y husband was diagnosed with cancer at age 24. We have three children, the youngest of which was 6 months old at the time. Regardless of the nature of the cancer and the curability rates presented by your oncology team, you hear the word "cancer" and your mind immediately goes to death. At least, ours did. While trying not to overreact and upset our family more than necessary, we dealt with questions that came to our minds like: "What will you do if you are left a widow with three children?" "How am I going to bury my husband?"
The diagnosis had shocked us – shook us to our cores – and in a world that was upside down to us, we were bracing for the worst.
Fast forward a week to after my husband emerged from surgery with flying colors. Fast forward two more weeks to where we got the news that yes, the tumor was indeed cancerous. Fast forward two more weeks to where we learned that the cancer was 100% contained, and he would need no further treatment.
Relief. Deep gratitude. Praise given to God. The feeling that life was right again and all would be well.
And then we dealt with the questions of "Should we need to be in perfect health for our life to be 'right'?" "Would we still have praised God if the cancer had spread?"
After three months of mulling these things over, my husband went for his first follow up scan to check for recurrence. We were told the odds of the cancer returning in that short of time were in the single digit percentage range. We were confident that since God had answered our prayers, that all would continue to be well. I did not even go to the follow up appointment with my husband as we had both decided that it would be a waste of time.
I sat watching the clock that day, waiting for the text with the silly emoji face telling me that he was fine. An hour passed. And then a text came, but it wasn't what I expected. "The cancer is back honey; I'm going to need treatment." I fell to pieces. I called my husband sobbing. "What does this mean? How could it come back? You were fine just weeks ago."
Having to tell our children – again – that Daddy has cancer – again – was horrible. I cried for days. As sure as I had been just three months ago that God had answered our prayers and that all would be well, I was sure that this time everything would be awful. I was convinced I would in fact be widowed. We began to listen to the lies of Satan that whispered "You're doing something wrong, and you're being punished for it" or – even worse "This is because of xyz
in your past".
The months of doctors' visits, consultations, treatment and recovery were dark for both of us. We tried to stay focused on Christ and His sovereign will, but somehow it didn't come as easily this time around. We were faced with so many additional things that brought us to our knees – excruciating side effects for my husband, the reality that we may never be able to conceive more children, and the one that made me weep the most: I had assumed I had known the Lord's will for our family and future. And I didn't. And that was hard.
The words of Jeremiah the prophet were constantly on my heart and lips, as I struggled to care for my sick husband and maintain normalcy for my children: "But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." (Lamentations 3:21-24)
During that time, I can now look back and see that the Potter was molding the clay. I was studying 1 Peter during that time, and committed to memory his words to the persecuted church: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:6 & 7)
I am so grateful that He used terrifying and painful experiences to shape me into a vessel He can use. It is clear to me that it was in fact necessary. My prayer then and now is that the trial He used to test the genuineness of our faith would result in those things: praise and glory and honor. Not just by us, but by those around us.
The day we got the news that the treatment had been successful and the cancer was gone is counted as one of the happiest days of my life. But as the calls and messages poured in from our friends and family thanking God for answered prayers, I felt more and more burdened to reply:
Sometimes the answer is 'no'. The Lord did answer our prayers – both times. He answered the prayer that the cancer would not come back with a loving and tender 'no'. He answered the prayer that the treatment would be successful with a loving and tender 'yes'. Both answers are answers to prayer. Of course I like one more than the other, but the reality is that HE KNOWS BEST. I don't. Can I fathom a life where my being widowed is the best thing for me? No, I cannot. But His ways are not my ways; His thoughts are not my thoughts. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8 & 9)
I realized that I was not alone in the assumption that only a 'yes' answer constituted an answered prayer. As painful as the lesson was, I trust that it is one that I have learned. Permanently.
And so in addition to being more conformed to Christ as a result of this time, I've also had this truth pressed on my heart: His answer, whatever it is, is an answer to prayer