Because of my daughter’s thyroid cancer diagnosis last month, I was obsessed with spreading the word about it. This month making Knitted Knockers for people going through breast cancer was laid on my heart. I would be remiss to not have a breast cancer survivor blog this month. I welcome Debbie Zanella, a sister in Christ, whom I am also able to call one of my best friends. Thank You, Debbie for sharing what breast cancer taught you about Jesus.❤️
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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."-- Phillipians 4:4-7
Seven Years ago this month, I was 33 years old and my life was going just as I had planned. I loved Jesus, I had a devoted husband, a beautiful home, a successful business, family and friends, a precious 2 year-old daughter, and a baby boy on the way. One day, in the midst of my “blessed” life, my arm bumped the side of my breast and I felt some tenderness that I chalked up to pregnancy changes. Although I could feel a lump, I still discounted it as pregnancy changes because it felt similar to the tenderness I had experienced a couple of years earlier when breast-feeding my daughter.
Fast forward to a few weeks later, I was in my Ob-gyn’s office and saw her face fall when she felt the same lump. She stepped out of the room and not-so-discreetly made a phone call to radiology: “I have a patient 33 weeks pregnant- I’m certain she has breast cancer, we need to biopsy tomorrow and will need to deliver the baby as soon as possible so we can start her treatment”. My life was about to change dramatically.
Very quickly, the initial diagnosis was confirmed as Stage 3 breast cancer and I was scared. I was afraid that I was going to die, and more importantly that I was going to leave my babies to grow up without a mother. I knew what it felt like to grow up without a mom. My own mom died of breast cancer when I was 12. My children were so young, I couldn’t imagine how they would grow up without me and I feared they wouldn’t even remember me. I had a lot of other other fears and heartaches in the midst of this. I could write a book on all the surgeries I went through, the chemo, the radiation, the loss of my hair and breasts, all while trying to make the most of whatever time I was to have with my husband and my precious children.
However, my story is not really about cancer. The amazing thing in my story is how God used my cancer to teach me more about Him and His great love for me. I think it’s human nature to be pretty self-reliant when life is going well, but when trials come and we realize whatever control we think we have is an illusion, we tend to cry out to God. Fortunately, God promises to be close to the broken hearted and is graciously waiting for us to press into Him and walk with us through the trials we face in this life. In the midst of my battle with breast cancer, my awareness of God's love and"peace that passes understanding" was more evident than ever before.
Whether it’s breast cancer or any other trial, how do you face suffering, heartache, or death and walk victoriously in peace rather than being overtaken by fear and anxiety? Is it really possible to “be anxious for nothing”? I believe the answer to this question comes down to this: "Is God really trustworthy? Does He really want the very best for us? Is He sovereign? And in His sovereignty does He know better than we do?" God’s Word is filled with promises that assure us that all of these answers are, "YES!" If Jesus was willing to go to the cross and lay down his life for us, how can we doubt that He loves us and wants the best for us?
Is it because in our "human-ness," we are focusing too much on the wrong things, so when life doesn’t go our way, we incorrectly conclude God doesn’t love us and/or is not listening to our prayers? Do we value and pursue our happiness more than our holiness? Do we value and pursue our physical health and comforts over our spiritual health? Are our prayers more focused on changing our circumstances than changing us to look more like Jesus?
As I faced the possibility of dying I really wrestled with these questions. Due to some negative test results, there was a 3 month period of time that I believed I was not going to recover. During that time, I was sitting on a beach, praying and asking God to give me more time. As I sat on that beach crying and staring into the ocean, I heard God whisper to my heart: “Just as the tear on your cheek would be but one drop in the ocean, so your life on earth is compared to your life in eternity.” I felt like God was giving me a glimpse of how His priorities and perspective differ from ours. When thinking about our life, we often focus so much on the one drop while God is looking at the whole ocean.
The more I began to think about life from an eternal perspective and sought to value what God values, the more I trusted Him and understood what it meant for my heart and mind to be guarded in Christ Jesus. My heart was safe in the sovereignty of Christ, and my mind that had been subject to what I termed the “Crazy Spiral” (If I die then ____ will happen, and then ____ will happen, and on and on), just rested and trusted. Specifically- trusted God with the number of my days. Because of God’s faithfulness, I was able to walk in joy rather than anxiety about my uncertain future. Since my initial diagnosis God has graciously given me seven wonderful years of life with my husband and now almost 9 year-old and 7 year-old, and I am so grateful for each day!
I love that right after all the Breast Cancer Awareness in October is November-- a month focused on all we have to be thankful for. I want to encourage you to live each day with eternity in mind- -to rejoice in the Lord always, be anxious for nothing, and with Thanksgiving for all He has done, look to The One who gave everything for you!
Thank You, Debbie for sharing your heart with us and helping us to keep life in perspective.
Wednesday is November 1st, which means a new memory verse! If you are following along with me, for November, we add, “Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”--Psalm 106:1