Somewhat recently I learned that a distant acquaintance had been diagnosed with cancer. I learned about this diagnosis via a webpage that she had set up to keep friends and family informed throughout her journey.
Being that cancer is a factor in my own life, I spent some time reading though her posts, from diagnosis to current status.
The regular updates on the webpage were very similar to almost all diagnosis stories I have heard or experienced. It began with shock and a feeling of being completely overwhelmed, followed by some anger and frustration, and settling into a bit of depression and self pity.
But as I was reading (and relating) through the posts, there was one thing missing that stood out so strongly you could almost taste it.
This particular story lacked any hope.
Oh sure, she said all the right things about having strength, how hard she was going to fight, and how she “just knew she could beat this.” And there were encouraging comments from friends and family about how far modern medicine has come, how “strong” she was, and how everyone was standing behind her, ready to do whatever necessary.
But reading all this still left a feeling of sadness deep in my heart. How was it all really going, when just reading the impersonal updates left me with a rock in my stomach and a knot in my throat?
When reading about her journey left me feeling hopeless.
For those following along at home, or anyone who’s been around this blog for a bit, you will probably remember that cancer has a personal touch for me and my family. A little over two years ago my mom received her diagnosis. And it’s been a long road, with some very high ups and very low downs. Her journey began with similar emotions as this woman, and so many other people out there.
But there is a marked difference between this woman’s story, and my mom’s.
(**Note** because I know her best I’m going to use my mother here, but know that I have had the immense pleasure of interacting over the past few years with some absolutely amazing people who I could easily insert into the following text. But getting my mom’s permission to use her story was easiest 🙂 )
See, if you spend any amount of time talking to my mom, you can’t help but feel the positivity, strength, and overwhelming sense of hope she emits. Whatever news she’s been given, wherever she is in the trial, it’s impossible to miss. This is especially true as so much of the world around her is in stark contrast.
But I would be oh so very, very wrong if I said these traits were presented by her own personal power and strength. No, on her own she would be negative, weak, and hopeless. But you see, she’s not relying on her own strength through any of this.
No. She’s relying on Jesus.
She’s pouring all her hope into her faith. She’s drawing all her strength from His promises. She’s able to remain positive only because she has Him.
I know I know, I’m going all religious on you. But just hear me out.
I think if you look around you you’ll see that there is an awful lot of hopelessness surrounding cancer (or any “devastating” situation for that matter). I once heard someone describe their cancer diagnosis as a “major punch in the gut.” And while I received second hand news, if you will, I still think that’s a pretty accurate description.
But here’s the thing. After receiving such news, I have noticed that people often become reliant on their own strength. They become reliant on the strength of those around them, and usually heavily reliant on medicine and doctors.
And none of these things are necessarily bad. I personally am very thankful for modern medicine, which has helped many, many people, my mother included. I’m thankful for all the people who have surround my mom and my family to offer strength when we seemingly have none. But on their own, none of these things hold a lot of hope. Think about it:
What if the medicine doesn’t work?
What if everyone desserts you?
What if you run out of strength?
What happens then?
If you spend any amount of time contemplating these “what ifs,” it is so easy to become overwhelmed. When I was reading that webpage, I came across what was supposed to be an encouraging comment that read “don’t worry, you’ll beat this! you’re strong, and look how far chemo has come!” The response? “I sure hope so.”
That doesn’t sound like someone who has a lot of hope, if you ask me.
So, if we can’t hope in medicine, if we can’t hope in ourselves, what can we hope in?
Or more importantly, WHO can we hope in?
I know it probably comes across as cheesy, I think we need to begin with the thought that no matter how our lives seem to be going, there is a purpose/plan, and that everything happens for a reason.
Yeah I know, if you had a dime for every time you heard that, right?
But think about that. No matter what happens, someone already knew you were going to walk through whatever it is. No matter how completely unprepared and blindsided you felt by the diagnosis, someone else was already completely and totally prepared.
I don’t know about you, but I find that so very, very comforting. And it gives me hope that I can’t even begin to describe. To know that no matter how random the diagnosis seems to me, someone already knew it was coming.
That’s a horrible thing to say! Right?
Well maybe not.
Maybe, the reason my mom can get up every morning and go about her day without fear, and with hope, is because she knows that there is someone bigger than her.
Bigger than cancer.
And she knows that although this isn’t what she would have chosen for her life, there is a good purpose. Maybe she doesn’t know what that is yet, but she does know with assurance that she can trust in that promise.
And maybe she is also able to continue through life with happiness because she knows that while humans may seem to fail, and the cancer might seem to gain the upper hand, but The Lord will *never* fail her.
So she doesn’t need to put her faith in whether or not the medicine will work. She doesn’t need to hope that she gets lucky and they find some “miracle” cure. She doesn’t need to pretend to be happy about her current circumstance.
All she needs is Jesus.
And I know we all need Him too. We all need to allow Christ to show us that no matter what happens, He is there for us. He is fighting for us.
He proved that when He chose to die on a cross for us. When He elected to take the punishment that life leads to, whether you have cancer or not, upon Himself.
And give us life.
My mom once said that she will be cancer free one day, in this life, or the next. How can she say that?
Because she knows there is a plan.
And sometimes it’s a hard plan. No matter how strong your faith difficult circumstances like cancer don’t automatically become easy. They’re still hard. And sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes sad. But it’s when we begin to get overwhelmed by the difficulty that we need to remember the plan maker, and run to Him for strength and support.
I think another way to look at things is that when people have no hope, they allow cancer to become a defining factor for them. For example, often you will hear people refer to cancer as “the big C.” What this does is allow people to let cancer become what they are all about. To become who they are. It tells the world that “the big C” is more important than anything else.
No one wants to be remembered just for having cancer, but it can easily become your whole world if you allow it. You can become lost in the diagnosis, and rather than continuing to be “you” you become “cancer.” Tough legacy to leave.
As my mom said: “cancer is what I have. Not who I am.”
But my mom does refer to “the big C” when defining herself. She just doesn’t mean cancer.
She means Christ.
She allows her faith to define who she is, and moves cancer to the backseat. Just a byproduct if you will of her current life story. Cancer isn’t the focal point of her story.
Cancer is what she has. Christ is who she is.
And no matter what happens, she will ALWAYS have Christ.