I didn’t know I would need an especially strong dose of courage and strength from my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in 2012.
In fact, I had absolutely no premonition that the final months of 2012 were going to change my life forever.
However, in September 2012 I walked into the mammogram screening room at Sandton Clinic with no expectation other than I would be in and out within minutes – like every other time in my life. In fact, I scheduled this mammogram appointment at a time when my husband was out of the country on a ministry trip – far, far away from being easily reached. Cancer wasn’t part of my thinking at all.
Until – all of a sudden – it was.
As the mammogram screening progressed to an ultrasound, the technician’s tone took an abrupt turn from jovial and upbeat to tense and serious. I hardly understood her. She sounded like Mrs. Othmar, the teacher from the Peanuts cartoon who spoke like “Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah” as she explained what she was seeing on the screen.
Ductal Carcinoma in situ?
“But there is no history of breast cancer on my side of the family,” I thought to myself.
How is this even possible?
Are you sure?
The technician and the doctor seemed very sure.
Yet, a biopsy would be needed to confirm their findings.
And it did.
The biopsy led to surgery – a lumpectomy.
The lumpectomy led to seven weeks of daily radiation treatments.
The radiation treatments led to exhaustion.
And all of it – the cancer, the surgery, the radiation treatments, the exhaustion, and the resulting side-effects all led to a decision.
Would I trust Jesus to take me through this cancer journey – wherever it led me?
Would I take Jesus at His word?
Would I believe that He could be trusted to give me the courage, the strength, the comfort, the love, the prayers, the healing, the peace, the joy, and the hope that He offered for such a time as this – no matter what happened?
You see, if I believed that Jesus could give me what I needed – then I also needed to take hold of every gift He offered me then in 2012 and the gifts He still offers me even today.
According to the World Health Organization in Southern Africa in 2018, nearly 115,000 new cancer cases were reported. Twenty-two percent of southern African males, and 19 percent of southern African females were diagnosed with some form of cancer – basically just over two out of ten people in southern Africa were diagnosed and sent on a new life trajectory – this year.
Because that is what cancer does – at least in my case – it sent me to new decisions, new thoughts, new emotions, new considerations, new people, new places, new physical long-term side effects, and a new way to live – taking hold of Jesus like never before.
So, what did I take from Christ?
I took His Courage.
God’s word promises courage – especially in difficult times like cancer:
Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the Lord.
New American Standard Bible, Psalm 31:24
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
New American Standard Bible, Matthew 14:27
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
New American Standard Bible, John 16:33
Jesus offered His courage to me.
And I took it.
You see at that time I was being hard-pressed by many to leave South Africa and return to the United States for my cancer treatment. For many of my US friends – who had never even stepped foot in South Africa – they feared that I wouldn’t receive the treatment I needed to survive my cancer. They were afraid for my life.
Yet, Jesus promised that if I took His courage, I needn’t fear. He would be with me. Honestly, I had no desire to return to the United States for treatment. My South African doctors had a plan, a good treatment plan for me. And I could recuperate and recover in my own home, in my own bed. Where would I go in the States? To my friends’ homes? To my parents’ home?
My husband John and I prayed about it and determined that remaining in South Africa for my cancer treatment was the best and most prudent course of action. So, I did.
I took hold of the courage that Jesus gave me to tell every single one of my family and my friends that we weren’t returning to the US for treatment – I was staying here.
To go forward, though, I would need God’s strength.
I took His Strength.
His word says:
The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
New International Version, Exodus 15:2
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
New International Version, 1 Chronicles 16:11
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.
New International Version, Psalm 18:32
The strength that Jesus gives me is my defense against all fear. The strength that Jesus gives is secure, complete, sound, and without blemish. The strength that Jesus gives is my salvation.
His strength upheld me through each step of my cancer journey.
And through His strength, I needed His comfort.
I took His Comfort.
His word says:
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
New International Version, Psalm 23:4
Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
New International Version, Isaiah 49:13
When I received my cancer diagnosis, the future was uncertain. I hadn’t experienced anything I was about to experience. I didn’t know if the surgery was going to cut all the cancer away. I didn’t know if the radiation would kill any cancer cells that remained. Later, I didn’t know that I was going to live with various shooting pains in my body or that my right arm would swell under strain or in warm conditions for the years to come. I had no idea.
But God knew.
He saw this future of mine. And as I leaned into Him during the initial dark and uncertain days of my cancer journey, He led me forward.
I took His Comfort.
I took His Love.
This cancer experience brought questions:
Did I believe that God loved and cared for me when I was diagnosed with cancer?
Why would a loving God allow cancer into my life?
I’m the wife of John – who I love and adore.
I’m the mother of Micah, Jake and Caleb – I love my children, too. They need me. A lot.
I’m the first-born daughter of Doug and Sue Ann. They look to me for encouragement.
I’m the sister of Kristina, Gordon and David. We love and depend on each other.
I’m the good friend of many – my friends mean the world to me.
I’m a missionary – I’ve dedicated my life to serve Him with every ounce of my being far, far, far away from my homeland.
Why would a loving God bring this cancer diagnosis upon me? To anyone?
His word says this:
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
New International Version, Deuteronomy 7:9
I don’t have all the answers to my questions about why cancer happens and happened to me. But one answer I do have – having cancer – being part of ‘the club’ – allows me to encourage others who travel this unique journey. I offer my empathy, my support, and my love. I couldn’t talk about any of this cancer stuff without having walked, lived, and experienced cancer. And I continue to journey with cancer’s scars and side effects even now.
Jesus used cancer to increase my love for others.
His word says this:
May the Lord make my love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
New International Version, 1 Thessalonians 3:12
So, yes, I took His love and embraced it fully because in doing so, cancer increased my love for others.
I took His Prayers.
There is great comfort, strengthening peace, and blessed assurance in knowing that Jesus sits at the right hand of God and prays for me.
His word promises:
Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
New International Version, Hebrews 7:25
Jesus lives to intercede for me, for you, for us all – in any and every way that we need Him to pray for us.
His prayers are wise and good.
I took and continue to take every single prayer He offers on my behalf. I need them.
I took His Healing.
Now, I didn’t exactly know what the healing of Christ would be in my life then. I took the doctors’ counsel and did everything they told me to do –
I underwent the biopsy to pre-determine the level of my cancer in my body.
I did the surgery.
I completed all the radiation treatments.
I ate the food my oncologist recommended.
I exercised the way the doctors instructed.
I underwent the counsel and the support the doctors prescribed.
I rested as much as I could during that time.
I received care and nurture from my husband, my family, and my friends.
For the next six years, I followed my doctors’ advice, continued with my screening follow-ups, and attempted to eat and exercise as best I could.
And through all of that, I experienced the truth of these words:
“‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.'”
New International Version, Jeremiah 33:6
I am grateful that the Lord healed me from cancer so that I can stand strong before you – six years later.
I realize that healing comes in different forms for others in their cancer journey. I have a long-time friend who has been living with her slow-growing cancer for over 20 years. My grade seven science teacher died last month from cancer. Another friend passed away from complications due to cancer in April. An acquaintance was diagnosed with cancer this year and died three months later. For each, their ultimate healing – because all were believers in Jesus Christ – came through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. We are saved from every illness, every despair, every difficulty, and every aspect of death because of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. They experienced the wonder of healing and are now in the presence of God.
Take the gift of healing and life that Jesus offers. Trust Him with your life.
I took His Peace.
There is no doubt that a cancer diagnosis brings an avalanche of uncertainty. Yet, it also brings opportunity and decision. How will we choose to live out our days and journey with Jesus as we also live with the advent of cancer. Will we live in peace that God is with us and will never leave us nor forsake us?
Or will we struggle in fear and wrestle with distrust – believing in some way that God betrayed us?
The fact of the matter is that death is a certainty. It comes for all people – regardless of state of health, state of being, or state of mind. Death will happen.
So, how will we live until our time is completed on earth?
Will we take His peace?
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
New International Version, Psalm 4:8
Although I’ve already shared this verse, it is very appropriate to repeat:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
New International Version, John 16:33
The peace of Christ is ours for the taking – shall we lie down and sleep and know that our God is watching over us – keeping us safe and secure in Him?
I took His Joy.
His word says:
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
New International Version, Psalm 5:11
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
New International Version, Psalm 16:11
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
New International Version, Psalm 90:14
The Hebrew transliterated word for joy is simchah. Simchah means to be glad, to show delight, to be extremely happy, and to rejoice. This is an exceeding, overflowing, abundant joy. It is a word of action.
This is the kind of joy we have in the presence of God – and we can have this kind of gladness for every one of our days – regardless of circumstance and regardless of cancer.
So, I took the joy of Christ in the middle of my cancer journey and chose to hold onto to it – tight!
There were many gifts that Jesus offered me in the midst of my cancer journey. However, the one I think that I most needed was His hope.
I took His Hope.
His word promises:
But God will never forget the needy – the one with cancer; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
New International Version, Psalm 9:18
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
New International Version, Psalm 33:18
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
New International Version, Micah 7:7
One of the Hebrew transliterated words for hope is tiqvah. Tiqvah has two distinct meanings – hope and expectation and cord.
Consider this: my hope, my expectation in the Lord during my cancer journey was as solid as a cord binding me to Him. I took hold of His cord of hope and it was through His powerful, steadying, life-giving cord that He rescued me from cancer and helped me to live on!
And so, here I am.
Six years onward from being diagnosed with cancer in September 2012 – Here I am desiring to encourage you to live onward with the courage, the strength, the comfort, the love, the prayers, the healing, the peace, the joy, and the hope that Jesus offers for such a time as this – in your life.
What do you need to take from Jesus today?
Take His Courage.
Take His Strength.
Take His Comfort.
Take His Love.
Take His Prayers.
Take His Healing.
Take His Peace.
Take His Joy.
Take His Hope.
He offers every one of these gifts freely – abundantly – willingly.
What will you take?
May the hope of God fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with the hope by the power of the Holy Spirit – as you live out your lives in His honor.
New International Version, Romans 15:13
Take Him at His Word – Jesus asks you to take courage – His Courage – and not to be afraid of whatever you are facing in your life today. He is with you. Always.
Amen and Amen.
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