This time last year I was going to get an MRI “just to double check” that cancer was not in my body. I had checkups every 6 months because of my mom’s early diagnosis. Little did I know, a few days later I would get news that I never saw coming.
I’ve learned a lot this year about myself, my family, my relationship with God, and my relationship with others. Sometimes I wonder how in the world am I still here, alive and well, but we all know that answer if you’ve been following me for awhile.
It’s all because of Jesus.
These are some of the things that I have learned this year. They’re in no particular order, but I challenge you to read them slowly and think about what you can learn from my struggle. My prayer is the Lord speaks to your heart. He see you, He knows you, and most importantly, He loves you so very much.
Surrendering to God’s plan is the ONLY way. – Very soon after my cancer diagnosis, I realized that I could not do this on my own. I needed my family and friends, but mostly importantly I needed the Lord. The really awesome thing about God is that He never changes, ever. He is constant; yet, it sometimes feels like he is closer or further away depending on my life circumstances. Thankfully, thats just me and my feelings NOT Him. He is constant. He is always near.
Many people have commented on how “strong” I’ve been through all of this and how I have been able to get through it and still be sane. The only thing I can say is, Jesus. It’s all because of Him. Peace – the kind that is unexplainable – washes over me the minute I realize I need him and I’m trying to do it all on my own. When I surrender to Him, peace resumes. Every single time.
Fight Fear with Love – This year was scary. My life was in possible jeopardy and my son’s hearing was compromised. It has been a roller coaster of emotions. The more I stepped into fear, the harder it got. The more I surrendered to God and fought fear with love, the more hope I gained. It hasn’t been easy and I haven’t always chosen the “right” feelings, but I’ve learned so much about how important it is to not give in to fear.
This past Christmas season, I heard Katherine Wolf speak at a women’s gathering in Atlanta and she said, “Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space.” Whoa. If I have faith, then fear can’t possibly be present. If I truly believe, then fear doesn’t exist. If I surrender to God, then fear is erased. It really is that easy, if you really think about it. Fear is all in your mind. You can’t let fear take up residence and hold your mind captive.
1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love.” I made a few notes from a church sermon recently and this sums it up so well. Perfect love drives out all fears – it repels fear. That doesn’t mean fear doesn’t exist anymore, there is just no room for it because love is so powerful. God’s love is fear – repellent. When we understand the power of God’s love, there is no room for our fear.
Suffering is Inevitable – In the same talk from Katherine Wolf, she also mentioned pain. She said, “We have to be prepared for pain because it is coming.” Never in Scripture did God promise us an easy, painless, and carefree life. John 16:33 says, “ I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
We will experience pain – may it be emotional or physical – the important thing is that we have peace in knowing the Lord wants to bear our pain for us. We just have to surrender to Him. HE is our PEACE.
Hope Heals – Hope really does heal. It’s something I feel like I never would have understood if I didn’t experience it first. I’m a pretty optimistic person, but this past year almost broke me. If I didn’t have the hope that only comes from knowing Jesus, I wouldn’t be here typing this now.
I recently finished listening to Maria Goff’s book, Love Lives Here. She said, “Love keeps us going and hope moves our feet.” It’s so true. Love is necessary to keep going, but hope is what gets us there.
Romans 5:1-5 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God.3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Cultivate Joy – We MUST find joy, even in the hard, tired, mundane. I can’t sustain the feeling of hope if joy is not present. It may even be in the smallest of ways, but finding and creating joy has been necessary for me.
The truth is… I can be bitter, mad, frustrated, angry, etc. BUT thats not going to change anything. In fact, it will just make my life a little bit more miserable. It was necessary for me to change. For me to have a different viewpoint, to find the joy in the midst of the hard. God is unchanging, even though sometimes I feel like he’s not there and not listening or doing anything that I want him to, thats just simply not true. He’s working even though I can’t see it at the moment. God’s position never changes, despite my condition.
Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
He is equipping me to equip others! – This may be the most important thing of all that I have learned this past year. Early on, the Lord revealed this verse to me – John 9:3, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
I knew from the very beginning that God was writing my story. He was using my suffering for His glory. I refused to think any different and this has been the source of my hope that I have clingged to so desperately this year. I know that God has placed a calling on my life. He is equipping me through my story and my life. Through the hard things, He is writing a good story for my life.
Truth is, we are all going to experience suffering in our lives. I can’t be selfish with my pain because its not about me. I have to make myself available for others, for those who are experiencing pain too. Emily P. Freeman, one of my favorite podcasters, said “Taking something that is alive in you and letting it fix the broken places in others.” It’s so very true. Jesus is ALIVE in me, in the midst of my suffering, my pain, and my brokenness. Despite all of “that stuff,” I need to be available to others to help encourage them in their broken places.
Friends – What are you going through? Share it with me! I want to hear your story. I want to walk along side you. Your stories are worth telling, worth sharing, worth leaning in to and finding hope, peace and God’s holy presence in the midst of all of it. He is there, walking along side you and your “stuff” and through it all is writing a beautiful story of His love for you.