I am very thankful to have one year in remission from my cancer. While my life will never be the same, I am not altogether angry about my experience. As odd as it may sound, being sick is the best thing that ever happened to my faith.
It sounds crazy. I know.
Prior to being sick, my faith was strong but very juvenile. There was so much I didn't know about myself or about God. When I got cancer, I had no choice but to learn and fully trust in him. Like the old Mandy Moore song from my college days, he really was (and is) my only hope.
Cancer completely stinks. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Yet, I know that it changed my relationship with God for the better.
Here are a few of the most important things I have learned.
God did not give me cancer.
Let me repeat that for those who need to hear it again - God did not give me cancer. He didn't give you cancer. He didn't give anyone cancer. That isn't how he works.
God is not up there with a handful of lightning bolts ready to strike. He doesn't wait for us to do something bad and then deal out the punishments. It’s very easy to think something as horrible as cancer would have to be a punishment, but that’s absolutely not true. In fact, most Christians should know Jesus already paid the price for your sins.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes, we are healed. - Isaiah 53:5
It isn't unusual for Christians to go through trials. Read the New Testament, specifically James, and you hear all about the trials our predecessors had to endure. God doesn’t take away all trials, no matter how badly we want him to. Sometimes he allows us to go through trials to teach us something.
Notice I used the word allow.
Trials strengthen our faith, and no matter how hard it gets, God is there with you in them. That’s hard to see when you’re in the midst of a storm, but it’s a truth I hold onto.
God understands that I am afraid.
When I was little, I used to think I couldn’t be scared. I couldn’t question God. I couldn’t wonder why things were happening to me because that would be not having faith. That would be thinking God wasn’t doing the right thing.
It took me a while to figure out that fear has nothing to do with your faith. It means you don’t understand. It’s okay to question. God doesn’t mind. It’s a very human-like reaction to be scared. He made us, so he knows that. I’ve learned that when I question God, and I ask him for understanding, I learn the most.
That doesn't mean he wants us to live in fear. In fact, it's very much the opposite (see the verse below). By asking and seeking answers for guidance, you are opening yourself up to the amazing things God can do with your situation.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10
God would want me to use this experience to glorify him.
Notice I didn't say glorify cancer. There is nothing good about cancer. However, we can use the experience of battling cancer to glorify God. We are supposed to glorify God in all we do anyway. If you go through something really terrible like cancer, why not use it as an opportunity to show the peace and comfort that only God can bring? Even in the roughest of times, I hope that others can see God through me.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. - 1 Peter 4:16
I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through cancer without my faith in God. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane. It’s the only thing that truly gives me hope when the news is not as good as I want it to be.
God has my future.
No matter what happens in my life, it’s okay. I know where I’m going. I know what my future holds when it comes to eternity. I have faith that God is still in control of everything. Let his will be done. Not my will. Not my family’s will. Not what my friends want either. It’s what God wants. I trust him to make the best decisions for my life.
Cancer stinks. It’s the club no one wants to join. In most ways, it has been a horrible nightmare that I’m still waiting to wake up from. However, in other ways, it has been a blessing for me. My faith has always been strong but never like it is now.
Do you feel closer to God after battling cancer or going through a similar trial? What lessons did you learn, or are you learning, along the way?