13, 2012

Cancer -- To Prosper and Not to Harm

April 13, 2007. Do you remember what you were doing on this day? It is a date that changed our family. Yes, it was Friday the 13th, but it was also my Pappaw’s birthday who had passed away 2 years prior. April 13, 2007, was also the date my mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

Cancer is not a journey that anyone voluntarily goes on. We often see the companion of cancer as death, but just as often it can be a transformed life.

My mom chose Jeremiah 29:11 as her verse for the journey. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you’.” How can cancer not be harmful? How can cancer prosper anyone? “’plans to give you a hope and a future’.” What hope is there in cancer? What kind of future is there after cancer – death? These are the exact questions I asked God. Here is what He led me through.

As a Christian our hope is in Christ and so is our future. Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” By dying a Christian gets to go home. It’s a future that we all should long for as Christians. Heaven is our ultimate future, and it’s why we have hope. We know we don’t have to be separated from God forever. This isn’t exactly what I wanted to hear from God, but I had already learned this lesson when a friend of mine died in her early 40s leaving behind a husband and 3 small children. This was her life verse, and it was said several times during her funeral. While we don’t understand why God chooses to spare some and call others home, we have to realize that He is in control, and He is on the throne.

The first part of that verse is what gave me the most trouble. How could cancer possibly be prosperous? How could anyone think that cancer wasn’t harmful? God’s version of prosperous and harmful I discovered were not the same as mine. SURPRISE! At the beginning of the cancer journey, I couldn’t possibly see how I would even be grateful for cancer, but I can honestly tell you that I grew the most spiritually during that journey, and I am thankful for that. I would not be where I am today had my family not walked through cancer. My reliance on men was changed to reliance on God – He is the one who holds the future. As in the prayer of Jabez, God extended our borders as to whom we could related and minister to.

As a matter of fact, we didn’t realize just who all we were ministering to. We are still hearing about people who were receiving treatment when mom was. You see, every time mom went for chemo, Lori and I made sure that there was a surprise. We wanted her to expect a surprise instead of dread the drug. There was a tea party with her girlfriends. Her grandbabies showed up at a treatment with gifts. A former student showed up with boxing gloves and boxing shorts to read a poem I wrote like Howard Coselle. There was her own paper gown bedazzled for her and many other things along the way. But the one that people still talk about at the chemo lab and the one we hear about from time to time was the last treatment when about 10-12 friends and family showed up at the chemo lab to have a time of praise and worship. We didn’t exactly have permission, but what were they going to do? Kick us out?

As the CD played, we sang. Scripture was read. Nurses joined us while we sang. Patients in other booths worshipped with us as their family members meandered our way. People called on their cell phones to other family members so they could hear the praise and worship. It wasn’t that our singing was so wonderful, but it was because it was hope. It took their focus off the chemo and placed it on the Lord of Lords, the Great Physician. A couple of years later, a man figured out that Lori was the daughter of the woman who had singing in the chemo lab. He said mom’s last day of chemo was his wife’s first day. She had been nervous and scared, but when the music started, she was determined to see what was going on. She walked over and listened. He said that it made her first treatment so much better than he could have hoped for. His wife had lost the battle to cancer, but he was so grateful for the gift of praise and worship that first day at chemo.

Cancer didn’t harm our family. It made our family stronger and closer than we already were. There’s nothing like a crisis to test the metal of a person, a family, or of your faith. God didn’t harm us. He grew us in our faith. Would the outcome be different if my mom had died? Yes. It would have meant that God would have expanded our borders even further. It would have meant that He was keeping my mom safe from further pain and discomfort. We would have grieved like those who have hope in seeing her again in heaven. We would have celebrated her life. Instead in January of 2008 after she had completed her chemo and radiation, we had a celebration party in order to give God the glory for bringing us through this trial. We celebrated it at our church with family and friends. In essence, we were building an altar like those in the Old Testament giving God the glory for what He had done.

Today is the five-year anniversary of that cancer diagnosis, and mom has a clean bill of health. To God be the glory.

1 comment:

  1. To God be the Glory! We are stronger!


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