First published 11 February 2010
This post is now incorporated with 22 other similar ‘reflections’ in my book, Facing Cancer with Faith.
I am writing again in my hospital bed, only a week or so after I first wrote of my illness in the 3rd article in this series. It is now Sunday 31st January 2010. When I wrote that earlier article I had no idea that the illness would turn out to be as serious as it is. I knew obviously that it was serious enough to be hospitalized and be taking fluids by IV! But I thought they just needed to do a few tests, work out what was wrong and then do something quickly – either involving minor surgery or medication – and then I would be on my way home. It was a bit of an inconvenience, and a frustration, and yes, a derailment.
But 4 days ago I found out that the problem is actually caused by a lymphoma – a type of cancer. As I write, the biopsy results still have not been fully finalized so that we know exactly which sort of lymphoma it is. However, I am told that any lymphoma is treatable, and probably has the highest cure rate of any cancer. However, that does not make it a walk in the park! The cure comes at the cost of 6 months of chemotherapy (assuming it is the type they think it is) and other treatment. This is more than a derailment.
So what will my reaction be? Do I regret writing any of the stuff I have previously written about the reasons for Christians suffering hardship and pain? How can I see a silver lining in this? What is the good that will come of it, since I seem so sure that God has a good purpose in anything that happens to His children?
Let me first of all say that I have had no desire to retract anything. I still look at hardship and suffering in the same way. Ok, this is pretty bad, and I haven’t been through the worst of it yet, but I still know that God is the same God, He loves me, He has everything in the world in the palm of His hand. He gave His Son to die for me, so why would anything else good be withheld from me?
The other thing is that I admit that I cried 3 days ago. But perhaps not for reasons you may think.
I had had a really exhausting day the day after I received the diagnosis of lymphoma. It was stressful trying to work out how to tell the kids without worrying them unnecessarily, but that went well. Unfortunately I was sick and felt sick pretty much all day as well. The first time I was sick was literally minutes before the porter arrived to take me for another CT scan. I sat in the wheelchair going down to the scan with a sick bowl in my lap! I then felt sick all afternoon and had to put on a bright and cheerful face when the kids came up to visit. After they had all gone I flopped on my bed, and the next I knew it was almost 2 hours later! I got up and was sick again!
The next day was the day I cried. Somebody was telling me how people had been helped by my recently posted blog articles. I’d also received two moving messages in particular that spoke of the impact a couple of the articles had had on people. And I just felt overwhelmed.
The reason I feel overwhelmed is that God has yet again used my situation to bring glory to Himself, to draw people closer to Himself. And it seems like the weaker I am, the more that seems to happen. The words I was trying to get out while I was too emotional were something like, “writing these articles is just about all I’ve been able to do while I’ve been in here, just lying in bed most days, and yet they seem to be have been used more by God than almost anything I’ve ever done.”
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, the apostle Paul tells us what the Lord said to him when he was facing harsh trials and pleading for relief: “… he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” Paul’s response was to react with joy. He says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults [received], in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I guess that’s how I feel now. His power has been magnified so far in my weakness. And I hope it continues that way. And I hope I am able to continue to talk of my weakness, and my tears, in order to glorify God. In fact, given the grueling months I think we have ahead of us, I don’t think there is any doubt that I will be able to talk some more about my weakness!
God has a good reason for everything!
The last thing I wanted to say here is that there are some people who hate Christians, and want to make us out to be arrogant moralists or wacky airheads! But when I read the New Testament, all I seem to come across is deep forgiveness, bringing radical healing and redemption, preached through people who are in themselves unimpressive and pretty weak. True Christians delight to highlight our own weaknesses so that we can show just how much God has done, and is doing for us, and show Him as strong and glorious.
I hope I always remember to do that. At the moment I just know that in my mind cancer is big and kind of scary. But I also know that God is bigger, He knows all about cancer and He knows the purpose behind it. He also loves me and part of His purpose will involve good for me and others who love Him, even if I never personally witness the full extent of it. And as Corrie Ten Boon said from within the Nazi concentration camp, “No hell is so deep that He is not deeper still.”
To Him be the glory!