November 21, 2001, is a day I will never forget.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. It was also the day my husband of seventeen years pulled into our driveway after having been to a doctor’s appointment to receive a report on a biopsy taken a week earlier. We had not been nervous about the appointment; we had been told the lump he’d found on his neck was most likely just a cyst that would need surgery to remove. But the news was not good. Michael was told he had stage 4 cancer and was given only 30% chance of survival. As a stay-at-home mother of 4 children ranging from five to thirteen years of age, a sense of panic washed over me.
I vividly remember sitting on our bed that evening holding each other. As we did, my husband said, “You know, we’ve been given a sacred trust. Our lives have been so easy up to now.” I wanted to respond by reminding him of other difficulties we’d encountered (hoping to convince the eavesdropping Almighty that we’d already suffered enough), but I knew Michael was right. And now, before us was a golden opportunity to teach our children how to suffer as Christians.
The next six months dragged our family through some dark places. We journeyed through the world of hospitals, radical surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and feeding tubes and watched Michael lose his ability to speak and eat, causing him to lose almost a third of his body weight. Frankly, it was terrifying.
We speak often in the Church of God’s sufficient grace, but it’s hard to wrap our minds around what that is. I can tell you firsthand, I have witnessed God’s grace. God gave us everything we needed and more. He provided financially beyond anything we could have ever imagined. I cannot recall one day during that time when we did not receive cards to encourage us, frequently from people we didn’t even know. Many times these included financial help. Our church provided a means for people to support us financially during that time. Folks were so generous, we eventually asked our pastor to send a letter asking folks to stop giving! Special friends provided for our children’s needs, too, taking them out to do fun activities and having them over. Even as I write this, I’m overcome to the point of tears at the incredible way God provided.
Not only did God provide for our physical needs, He also provided for our emotional needs. Before cancer invaded our lives, I’d look at people going through difficult situations and think, “Wow, they are so strong. I wonder how they’re doing it?” But as we walked through cancer, the following verses became very real to me.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.
~ Hebrews 4:15, 16
Prior to my husband’s diagnosis, I didn’t have that strength, nor did I need it, but God provided it at the proper time.
By God’s grace my husband is alive and doing well today. We’ve watched three of our five children graduate from high school, two of them from college; we adopted a child from Guatemala; my husband walked our oldest daughter down the aisle on her wedding day to a godly young man, and just last year we became grandparents. Each milestone bears witness to the fact that every day is a gift; a reminder of God’s undeserved grace.
As we think back to that year, we often say, “While we wouldn’t wish cancer on our worst enemy, we wouldn’t trade that experience and the lessons we learned for the world.” We feel like Job who after coming out of the storm of his life declared, “ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5)
If you’re facing some darkness, you do not need to fear. He is waiting for you with the grace you will need. Lean on Him, He’s more than enough!
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