When Cancer is no longer a Stranger

I tried to think of a great title for this and well, that is the one I came up with. All of the others had profanity. I am mad as hell right now, as I write this. I figured when I calmed down a little I would regret saying the f word in a blog title or post for that matter. So, that’s that.

I want to share a story with you. It’s a story about the difference between what I think is fair and what I have to believe (through faith only, not logic or feelings or emotion or justice) to be God’s plan.

It’s a story about how sometimes, in the midst of it all, I am too sad to cry, too angry to scream, too numb to pray and too lackadaisical to ask God for any input.

There is this girl. Her name is Elliot. She is beautiful and smart, kind and generous. Her entire life has been based on faith, the love of Christ and her family. She is married to the love of her life and with him, she has, two beautiful young children.

Elliot is a loyal friend. She is a follower of Christ…a daughter…a sister…a wife…a mother.

Then there is me. It is I who have spent the majority of my life living for myself. I ran from God and thought I could hide, but He always found me. Though it would be years of heartache and wreckage before I finally surrendered, God had a plan and still does. I emerged from my prodigal journey with many scars, but overall rather unscathed. I am married to the love of my life and with him, I have, two beautiful young children.

I am doing my best to make up for time that was frivolously spent. I am a follower of Christ…a daughter…a sister…a wife…a mother.

Elliot has a deadly form of cancer.

It is showing itself to be relentless in it’s attempts to ravage her body.

As of today it has spread to her lungs and liver.

Three weeks ago, her scans were clear.

She needs a miracle…

Elliot and I have been friends for more than two decades.
We went to school together, grew up in church together, played tennis together, had slumber parties, talked about boys and God and our parents together. She still talked to me when others wouldn’t because they did not agree with the way I was behaving. And though I’m certain she didn’t agree, she didn’t shun me.

I cannot help but ask, “WHY HER?!”

She’s done it right. She was a good girl who lived right. Why her?!

Lord, what are you up to??? It is through clenched teeth that I say, “I know God has a plan… He is still in control… He loves us more than any human ever could… In all situations give thanks… He uses everything for His good… His will, not mine…” and on and on my mind races through all of the scripture, quotes, biblical truths, that I have been hearing my whole life.

I don’t feel better.

This isn’t about me!

As I read Elliot’s latest update on her Caring Bridge site I began to feel sick to my stomach. I didn’t know whether to scream, cry, pound the steering wheel (I was parked) or tell God how angry I was? So I did all of the above.

For those of you who just gasped at the thought of me actually telling God how angry I am, you are not familiar with the same God whom I, fall on my face before pleading for a different answer than the one He seems to be speaking, or at times clinch my teeth in defiance while reciting His word, yet truth does not (at times) ease the pain of reality. Other times I lift my face and hands to the sky in reverence and utter disbelief that a God like this could love a wretch like me.

Whether I am praising, weeping, laughing, quoting, sharing with the God of my understanding, He remains my only constant.

Here is an excerpt from Elliot’s journal entry titled “God is still in control

…Obviously this is not what any of us had in mind. But God is still in control. We are not supposed to have a spirit of fear, but truthfully, the speed at which this is moving terrifies me. I had a clear scan 3 weeks ago. My hope is still in the Lord, my healer. I am begging each of you to pound the throne of heaven and ask for a miracle. 

When I was first diagnosed, one of my dear friends told me to claim Psalm 91.  So I did. Last night as I lay in the hospital getting an EKG, I struck up a conversation with the nurse. I don’t remember exactly how we even started talking, but our conversation quickly centered around God.  I looked at her with tears in my eyes and asked Where is God? She said, oh baby, He’s here. He will never leave you. And don’t you ever give up on him. Ever.”

I wish I could say that were I lying in a hospital bed, as she was, that I would soon after write a post title that resembled anything close to “God is still in control”. Maybe I would? Or maybe not?

So what do we do when God doesn’t answer our prayer? Or when He doesn’t give us the answer we want? What do we do when there is more than one path and we are not certain which one to take?

The Senior Pastor at our church just finished teaching a series called “When God?” The timing could not have been more perfect. I would encourage you, if you have ever experienced God in any way other than you think He is “supposed” to be (your very own genie in a bottle, who only comes out when summoned), to listen to Andy’s message. It can change your life… if you let it.

He talked about when we feel like God is one of these three things and what to do about it;

  1. Inattentive
  2. Uncooperative
  3. Late

Here is the take away from each message.

Moving Forward

When God is…

Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with God’s feelings about you. God’s apparent inactivity in your life is not a reflection of his activity in the world. If it currently feels like God is inattentive, look back at what he has done for you and out at his activity in the world around you.

While we have permission to ask God to remove our thorns, God has the right to say no to our requests. What do you do when God chooses to showcase his power on the stage of your weakness? Take no for an answer. When you do, God gives you something in return—sustaining grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9

When God is late in addressing your problems or answering your prayers, it can be difficult to know how to continue on in faith. But the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead offers a picture of hope in the midst of a hopeless situation. If you continue to trust God through your pain, he will eventually show you his glory.

My heart is heavy… my eyes are red and stinging from hours of tears…my head is pounding and yet my mind is numb.

I am not the one with cancer.

Feelings change with circumstances. 

God does not change.

He is consistent, faithful, trustworthy, loving, gracious, all knowing and most importantly, never caught by surprise.

Now, in this moment, is when faith is tested.
It is when I must ask myself, “Do I believe God as well as believe in God?” Or does my belief only go as far as the expectation for a happily ever after?

*** If you would like to follow Elliot’s journey, please visit her Caring Bridge site to keep up with the latest information. In the meantime, we covet your prayers.

9 thoughts on “When Cancer is no longer a Stranger

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  8. Joy. I am praying for sweet Elliot. She sounds incredible! So thankful she knows the same God we do who is the only one who can heal and sustain her. Praying praying praying. Please keep us updated. You are a great friend.

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