The first time it happened, it seemed like a normal day. Normal in every other way at least. I herded the kids in from the garage juggling groceries, toys, and fast food cartons.
Ever the multi-tasker, I played the voicemail messages as I began to put away groceries.
Then the words that would bring "normal" to a screeching halt: "Results of the MRI...mass...consult with a surgeon, biopsy."
What had been a random "lump" in the muscle of my left thigh was now something....possibly something serious.
Many scans, two surgeries, biopsies, six weeks of radiation therapy, and three months of physical therapy later, I was cancer-free and life returned to a "new normal."
Then last week, almost two years later, it happened again. Another "normal" day, sitting at my desk answering e-mail. The phone rang, and I answered it.
Then those words that no cancer survivor wants to hear...
Something had showed up on a routine MRI.
"Recommend PET scan...follow-up with your surgeon."
Suddenly, I was right back where I had started. All the faith and peace that had seen me through the previous two years suddenly drained from my body. I was scared. I was really scared.
I realize fear and anxiety are normal, natural emotions to experience when one hears words like "cancer" (or "laid off," or "terminal," or insert-your-own-experience-here), but in that moment I realized I have a choice. I can choose to allow fear to cripple me, or I could dig my feet in and stand on what had seen me through so many times before...my faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful God.
I know God is bigger than anything I face, so instead of wallowing in fear I choose to...
1. Focus on what I know to be true.
I know God's Word is true "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." (Proverbs 30:5)
I know God is good, and He does good "You are good and do good" (Psalm 119:68, The Message)
I know God has a plan for my life "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11)
I know God is bigger than me and bigger than what I face "I know that you [God] can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2); "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my [God's] ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9)
I know that fear and worry are not from God "Do not be anxious about anything" (Philippian 4:6a)
2. Evaluate my every thought.
This is not a one-time battle. It's a daily, sometime hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute struggle with my own fears and my own worries. I have to be on guard and not let fear and worry creep in. I have learned to stop myself when I have a thought that begins with "what if..." I can't let myself go there. I stop and remind myself of what I know to be true (see #1 above).
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:25...34)
"We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5)
3. Ask for help.
Standing in faith doesn't mean I bury my head in the sand and there's no problem. Believing God will work in my situation doesn't mean I sit idly by and wait for God as if He were my own personal butler. I have a responsibility...to pray.
Why pray? Because I know it works (James 5:16). I know God hears me and will answer me. It's not that He needs to be reminded; it's that I need to be reminded. I need to come to Him in prayer so that my faith will be strengthened.
"In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6b, 7)
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped" (Psalm 28:7)
"God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:5)
4. Recruit support
I can't do this alone; God never intended me to do it that way. I am blessed to have an amazing support group of family and friends whom I know are praying for me. How can I be so sure? They tell me so. Not in a flippant, I-don't-know-what-else-to-say-so-I'll-say-I'm-praying-for-you way. They tell me specifically what they are praying. They send me e-mails with encouraging verses or texts that simply say "Praying for you this morning." Something that lets me know they really are.
Most of the time those e-mails and texts come just when I need them the most. When I think I can't take it any more, my phone will ding or chime and I know it's God's way of telling me (through the faith and encouragement of others) "Don't give up, child. I've got this."
We never know what life may bring us, and we're not guaranteed it will always be pleasant or even easy. The beautiful thing about living a life of faith, however, is being able to rest in God's truth and know that He is bigger and He is able. The key is choosing to do so by:
Focusing on God's truth
Evaluating every thought
Asking for help
So, when fear calls, answer with confidence. Better yet, remain silent and let God do the talking.
Read my full cancer story here.
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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.