Yesterday marked four years from the worst day of my life. The day where I sank lower than I knew possible. They day where my life came to a screeching halt and I watched other people’s lives around me keep going. I was diagnosed with stage 3 Triple Negative breast cancer and it sucked. I woke up that night with my jaw clenched, screaming like a wild woman, and hitting my husband because I was REALLY angry and I was REALLY scared and this was NOT supposed to be happening to me. It felt like a nightmare that I couldn’t escape. Everything in my future with filled with a big question mark. I was in a battle for my life. What I didn’t realize at the time that the battle that I was facing was only 10% physical and 90% emotional/spiritual. Because cancer did not just invade my physical body, it invaded my dreams, my hopes, and my future.
Isn’t that true with most battles we face in life though? All of you reading this have faced really painful stuff. Divorce, infertility, broken friendships, death of loved ones, etc. So my battle with cancer is not any bigger that many of your battles. To be honest, the cancer did not last as long as our 10 painful years of trying to conceive a child or the years of a tumultuous marriage. It’s more noticeable and its terminal, but it was no less painful emotionally than some of my previous or your battles.
Cancer came and it went. It left an impact. I hate I had to go through it but it did NOT win. If it took me out tomorrow, it still would NOT win. Because cancer was never really the enemy. Fear was. It always was the enemy! Although I had overcome many fears in my life prior to cancer, more big fears loomed and controlled me. Cancer allowed my hidden fears to smack me in the face over and over again……..And they had plenty of time to beat me up and get attention because I couldn’t hide behind work or “busyness” for the year I faced treatments and surgery. The fears were legit. They had some really good points! “You are hideous without hair! You look like a boy without boobs! Stay home! You are going to scare young children and embarrass your family”. (Fear what others think and fear of what I look like) “What if you are one of those people who die young?” (Fear of future) “What if you die and your kids won’t have a mom?” (Fear for my kids) “What if you die a painful and long death?”(Fear of death) “What if you fight this hard and it just comes right back?” (Fear of future) “What if your husband misses boobs so much that he leaves you for someone with a nice rack?”(Fear of rejection) Cancer in my physical body sucked but the fears were debilitating. Yours are too. And they hide and they speak to you. They sound noble at times. They often so keep you safe. They are a voice of good reason at times. But more often, fear holds you back. It keeps you from pursing passions. It keeps you striving for……not sure what….. But it kept me striving for security that I already was holding, that I was sitting in, and that surrounded me.
Quick story: There was a time in our marriage that was really hard. When I was crying out to God for our marriage one night and journaling, a scripture from the bible came to my mind. Psalms 23. I had read that scripture many times in my life, but I felt like I was supposed to memorize it and say it outload when I was angry, hurt, or fearful. The hurt, pain, and fear had made me overreact and irrational for a long time. So I memorized Ps 23. (Which if you know me is miraculous! I do not have ANY song memorized, even if I’ve listen to it every day for a year, and I flunked the assignment of memorizing a paragraph from Hamlet in the ninth grade after really working on it for a week!) So anyway, I went through a season of reciting Psalms 23 every time I felt like I was starting to fall into fear and devastation. To Mark I probably seemed like I had completely lost my mind. I couldn’t just whisper it either because it seem inadequate. It felt like it needed to be proclaimed so I would run to another room and begin screaming it with tears and passion. And honestly, it wasn’t for him. I was reciting it for me. I was crying out for God’s reality to be mine. I needed the spiritual reality to be my physical reality. And that’s what it became. And roots grew deep in me that mercy and goodness were going to be with me all the days of my life whether my marriage survived our not. Roots grew deep in me that no matter what storm came my heart would survive and thrive because goodness and mercy would always be near me and within reach when I allowed God to be my Shepard. The truths applied rescued me from fear and irrational overreactions and our marriage improved!
The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD
I am telling you this story because it has EVERYTHING to do with my battle with cancer and the battles in your lives. Verse 6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. This is a piercing truth when you allow God to be your Shepard. A Shepard….not an acquaintance…..not a friend from the past. A Shepard takes care of His sheep. He leads us. He protects us. He watches over us. We have to choose to entrust our lives with Him. If the truth that GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLLOW YOU ALL THE DAYS OF YOUR LIFE sinks deep in your soul, you will be a different person. Your hardships, fears, and insecurities can be filtered through that truth. Throughout scripture it never said that the goodness and mercy and provision of God was going to be conditional on our circumstances. It is a truth that withstands all hellish circumstances in our lives. Oh! And your CUP RUNNETH OVER (verse 5)! This mercy and goodness is not just for you! There isn’t a lack…there is an abundance because your cup will runneth over and spill onto others!
So let me celebrate my four year cancer anniversary and spill over on to you. Battles are going to keep coming. They suck. I am sorry…and they will keep coming as long as you are on this side of heaven. Use these ugly/beautiful opportunities to face fears and grow deeper roots. Feel them and then proclaim the spiritual truths over your life until they become your physical reality.Cancer not only was defeated in my life, it was punched, ninja kicked, climbed up on, and stomped to the ground. And so will the “cancers” in your life when you fight the fears that hide in them. You’re not alone. You have a Shepard. “SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY WILL FOLLOW YOU ALL THE DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.” Your cup will “runneth over”!