Abiding in Jesus isn’t easy. It’s not a surefire way to have all you’ve ever wanted. But if you abide in Jesus, if you take this challenge to see life as beautiful–even the messed up, broken moments–you will have all you need.You will fight your will. It will happen every single day. Without fail.You will struggle to serve.You will look to see the beauty in dense fog and be meet with thick, hazy nothingness.
There were no mud puddles or snow drifts involved; I wasn’t knee deep in quick sand or trapped between a rock and a hard place. I was just walking through the grocery store when my thoughts jammed tight and wouldn’t let me go.
“I’m doomed,” I thought from somewhere deep within me.
This is the irony of being a cancer survivor for me. I beat the odds and overcame what should have killed me, and yet half of my life now is spent worrying that the cancer is back. It’s been three years now; my doctor has all but told me I’m cured. I’m doing really well.
Yet, every once in a while, I feel this pain in my abdomen or the burning sensation in my back. At first I don’t think anything of it, but after a while, I begin to panic. I know the cancer is back; I imagine myself bald and shriveled again. I feel the nausea as if it’s real.
And if that’s not enough, there’s this darkness that begins to cloud over my soul. Fear, doubt, dread. I believe God is near, but I wonder if my faith will endure through more suffering. And the knot grabs tighter at my throat and the tears pool shallow just beneath my lids. And an inch below that smile and laugh is a woman who thinks she might go crazy with the uncertainty.
Right there, just as the darkness and the fear and the tears fell heavy, I found myself stuck.
O Lord, take this away.
No, don’t take it away this time unless you promise to take it away every time.
Jesus, please just stay here with me.
There’s a blood test my doctor can order that will tell me whether the cancer is back. I’ve gotten these almost every three months since my diagnosis nearly four years ago. It’s simple, inexpensive, and a great indicator. Because I’m doing so well, my doctor only asks that I have it done every six months. I’ve never gone more than three months though because I get stuck and I need reassurance. My doctor has told me a dozen times that he would rather just order the test than have me worry.
Somehow, though, I got it in my head that ordering the test is a sign of weak faith. So instead, I worry for three or four weeks every time before finally just calling the doctor.
Today, over lunch, I called again.
When I hung up the phone, I burst into tears.
“I want to believe you, Lord. I do. I don’t want to be crazy,” I told Him.
But as the afternoon wore on, I started asking myself what I am believing the Lord for. Has God promised me that I will not get cancer? Do I know that these physical symptoms are not signs of a recurrence? Slowly, as my thoughts began to come unstuck, I realized that I had connected two different issues in a way they were never mean to be connected.
One issue is that I may or may not have cancer again. Medically speaking, I probably do not. But since I am not a doctor and have only my experience with cancer to measure against, I do not think I am qualified to make that determination on my own.
The other issue is that I may or may not trust the Lord. I may or may not believe that He walks with me, that He paid a great price to set me free, that He goes before me to prepare a place with Him.
I can fall on either side of either issue. I can have cancer and not trust the Lord. I can not have cancer and not trust the Lord. I can have cancer and trust the Lord. I can not have cancer and trust the Lord.
What I cannot do is connect whether I have cancer or not to whether I trust the Lord or not. That’s not how it works.
That’s not how He works.
The haze of my craziness still hangs thick around me this evening as I write. Though I haven’t written from within the haze before, it happens often.
I’ve been hiding it from you.
But even as I think about what will be involved in the next couple of days of getting stuck by needles and waiting by the phone for results, I drew courage from these words that I read by Jessica Mueller. Courage that made me think you might have your own seasons of being stuck when you feel like you are alone. And these words might bring comfort to you too.
Sometimes when we are stuck, we break free before we have any answers. Most likely I am being overly cautious and the blood work will come back fine. I’ll probably be feeling better in a few days – in the past, these pains have been caused by scar tissue and adhesions from previous surgeries.
The point it, I don’t know whether I have cancer or not.
But I do know that I still trust Jesus.
And tonight, that’s enough to set me free.
*TS Poetry is working on writing sestinas in July. Sestinas are a type of form poetry with six stanzas of six lines and repeating end words. I started a sestina about vacations, but it was too much work! I think I will try again on a less relaxing topic. Sestinas are challenging, but worth the effort.
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