Rachel recently completed her 12th and hopefully final round of chemotherapy after an additional 3 months of hyperthermia treatment in California. With that behind us, our minds have already begun the drift into an all-too-familiar pattern of thinking. As we look at a potential future that is not filled with aggressive treatment, sickness, and a perpetual focus on cancer, we are filled with relief, hope, and a little bit of crippling insecurity.
I’m not sure I can put into words, but it’s kind of like being attacked by a mountain lion alone in a forest. Let's say you get away, you've outrun the mountain lion but are still in the woods. You are relieved to be out of immediate danger but are watching for the now hidden stalking cat. There is a letdown of adrenaline that is replaced with a realization of the longer, less dramatic, journey ahead... with the temptation to always look over your shoulder for that lion.
We are not imprisoned to this pattern of thinking though, and two examples from the bible came to our minds as we contemplated this new (old) reality.
Job (pronounced J-oh-b)
The book of Job in the Bible chronicles a difficult season of life for a man named Job. He lived a life of devotion to his faith and still entered into a terrible time of suffering and loss. He lost his possessions, his children, and his health. He was afflicted on all sides but was not destroyed, even though he was tempted to give up and curse God. He persevered and was sustained by his faith, which is where we find this summary at the end of the book: “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.
And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days.” – Job 42:10-17
The Lord restored Job and blessed him beyond his wildest imagination. He lived a full life with friends and family.
Joseph was one of 12 children in the book of Genesis. He went through a terrible season of suffering. He was thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, slandered and imprisoned, he was struck down on all sides…but not destroyed. For years he suffered and was afflicted but he persevered and was sustained by his faith. Towards the end of his story, he is reconciled to his brothers who had intended so much harm to him and he had this to say to them:
“But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father's house. Joseph lived 110 years.” – Genesis 50:19-22
The Lord restored Joseph after his many years of suffering and used his blessings to save his family and to preserve the future nation of Israel.
Here is what we learned from these two examples: A season of suffering is not a prediction of the future, as much as the weather today makes no promise of the weather next month. Sometimes, God uses a season of a specific type of suffering to lay a foundation upon which to build, like He did with Job and Joseph. Sometimes, the mountain lion is really gone.
Though we don’t know what the future holds, we are comforted by the possibility of having a story like these men did, with the ability to bring glory to God through the dawn that comes after a long night.
When you spend so long in a valley, there is a temptation to feel wary of the mountaintop. But God brings us out of valleys where we were sustained and we are brought to the mountaintop. This is a model for a life of faith time and time again and we can find comfort in this as we look to the future.
We've spoken before about the importance of faith in a cancer journey and we hope this is an encouragement to you to not discount it's impact on the road ahead!
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge[b]— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.