Some days just feel daunting. You wake up, if you even slept the night before, greeted with a knot in your stomach, knowing that what lies ahead for the day requires more strength and energy than you possess.
Chemotherapy week is often like that. Not just the physical toll, but the emotional as well. Questions and concerns flood my mind as I watch the familiar drip of the clear toxic substance, hoping it is doing its job.
Our family was caught in a tidal wave of questions but very few answers:
Would the chemotherapy work?
Would it bring on additional conditions like the prior chemotherapy did?
Would he survive?
How would we make sure everyone’s needs were met when there was so little of us to go around?
How would we cover the demands in ministry and at work?
How would God work, even this, for our good and His glory?
How could I still share His help, His hope, and His healing when my attention had to shift to the needs of our family?
If I can be honest, depending on the day, those questions often took a more desperate turn:
God, are you there?
God, do you care?
God, what are you doing?
“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)
For several months I lived an emotional roller coaster. Some days I was confident and bold, trusting God even when I could not see. Yet other moments I was overwhelmed by the enormity of our circumstances, and I could feel my grip slipping. My heart hurt, tears flowed, and I could be overcome by confusion, anger, and despair. My head knew the answers, but sometimes my heart was so broken that I had to choose to consciously trust the truth of His word.
Many have called, texted, emailed, or messaged me with questions. “What advice can you give?” “I’m between a rock and a hard place. What do I do?” “What about when God doesn’t answer?”
In the hardest days of life when questions are more numerous than answers, it can be tempting to withdraw—from relationships, from life, even from God. It may be contrary to your feelings, but let me encourage you to first Lean in to God when you want to pull away. The enemy would like you to shelf your Bible, stay home from church, and give up on your prayers. But the truth says that when we seek Him, we will find Him, but we have to do our part first.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Give it all to Him—including, and especially, the broken, tattered, and torn pieces of your heart. He is big enough to handle it. He knows already, but your sharing it with Him gives Him room to act.
Put yourself in a place to be surrounded by truth. In life’s hardest days, the enemy is fast at work spreading lies to your ear and heart. He wants you to give up—another victory for his kingdom.
During our darkest days, when my husband was in the hospital, or sick from chemotherapy and I felt helpless, and demands from other quadrants of our life screamed loud and relentless, I cried out to God that it felt like too much to bear. Often, those were the same days I received the most messages from others in need of support. There was only so much of me to go around.
The only way to keep pouring out was to get filled up. I had to will myself to go to church, even if it meant going alone and sitting on the back row. I played praise and worship music 24/7—yes, even while I slept. I wrote down Scripture to recite and memorize that uplifted my heart and reminded me of He who is big enough to handle what was crushing me. In other words, I intentionally surrounded myself in outlets of truth.
Stay close to those who speak truth into your life, even when you’re tempted to run and hide. Truthfully, during our hardest days, I was tempted to withdraw. But that just feeds into the enemy’s plan. My closest friends knew if I grew quiet, if I posted less on social media, if the time between my responses to their inquiries took longer to come, they needed to get more vocal in their prayers. But in the long run, I had to choose to stay connected, even when I felt like no one understood.
“One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12:26)
Most truly couldn’t relate to our circumstances, but they could relate to the heartache and pain. And their faith remained strong when mine wavered in the moment. They reminded me of His truth to help combat the enemy’s lies that were so loud and almost palpable. Some days I had to rely on their faith and hope, while He renewed mine.
“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)
“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.” (Proverbs 25:11)
For me, one of the hardest things to do when days were dark, ominous, and frightening was to be thankful. Scripture tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) While I struggled to find joy in the actual trial, I am so grateful that it serves a purpose. For that, I could be thankful.
My goal has been to purpose to find the things I could be grateful for when it seemed the valley was dark and deep, (#GratitudeOverGrumbling) because despite our situation, God is always good.
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“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.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
By intentionally having a thankful and honest heart, sharing both my needs and my gratitude, He then can infiltrate our heart with His peace regardless of the situation. His peace permeates the questions, the doubts, the fears because despite it all He is good.
While my circumstances were daunting, there was always something I could find to be thankful for: a child’s laughter, roses in winter, warm fuzzy socks, a friend’s text, or the fact that God never sleeps and I could pray to Him throughout my sleepless nights.
Remembering that God is good despite our circumstances, brings comfort and peace. And that is something we can always be thankful for.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1)
“For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.” (Psalm 100:5)
What never helped me was when someone flippantly said, “This too shall pass.” It lacked sensitivity, compassion, and empathy. Yet, I did need to remember that the truth of God’s word does ensure that everything has a limited duration.
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Thankfully, no season lasts forever, and while some last longer than others, a new season is coming.
Trials will come. Answers may seem nonexistent or slow in coming. But God and His love are certain.
- Lean in and honestly share your pain with Him.
- Surround yourself with His truth.
- Stay close to those who will faithfully speak truth and life to you and in you.
- Draw on the hope and faith of others when yours is wanting.
- Acknowledge the things you can be thankful for.
- Remember that even when your circumstances don’t seem so, God is still good.
- Hold on, and remember whatever you are going through is but a season. A new season is coming!
“In the eye of the storm, you remain in control and in the middle of the war, you guard my soul. You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn. Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.” Ryan Stevenson
The truth is that we will all go through difficult trials in our lives. Some, agonizingly long and painful. But because of Him, no matter what the situation, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
I collaborated with Kelly O’Dell Stanley and Michelle Nietert, LPC on a special Prayer Prompts calendar for the month of March that brings awareness to prayer needs for those suffering from depression, anxiety, discouragement, fear, and weariness. Use these prompts, inspired by the book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression,” to pray for joy instead of depression, hope to combat discouragement, to replace fear with courage, and confidence to combat doubt.