My phone rings. I hurriedly pick it up. My dad is about to give me an update on my mother.
“Your mom has lung cancer.” He struggles to get those words out.
My heart sinks deeper than I could bear. My thoughts race rapidly, trying to make sense of the situation. Each word in that phrase pierces me.
“Your mother doesn’t know yet. I’ll tell her after she is stronger from her surgery.”
Two weeks prior to that time, she felt symptoms of a minor stroke. My dad hurried her to the hospital. The doctors had diagnosed her with myasthenia gravis, and detected what they thought was a benign tumor that occurs in 15% of people with MG. They were wrong. The cancerous tumor grew to the size of a golf ball. They removed it, along with infected parts of my mom’s lungs.
My conversation with my younger sister is difficult. She cries and cries, and says she doesn’t understand what is going on. She vents her anger at God. I try to be strong and tell her that God is faithful, and to have hope in the Lord. What I didn’t tell her was that I struggled to believe that myself. We have to keep optimistic, so that we can keep our mother optimistic. Because we wanted to wait a little before she recovered from her surgery to break the news, we kept the cancer secret from her and from our church family. We smiled to those who asked how her surgery went, told them it went well, but told them no more. I let myself weep in the shower, hoping the falling water would cover the sounds of my agony.
Eventually, my dad tells my mom the news. She cries. He cries with her. They call us later from the hospital, and we pray desperately. That was all we could do.
For the next few months, my mom underwent treatment. My family endured by praying and hoping, praying and waiting. My mom would often be discouraged, and my family would come together to encourage her. We reminded her everyday that God is Lord over all, and that He comes to those who hope in Him. We worshiped in our agony, in our weeping, in our waiting. We cried to the only God; only He could rescue us, and only He could heal my mom. Scripture would be the effective sword that cuts away at her constant despair.
Looking back, the times we encouraged her was for us as well. I needed to hear that God is good and faithful. I needed to understand what that means. Most especially, I needed to understand that God loves us, and what that means. I swayed back and forth from despair and hope, from anger and faith. We hoped in the Lord, and struggled to hope in the Lord.
In all of this, God is glorified.
All the churches that are connected to my family send aid of all kinds. Three different church bodies pray unceasingly for us. They give my mother health supplements, prayer cards, and things to comfort her. The children in these churches send arts and crafts to encourage her. Together, we cry out to the Lord and pray for strength and faith. I had never seen such unity among three different churches before.
This process continued for a year. At the end of my mom’s treatments, we receive back the results. God is glorified. She is cancer-free. We emerged from the Refiner’s flames as different people.
Pain is our family’s tutor. It taught us that there is substance in the words “God is faithful and good.” When we waited for the Lord, Scripture proved itself true; He came for us, and had always been with us. Even now, as I write this, my heart burns and my eyes tear; my soul cries out that God is glorified in all things that go horribly wrong.
Down the road, my family lost a very dear friend to cancer. We wept with her family, just as they had done for us. God is just as glorified. We remind each other that death has lost its sting, and that in eternity, Jesus will wipe away every tear. God is glorified in all things. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. We worshipped during our friend’s funeral service.
Let me share a verse that I kept in my heart throughout the process. It is a weighty verse for weighty times.
“Count it all joy, my brothers,
when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.”
God is glorified when things go horribly wrong.