Four months ago today I underwent surgery for cancer. Not long after my surgery, my husband looked me in the eyes, fear etched on his face like I’ve never seen before. “It was in 8 of your lymph nodes.” I closed my eyes because I couldn’t bear to see his. Heavy sigh, then, “But there’s more.” How could I open my eyes again and witness the pain in his? The look on his face was one that scared me, because Brian is not one to wear his heart on his sleeve. “It’s stage 3, and the most aggressive cancer as far as how quickly it spreads.” All I could do was cling to him and utter, “Oh, dear God.”
Has it really been four months since those dreadful moments? Yet I feel the pain of those days like it just happened minutes ago. I can hear Brian’s ragged breathing, and I can feel the prick of tears behind my eyes. George MacDonald wrote,
“‘Oh God,’ I said, and that was all. But what are the prayers of the whole universe more than expansions of that one cry? It is not what God can give us, but God that we want.”
I’ve had a lot of “Oh God” moments over the past months. I’m struggling through some today. The agony of chemo treatments, hospital stays, isolation, fear, pain, and the unknown all feel so overwhelming. There is no way to describe the fatigue and the weakness. I am often asked if I am getting rest, and I never know how to answer that question. There is no rest from helplessness and pain. There is a weariness from weakness that invades the bones. How do I explain the tiredness that is so tired of being tired that you find no real rest even when you are resting?
My recovery from the port-a-cath surgery has been painfully slow; much slower than I anticipated, and I find myself discouraged. Tomorrow I return to the cancer center to meet with my doctor and determine what course of treatment I will now undergo since my body didn’t react well to the Taxol. Once again it’s facing the unknown, and I am tired of the fear. I am tired of always feeling poorly. I dream about the days when I can run around with my children again, play with them for more than 15 minutes without needing a break, fix our supper, laugh deeply without my lungs aching, keep my house orderly and neat, go out on a date with Brian, even clean (I know, crazy!). Four months isn’t that long, especially when I think of others who have suffered for much longer. Yet it’s long enough for me to start to forget what my days used to be like… this life is my new normal.
When I think about the long months ahead, the dark clouds start to form again. How I long to be like Esther Burr (daughter of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards) who, after the death of her husband, wrote to her mother of how fearful she was that she would bring dishonor to her Lord in the midst of her pain. It was at the forefront of her thoughts and life. The forefront of my thoughts is so often about me. Yet this is not all about me. I long to live this new normal in a way that brings glory to God. My humanness complains and struggles. My legalism makes me feel guilty for the struggle. But the truth is my Savior gives me the freedom to struggle. The reality of these trials is that God is still there in the midst of them. He hears my cry and He is with me.
George MacDonald is so right. It’s not what God can give me that I want, it’s God Himself. He can give me so much. He has given me so much. But even if He gave me my normal life back tomorrow, it would mean nothing without God Himself. That is where the true rest comes, and while there is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual turmoil in my soul, there is One stronger within me than all this. He is the One that keeps my soul from suffocating under the oppressive fatigue. He is the One Who surrounds me with His light even when the dark clouds come. He is the One walking through those doors with me tomorrow at the cancer center (well, He and my sweet friend, Amanda).
Bowing to His will in my struggle means contentment in the unexplained, and I will never understand all the “whys” of my life. I will never understand the pain and the fear that has been brought not only into my life but into the lives of my loved ones, but I know He is not the author of pain. I will never understand the isolation I’ve endured, but I know He fills those voids with His love. I will never understand the grief and loss I’ve undergone in so many areas, but I know that His peace comes with submission. He has promised His presence both now and forever. And with His presence comes joy and gladness. I may not feel it every second, but it’s still there… because He is there.
For the Lord shall comfort Zion:
He will comfort all her waste places;
And He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness shall be found therein,
Thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
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