Since my cancer diagnosis, I have learned a lot about life in general. The important things. The not so important things. Things that used to take up such large amounts of my life now seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It’s funny to think about how much time we spend worrying about things that don’t matter.
I am very thankful to have almost two years in remission from my cancer. While my life will never be the same, I am not altogether angry about my experience. As odd as it may sound, being sick is the best thing that ever happened to my faith.
It sounds crazy. I know. Anyone reading this who isn’t a Christian will think I’m nuts. That’s ok. It’s acceptable to agree to disagree.
Not everyone leans on faith when they get cancer. Sometimes a cancer diagnosis can even cause people to lose their faith. Faith or non-faith is very personal to all of us, and we have to work that out for ourselves.
I spent most of my adult life trying to figure out what I believed. I went from believing to not believing. I studied science and other world religions. I decided to be an atheist for a while, but then I wasn’t sure about that, so I tried to be agnostic. Most of my 20s were spent in confusion until somewhere in my early 30s, Christianity clicked for me. Before being sick, my faith was strong but very juvenile. There was so much I didn’t know about myself or God. When I got cancer, I had no choice but to figure it out. For the first time in my life, I no longer doubt.
Cancer completely stinks. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Yet, I know that it changed my relationship with God for the better.
Here are a few of the most important things I have learned.
God did not give me cancer.
Let me repeat that for those who need to hear it again — God did not give me cancer. He didn’t give you cancer. He didn’t give anyone cancer. That isn’t how it works.
God is not up there with a handful of lightning bolts ready to strike. He doesn’t wait for us to do something bad and then deal out the punishments. It’s very easy to think that something as horrible as cancer would have to be a punishment of some kind, but that’s not true. In fact, most Christians should know Jesus already paid the price for our sins.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes, we are healed. — Isaiah 53:5 ESV
It isn’t unusual for Christians to go through trials. Read the New Testament, specifically James, and you hear all about the trials our predecessors had to endure. God doesn’t take away all trials, no matter how badly we want him to. Sometimes he allows us to go through trials to teach us something. Sometimes we go through trials for no reason at all. Sometimes that’s just life because we live in a messed up, broken world.
Trials strengthen our faith, and no matter how hard it gets, God is there with you in them. That’s hard to see when you’re in the midst of a storm, but it’s a truth I hold onto.
God understands that I am afraid.
When I was little, I used to think I couldn’t be scared. I couldn’t question God. I couldn’t wonder why things were happening to me because that would be not having faith. That would be thinking God wasn’t doing the right thing.
It took me a while to figure out that fear has nothing to do with your faith. It means you don’t understand. It’s okay to question. God doesn’t mind. It’s a very human-like reaction to be scared. He made us, so he knows that. I’ve learned that when I question God, and I ask him for understanding, I learn the most.
That doesn’t mean he wants us to live in fear. It’s very much the opposite (see the verse below). By asking and seeking answers for guidance, you are opening yourself up to the amazing things God can do with your situation.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. — Isaiah 41:10 ESV
God would want me to use this experience to glorify Him.
Notice I didn’t say glorify cancer. There is nothing good about cancer. Cancer is horrible. However, we can use the experience of battling cancer to glorify God. We are supposed to glorify God in all we do anyway. If you go through something terrible like cancer, why not use it as an opportunity to show the peace and comfort that only God can bring?
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. — 1 Peter 4:16 ESV
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have bad days. I struggle like everyone else. I get sad, angry, and depressed like everyone else. I even ended up in therapy! The main difference for me is that I have hope, and I lean on my faith and my faith community. That gives me strength when I don’t have strength on my own. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through cancer without my faith in God. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane on those days that are hard to get through.
I am honest in my struggle, and I try my best to support others going through similar things. I hope to someday start my own cancer support group or local charity as a way of giving back.
God has my future.
No matter what happens in my life, it’s okay. I know where I’m going. I know what my future holds when it comes to eternity. I have faith that God is still in control of everything. Let his will be done. Not my will. Not my family’s will. Not what my friends want either. It’s what God wants. I trust him to make the best decisions for my life.
And yes, that even means if the cancer comes back and takes my life. I’m not scared of the worst anymore. I’ve faced the prospect of dying, and I’m at peace with it.
Although I do hope to live to be the gray-haired, old woman in the rocking chair yelling at all you kids for being on my lawn.
Cancer is the club no one wants to join. In most ways, it has been a horrible nightmare that I’m still waiting to wake up from. However, in other ways, it has been a blessing for me. Even in the roughest of times, I hope that others can see God through me.
This blog post was originally published in April 2019 on my personal blog, which no longer exists. It was rewritten and edited for Medium.