The last few days have been rough ones for me. Since starting cancer treatment, I have found myself locked up in the house for days on end, speaking to almost no one, and wishing for my old life back. Having all this time on my hands has made it difficult not to think about the past and long to go back in time to a point when I felt that I actually had a purpose in God’s kingdom. I just do not feel that way anymore. If anything, I feel like a drag on society, on my family, and especially on my husband. I am not overly productive. I fatigue easily. And, to just be honest, I feel like a shell of the person I once was. It is days like this that I find it almost impossible to get anything done; I cannot focus past the hopelessness and abandonment I feel. I am trapped in perpetual mourning over the all the loss that cancer has caused.
It is at times like this that Scripture becomes an all important focus to keep me from drowning in sorrow and self-pity. I need those incredible words of God that promise this is only a temporary condition and that, if I patiently endure, God tells me that:
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised for those who love him” (NIV Jas 1.12).
Cancer is only a temporary intruder, and will not follow those who suffer into the next life. God promises new bodies; what we live in this world is sown from perishable material and that which perishes cannot inherit the kingdom of God (NIV 1 Co 15.50). We must be transformed into that which is imperishable. Paul uses the example of a seed. When it is sown, it has one body, but it must die in order to be raised into something new. Once it is fully born, it no longer resembles the seed in which it began, but becomes a mature, totally different being (NIV 1 Co 15.36). This body will one day be cancer free, this is the promise that, when life seems overwhelming and purposeless, needs to be internalized and believed; there is so much more beyond what is seen.
What makes this so reassuring is that this was the good news that Jesus came to preach and he taught his disciples to take to all the nations. He has paid the price for our sin, beaten death, and promises us that there is more to life beyond what is natural. This teaching, says Jesus, serve a very specific purpose:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV Jn 16.33).
I have told you these things that so you may have peace; those words are like medicine to my soul. They speak to me beyond the physical reality of cancer treatments, appointments, scans, and side effect from medications. They speak to me that, despite what I think I may know based on the tangible reality around me, Jesus knows of my pain. He has felt my suffering. He has wept over those who have been overcome with illness. He has miraculously healed those with disease. He has even raised those who have succumbed to disease from the dead. This is similar to what the author of Hebrews was talking about when he wrote:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for…All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; the only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (NIV Heb 11.1-2, 13).
Jesus demonstrated during his earthly ministry what his kingdom would be like and preached that healing and release would be the hallmark of that kingdom. We who follow him need to walk in faith that he will bring healing in his perfect time and that healing may be in death, just as the ancients waited in faith and died before they saw the promise fulfilled, for death is not the end of all things, but a glorious new beginning.
While God made this promise to the people of Israel, it still stands as a reassurance of God’s love when spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying:
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (NIV Jer 29.11).
When I think of the word hope in this verse, I cannot help but think of the words of Psalmist who said:
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (NIV Ps 31.24).
The hope that is spoken of through Jeremiah can only come from one place, the Lord. He is our hope and future. He is the one who is going to pick us up when we find ourselves in barren places, and set us back on the right path again. It is into his arms that we run when we find that we have reach the end. It becomes easy place hope in the Lord because he has reassured us that he has overcome the world and all its troubles.
Looking at all these promises God has made, it seems a bit ridiculous to be so up in arms and depressed about the future that I imagine. God has imagined and planned so much more, I only need to let go of all my anxieties, stop looking at the waves crashing in around me, and just let him take the reins. This should be an easy task because Paul tells us simply that:
“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, is faithful” (NIV 1 Co 1.9).
He also reminds us:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV Jos 1.9).
There is no doubt about it, fighting cancer is difficult, life-changing, and terrifying all at the same time. It becomes all consuming and alters the course of life. Nothing is ever the same again; however, it does not need to be the end, it can be a glorious new beginning. There is no need to be anxious or discouraged, for God has all things under control. Just rest in him and in his plans then watch as miracles begin to happen.