“I hate to tell you this, but you need to go home and get your affairs in order.”
How could that be? We were young, and still considered ourselves newlyweds despite having been married 14 years. We had waited 12 years to have children, until after I had finished all my years of schooling to become a doctor, and then the requisite years of internship and post-doctoral training. Now with a toddler in tow, the oncologist was telling us that cancer was going to rob our son of his father.
Fear and worry assaulted me at my core.
I knew what it was like to grow up without a father. Mine was taken at a young age from a fatal heart attack. I remember the pain from the lack, and I pictured the same for my son.
Fortunately, as a toddler, he was too young to feel the sting of cancer’s razor sharp tear in the fabric of our family’s tapestry. Grandparents descended upon our home to fill in the gap with the caregiving so I could be at doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy treatments.
While doctor’s predictions were for my husband to live but a short couple of years, God had a different plan, and He is, after all, the one who plans our days and orders our steps.
Even after all the treatment, we continued to return every three months, then every six, then eventually once a year for repeat PET scans to monitor for a relapse, each time holding our breath. Each time wondering “What if?”
“What if the treatment didn’t work?”
“What if the cancer returns?”
“What if he doesn’t defy the odds?”
“What if the scan doesn’t show what’s really there?”
“What if the cancer metastasizes like predicted?”
Finally, through years of questioning, years of pleading, years of laying down my doubts and fears and concerns at the cross, God asked the most important question.
“What if…you trusted me?”
“What if, you believed that the same God who defied the odds before and healed your husband of cancer the first time could protect him and you in all your tomorrows?”
Wow. Yes, Lord. What if?
You see, He’s been teaching me about the power of two little words: “What if?”
The enemy of my soul uses those two words against me to incite fear and worry and anxiety. Those two words steal my peace from today as I anxiously focus on tomorrow, rather than sitting in His presence in the present.
Fast forward 15 years, we find ourselves in a similar scenario.
The day that we had been looking forward to for years, the day of the release of my first book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression,” we heard the words we hoped we’d never hear again: “Your biopsy results came back positive: you have cancer.”
The doctor revealed that while my husband had been healed of his cancer from years before, the current cancer was considered “a secondary cancer” meaning it was a result of the chemotherapy he received to treat the original cancer.
Immediately our focus shifted from release party festivities, interviews and marketing plans to blood work, PET scans, bone marrow biopsies, port placements, and more doctor visits than we could remember without a calendar. And sadly, what if’s…
“What if the very thing that was used to save his life before is what kills him now?”
“What if the chemotherapy doesn’t work this time?”
“What if we aren’t so ‘lucky’ this time?”
“What if my sons have to grow up without their Dad?”
“What if I become a widow?”
I immediately jumped into old, familiar ways of coping: doing and staying busy. Alerting family and friends of the news and answering the plethora of questions with what little information I had. Planning freezer meals for the weeks when doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy kept us too busy to shop or cook. Rearranging my schedule at work to accommodate the myriad of new appointments that needed to be worked into the schedule.
In my effort to control the uncontrollable, the busyness overwhelmed me and left me depleted and exhausted until finally one day, I collapsed in a pile on the floor and I wept uncontrollably. How had we gotten here and what were we going to do?
As I cried out to the Lord in my desperation, I heard his familiar question yet again, “What if…you trusted me?”
“What if you believed that this didn’t take me by surprise?”
“What if you believed that I really do work all things together for your good?”
“What if you remembered that I know the plans I have for you, and I have declared that my plans for you are good, and they include a future and a hope!”
“What if you remembered that I am good, my ways are good, and my love for you is everlasting?”
“What if you remembered that I proved myself faithful to you when you went through this before, and knowing that I am the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, believed that I will be faithful through this as well?”
“What if you stopped listening to the father of lies who fills your mind with ‘What ifs?’ and kept your eyes on me and listened only to the voice of your Heavenly Father who speaks truth and love?”
As I dried my tears and finished my prayer time with the Lord, I found a new determination to let go of the anxiety-producing “What ifs?” and take hold of the peace that prevails because of Him.
Do you need to do the same?
Because of Him, #PeacePrevails!
Mark Your Calendars!
My TV Interview with Sheila Walsh and Randy Robison on Life Today will air on Tuesday, December 6th.
You can watch online starting Tuesday at http://lifetoday.org/
Or, check this station guide for the different times the program will air in your local TV market: http://lifetoday.org/
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: https://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)