Keep in mind my entire story as you read this. It may sound flippant if taken out of context. But I've come to this after a longish road of trial and walking the walk. I continue to be concerned that it is not really over. I live in persistent concern (I don't want to use the word "fear") of recurrence. This is what I've learned so far:
YOU CAN BE JOYFUL, EVEN WHEN IT HURTS
"Joy" is not dependent on your relative circumstances. Joy does not come from having things, or being comfortable. Sure, it can make you momentarily happy. But a deep, abiding joy only comes from knowing the Lord. It's hard to describe if you don't have that. But even in the midst of cancer, in my darkest moments, I can say that I had the joy of the Lord. Not even cancer could take that away from me. In fact, having cancer actually made me realize what a gift I have been given in Christ. That the Creator of the universe, my Lord, has been by my side helping me get through this entire ordeal. Maybe some would be angry that God let them get cancer in the first place. Honestly, I've never thought this way. Trials happen to everyone. I see this as an opportunity to be refined. Yes, it hurts. But I am being brought closer to my Lord. I can find joy in that.
So how can you find joy when you are in the middle of something really hard? When I was having a difficult time during treatment, I found it very helpful to count my blessings. Yes, I know that sounds corny. But it worked. Here was my list from about a year ago, when I was in the middle of chemo:
I'm thankful that:
- I found the lump under my arm when I did.
- My family supported me throughout this trial.
- I have a wonderful family in Christ that has lifted me up in prayer continually
- The advancements in breast cancer treatment make a diagnosis not necessarily a death sentence. I'm also thankful that I have access to treatment.
- That I am the one with cancer, and not one of my kids.
- For having the Lord by my side at all times, giving me the strength to press on.
I did not know that cancer was coming. But God did. He knew all about it before I was even born. We all will face various trials in our lives. They may be physical, spiritual, or mental. We need to be strong physically and spiritually so that we can meet these trials head-on. We need to be good stewards of what He has given us.
In my case, I am so thankful that God planted the desire to get into physical shape before my diagnosis. I was at the strongest I've ever been in my life when I was diagnosed. Having that outlet of exercise has not only been good for my prognosis, but helped me get through treatment. It would have been a much different story if I was not in shape at the outset.
So why not make efforts to be healthier now? It can't hurt. Exercise helps with a range of physical problems. It also helps prevent so many health issues. God made our bodies to move and exert themselves. Our lifestyle in modern America has made it so we don't have to move much to provide for our immediate needs. Unfortunately, in so doing, we aren't providing for our bodies' need for movement. I urge everyone to do what they can to get some exercise every day. Eat more vegetables. Eat less processed food. Cut out sodas. Eat organic as much as you can, especially the "dirty dozen" fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues on them.
You don't know what is coming your way. It could be a physical trial, like cancer. Or it could be spiritual one. Be a good steward of your body and be in God's Word. No matter what, it will equip you for whatever is coming. God willing, nothing "bad" will happen. In that case, you will still feel better and be stronger and healthier than you were before.
GOD WILL NOT PUT A TRIAL IN YOUR PATH THAT HE WILL NOT EQUIP YOU FOR AND EMPOWER YOU TO SEE THROUGH
God knew this was coming and He got me ready beforehand. He "flipped the switch" in my heart to want to lose weight and get into shape. We made changes in our insurance coverage just a month before my diagnosis that were more advantageous to us financially to pay for my treatment. Even Eric took it upon himself in the year before my diagnosis to learn about cancer.
I made it through my treatment fairly well. Yes, there were hard times. I don't want to make light of it and make it sound like it was a breeze. It wasn't. It hurt. It was hard. But I made it through.
Here's the thing. It had nothing to do with me. It had EVERYTHING to do with the Lord. HE is the one that showered me with blessing and grace. It was all HIM. The Bible says, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I'm in awe of how God has worked in my life in the past 18 months. I don't believe in luck or coincidence.
In the end, there are higher purposes at work in everything. God promises that He will work out ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28) In my cancer, there are purposes in all of this that He wants. Those that are for my own good. To make me better, more like Him. I don't understand what these are, nor should I. His ways are higher than mine. All I can do is trust in Him. I've experienced His love and grace throughout this time to know that He is for real. How can I not trust the rest of what He has promised? He has not failed me yet, nor will He.