I’ve known Melinda since before I can remember. When we were preschoolers and our parents were younger than we are now, we were neighbors in a trailer court while our parents saved for, and then built, houses. We’ve been in Sunday school, christian school, high school and even college together. Our oldest children are weeks apart in age, and our second children are hours apart, so when I found out that I was unexpectedly expecting our third, I had to find out if the pattern was holding. Instead I learned that she was battling thyroid cancer.
On February 13th she shared a testimony in church and she sent me a copy. With her permission, I am sharing excerpts of that testimony here:
Thyroid cancer IS cancer. But this is the cancer you want to have, if you have to have one. It is, (altho’ not in my case) usually contained just to the thyroid, It is very slow growing. It is very easily treated. And the survival rates of people who live for decades after the disease are in the ninety percentiles.
If it does spread to the rest of the body… for example, my big toe…it is still classified as thyroid cancer not big toe cancer, as it was spread by means of thyroid cells that have moved around in the body.
Yes, this is cancer and yes, it has spread to my lymph nodes. Yes, that is much more serious than having it contained just to my thyroid and honestly, could I die from this cancer? Yes…. but not likely. I want to be really clear on this…..thyroid cancer is not a death sentence for me. The only, and I mean only way that I will die from this disease is because the good Lord Himself has decided that it is time for me to go home…and, I, by His grace, am at peace with that.
I guess this is what brings me to the first thing that God has been doing in my heart.
You see, I have always been someone who has been afraid of everything. As early as I can remember in my life, I was aware that fear was my constant companion, from childhood until present day. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it is being afraid of the future, or the past; being alone or being in public; afraid of building relationships with women or being more afraid of losing those relationships once I had them… I, normally, am a very anxious person. The fact that I am able to stand here and tell you I have cancer and then not fall to the floor in an overwhelming sense of fear and despair is evidence in itself that God is working in my life.
Psalm 29:11 says, “the Lord gives His people strength, The Lord blesses them with peace”
Shortly after my diagnosis, I was sitting in my living room feeling sorry for myself and feeling all the fears that come with having a disease like this when I was reminded of a song that we used to sing in Sunday school when we were children. The words went something like “count your blessings, name then one by one, count your many blessings see what God has done.” I decided to take that song literally and began to look around my home and started to count, one by one, the blessings in my life. Think of it. Right now each of you are sitting on a comfy pew in a warm building. I have been in places where there were neither the pews to sit on nor a building to worship in. Count how many pews we have in here. Go home and count how many pillows are in your house, or blankets, or eating utensils. Every one of those things are material blessings that people in this world, everyday, live without. Think of every single garment of clothing you have. Think of every book in your house. Everything.
After I thought about that for awhile, I started thinking about the “could have beens” in my life. I could have been born in Haiti, Rwanda, or the Congo and not only be facing thyroid cancer, but all the rest of the poverty and war that they face daily on top of it. I could have been born in the brothels in India, or the human trafficking ring that babies are born into daily. I could be living anywhere else in this world and not have a clean clinic to go to get blood tests, Or have a nice, clean, warm home to come back to after surgery is finished. Or even more personal, I could have been diagnosed with any other cancer that do not have the positive prognosis that my cancer does. Or I could have MS. Or I could have severe arthritis that cripples my day to day living, or go through what some have to face every second day and be on a dialysis for the rest of my life. When I really begin to look at the “could have been”s in the area of disease and diagnosis, I realize how truly I am blessed.
Then I thought about the people in my life and thought about the fact that I am living within minutes of my parents home so they can help me with my children when I am in treatment. The fact that I have a hardworking husband who survives on minimal amount of sleep, but has no problem coming home to help with the housework and kids at the end of a long day, just because I am not feeling good. Or the fact that I have two beautiful, completely healthy children running around my house. Or the fact that God has blessed me incredibly this year, with new relationships with Christian women who have grown to be the most loyal and genuine friendships I have ever known in my life.
Then to realize that not only do I have all those blessings in my life, , but also I have been blessed to be born into a home that taught me the one, true God, to be living in a country that allows me to worship this true God….and then to know this true God personally and to be able to face this horrible trial with the One, who is not distant and uncaring, but who weeps for my tears, who understands my fears and is beside me to give me grace to make it through every day.
Romans 8:28 say, “And we know, that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” What a privilege it is to be able to know personally this great, true, God who can take horrible situations and work good out of it for those who love Him. This is not a fairytale coping mechanism that I am relying on when I need to escape from reality…this is how our faithful God is able to take a very fearful person, in the midst of a very real and anxious place and help her see the thousands of blessings He has poured out upon her. I am truly, truly blessed…and this I know for sure.
Another thing that I feel that God is working in my life is on the issue of faith, and what does that mean to me? And how does faith show itself in my life. What does it mean to say that our faith is often refined in the fire? I know that in my past, everything thing that I have learned for sure about the Lord, has been learned from inside the fire. It has mostly been from the depths of despair, grief or shame that I have been able to see the truths of the Lord so clearly, that then built a firm foundation of faith beneath my feet, giving me the strong foothold I needed to stand on for the next time I needed to face the fire.
One of the deepest lessons I ever have learned, that I find myself going back to over and over in these past 12 months, came less from my fiery trial as it did some dear friends of mine.
When I was a young adult I had the privilege of spending my summers working at a local Bible camp. One summer, one of the camp leaders gave a devotional about faith and about the attributes of God and he ended it by stating this, “I am confident that God is Sovereign and God is good, the Bible says it to be true, so I believe it”. Not long after, this man’s young son was diagnosed with cancer and in the midst of all the pain and suffering that he and his family went through I again had the privilege to hear him say at another camp meeting, “the Bible says that God is Sovereign and God is good, so I believe it to be true, not because I feel it to be true, but because His Word says it is”.
His son eventually died from that horrible disease, and a few years later I heard him preach that same message again, “God is Sovereign and He is Good”. I just did not understand that, and in my ignorance and arrogance I asked him, “How can you say that? He didn’t’ just die, he suffered and died, he was a child…HOW is that Good?”
I will never forget as he and his wife wept and said to me, “Melinda, we don’t know why a child, our child, had to go through this. We just don’t. Melinda, there were days when everything we prayed, the opposite happened. We would beg the Lord, that just that one day, just the ONE day, that our son would have less pain than he did the night before….we’d beg .for God to be merciful in that one little way, that one day….and you know?…. THAT would be the day our son would scream in agony worse than he ever had before. It was so bad that one day I ended up running out of the hospital down the street until I found a park and threw myself on the grass before the Lord and asked the Lord WHY? Where is the goodness? Why did everything we pray for the opposite happen? How is that good? And that was when the Lord began to work in our hearts and teach us what faith is….
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and CERTAIN OF WHAT WE DO NOT SEE….in those moments there was no way that we could SEE the goodness of God…but we KNEW that the Bible said it, so it had to be true…Faith is believing the truth because the Bible says it is true….not because our experiences say so, or our feelings say so, not because our prayers get answered but because THE BIBLE SAYS IT TO BE TRUE and nothing else. The Bible says God is Sovereign and He is GOOD…faith is believing that to be true because that’s what HE says…even when every experience you are going through says it’s the opposite, even when every fiber of your being is screaming “it’s a LIE”, even when every single thing around you says it is NOT true….you grab hold to that Word of God and you CHOOSE to believe it for that very second , and then you CHOOSE to believe it again…and again and again…you CHOOSE to believe the truth because that is what it is…TRUTH….Melinda, sometimes we had to grab hold of it for that one second, and then grab hold of it the next second, and the next, and the next until a minute had passed…and then we had to grab hold of it again…but THAT is what faith is….being certain of what we can not see… believing Him to be who He says He is and do what He says He will do because that is what His Word says
It took me a few more years before I went through enough heartache and humility before this truth sank deep into my heart, but when I look back, I marvel at how faithful our God is…He used someone else’s horrible situation, to teach me about faith, which in turn built the foundation for what I have to face today.
My precious friends and family, I stand here speaking to you only by the grace of God and I want to tell you….our GOD IS SOVEREIGN and our GOD IS GOOD…no matter what the outcome in my life. No matter what happens in the tomorrow. Whether I am healed of this disease, or whether my worst fears come true and my children are left motherless. My God is Sovereign and my God is GOOD. I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I do know Who holds it in His hand and I choose to put my faith in Him and believe that He will do what He says He will do. When surgeries and treatment dates are delayed, He is Sovereign. When each test comes back with a worse diagnosis, He is good. It does not matter what I FEEL about those things, He is faithful to His Word and He is Sovereign and He is good.
My friends and family….I need your prayer….I ask for you to pray for me. I ask that you would pray, obviously, for God’s healing if He should see fit in this situation. We serve a mighty God and I know that God is able to heal me this very second if he knew that was the way to bring Him glory. He could take away this cancer and put a brand new thyroid back in if He saw fit. I ask you to pray that if it is His will to be glorified by my healing then I pray He would
But more than that….I desperately need you to pray that I would trust the Lord with my kids. That I would choose to believe that He is Sovereign and Good in my children’s lives as well. For all those things that I just shared with you about faith, it is ONLY, ONLY by the grace of God that I am able to speak or live any of it. However, from the moment I was diagnosed with this cancer I have been battling with an overwhelming sense of fear in regards to my children. I am constantly thinking “how is this going to affect them”. Whether it’s just me not feeling good and then not being a good mom around home, or whether it’s how my absence affects them each time I am gone to appointments, or whether it’s how my weeks away in treatment will affect them. I worry, a lot, about my kids.
I have not been afraid, not for one moment about how this disease will affect me personally. I am not afraid of death. I know my Redeemer lives and one day I will stand with Him. Heaven, to me, is as real as getting in my car and driving to my home. It’s right there. I long for the day to be in heaven. But I do not want to leave my children behind. My biggest fear in this whole world, the fear that can paralyze me, is the fear that one day, I will be in heaven, and my children will not meet me there. It sounds ridiculous to say it, because I am very aware that whether I live 4 more months, 4 years, or 40 more years that I can not guarantee that anyways. The Only One who can guarantee that is the One who I am trusting with my life, but am having a hard time trusting Him with theirs. It is sometimes hard for me to fathom, that anyone, even the God of the Universe can love them, and parent them better than I can.
I am specifically asking you to pray about my children and that I would be able to leave them in the arms of their Heavenly Father, knowing He loves them more than I do, and that He is Sovereign and He is good. Pray, that my faith would not be shaken in regards to them. Pray that I would grab hold of His truth and believe Him to be who He says He is in regards to my children. Pray that I will choose to believe and be certain of the things I can not see in regard to my children. Sometimes it seems that in the darkest of night I can lose focus from the truth and surrender to the lies…everything seems worse in the middle of the night. Pray for me that in those moments I would rest knowing He holds them in His hand.
I take comfort in knowing that we serve and amazing God. One Who is faithful, Who is Sovereign and Who is good. A God who is so powerful He could heal me this very moment, but also is big enough to handle it when I question why he doesn’t. “Our God is not threatened anymore by my heartbreak, fears or questioning, any more than He is threatened by a rainstorm. He knows the rain will fall. He knows that I will fail.” And I take great comfort in knowing that I can give Him my deepest hurts and fears about my children and know that He wants to take it all.
I do not know what trial you are facing today. Maybe it’s not cancer. Maybe it’s another crippling disease, or a loss of a job. Maybe it’s the pain of being in a marriage that sadly disappoints you, or the rejection of a friend. Maybe you are in financial struggle, or are grieving the loss of a loved one. Maybe you are just afraid of the unknown in the future. Maybe your child has cancer, or maybe you are a parent just struggling to give your children to the Lord and to let go of what you can not control…whatever it is, … know this…He has not forgotten you, He is Sovereign and He IS good….
Psalm 62 says, “I wait patiently before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people (my friends and my family) trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him for God is our refuge.”