It’s uncomfortable. Frightening. Ugly. Evil.
Just the word makes us shudder. For some, it causes them to recoil and walk away.
It often reveals people’s true nature—for better and for worse.
In August, 2016, the same day that my book “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” was released, my husband sat across from the surgeon to hear the news that we had hoped beyond hope that we would not hear: the pathology results had returned a diagnosis of cancer.
He had already suffered through a horrific bout of cancer, though a different form, a little over a decade before, and through what could only be considered God’s miraculous power, survived the deplorable odds he’d been given.
I’ll admit, as the news was delivered this time, my response was selfish as I sat thinking, “We’ve been through this twice before, isn’t it someone else’s turn, Lord? Must we go through this again? When he received the diagnosis before, I didn’t know what the battle would require, but having been through it before, this time I know what we’re in for, and I’m not sure I have the strength this time. Are you sure we have to? Are you sure you didn’t make a mistake?”
When the cancer onslaught hit our family before, our children were but babies…they were blissfully unaware, so the impact on them was relatively minimal. Grandparents swooped in with extra hugs, kisses, and care while we were entrapped in regular doctor’s visits, chemotherapy, and managing the physical and emotional shrapnel that was the cancer patient’s enemy.
This time our children are teenagers and very much aware of the enemy who has marched into our home and into our family unwanted and setting up camp without warning. Hardly a day goes by that we aren’t reminded of its existence, and have to re-engage in battle. This time grandparents are elderly or deceased and aren’t available to be hands-on support.
This time, however, we are engaging in battle a bit differently. We have always fought such battles in prayer, believing that God is still in the miracle business. We continue to fight this battle individually and together as a couple and a family first and foremost on our knees.
This time, something else is different too. This time, we are engaged in battle with a full army. This time we are linking arms with the church at large and waging war against the enemy and showing him that we are standing strong TOGETHER.
Like never before, this current cancer journey has shown me in a fresh way just how true it is that God’s love does not exist solely within the walls of a church building. It has given me a fresh revelation of what it means to be the church.
There were many who beautifully obeyed the scripture:
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
During the very early days when we were unsure of what we were dealing with and surgery was necessary, friends came to sit with me to ensure that I wasn’t alone during my husband’s biopsy, then again during his port-a-cath implantation, and again during his bone marrow aspiration. Words weren’t necessary, but the simple presence of a friend sharing in a weighty burden displayed His love, just as the church is called to do, to love in word and deed. Others prayed with us at all hours of the day or night as soon as I called or sent out a text–affirming we were not alone in the fight.
“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18).
People within our immediate church family as well as within our children’s schools, or our community were the church at large. They were the arms and feet of Jesus by meeting our very practical needs:
At various stages through diagnosis, surgery, and months of ongoing treatment, meals were provided in various ways: some delightful home-cooked meals were delivered; one friend across the country got online with a restaurant and ordered dinner to be delivered to our door at meal time on a particularly difficult chemotherapy week when we were too weary to shop and cook and another time when my husband was hospitalized and my kids needed to be fed; early on in the process, another friend had dinner shipped on dry ice ready and waiting at our door step; some had meals delivered from local restaurants; and several friends sent gift cards for various restaurants for when we felt like getting out or ordering take-out. All of these eased the burden of having to think through meal planning, shop for ingredients, cook after a day of work and/or caregiving, and then clean-up, and allowed us to focus our efforts on what only we could do: attend to treatment, rest, and pay attention to our children.
Some would text when they were going to the grocery store to see if we needed anything. I don’t enjoy going to the grocery store, and what a blessing to have one less errand to run, during a time when extra doctor visits take up much more time in our schedule.
Others offered rides to doctor’s appointments for my husband, and transportation to and from school for my children. In a family as busy as ours, the transportation logistics can be quite the puzzle and having the offer of transportation provided solace knowing each family member could have as little disruption to their schedule as necessary at a time when everything felt completely out of control.
Still others offered practical helps in the form of laundry, yard work, and housecleaning. One friend offered her assistance to my son as he worked on completing college applications and needed guidance. A couple of friends came in and stayed for several days to get us through difficult chemotherapy weeks and just be an extra set of hands, eyes, and ears for whatever was needed. Christmas decorations would not have been displayed, nor Christmas presents wrapped and cookies baked were it not for our extended-stay guests. I often wonder how we would have made it otherwise.
Not everyone is able to help in such practical ways. Life is busy, finances are tight. There were times when the most loving, supportive, and generous gesture came in the form of a genuine hug and the freedom to let one of us be real and authentic, weak, and needy for a few moments. As a caregiver and a doctor, I’m accustomed to being strong and in control. Yet there were a couple of occasions when someone pulled me in for a hug and when they didn’t immediately release me, it gave me the freedom to relinquish the avalanche of tears I’d been storing up for weeks or months. In those few moments, they exemplified the role of the church when we are called to “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
When we go through difficult times, we hope and to some extent, come to expect, friends, family members and perhaps even our immediate church family to pray for us. What amazed my husband and I was the outpouring of love and prayer support that infiltrated our home from complete strangers. Who are you?!? We don’t even know you…we’ve never shared a meal, had children in the same class, bumped into each other in the grocery store, locked eyes on the soccer field or in a doctor’s office, and yet you pray for me and my family. In the middle of the night, when the pain or side effects has at times gripped us and left us in tears and crying out for relief, in desperation I posted a simple “prayers needed…” and you, the global church, have responded, “praying now,” “have the night watch covered,” “lifting you up,” or some other such affirmation that you heard my plea and were responding to meet the need.
On particularly hard days, you’d have no way of knowing what we were facing. Too tired and weary to even ask for your prayers, yet God knew we needed the reinforcement and strength of an army in battle, and obedient to His prompting, you’d send private messages through social media telling us you were praying for us. It brought us to tears, in thanksgiving, that we were not fighting this battle alone.
Well done, church. For many years I struggled to see God as a “Good, Good Father.” Yet, you as a church, have given me a fresh revelation of Him in this way, as He has provided for us during this painful and difficult time through you. May I always be thankful to your sacrifice on behalf of me and my family, and may I remember it and bless others as you have blessed us.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Christmas Special! Free Study Guide and More!
Purchase the book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” today and you’ll receive the online version of the “Hope Prevails Study Guide”, as well as the ebook, “How To Help a Depressed Loved One” and “99 Truths From God’s Word to Speak Over Your Life to Combat the Lies of the Enemy”.
Click here to order and for instructions on receiving your free offers:
If you already have a copy of the book, purchase a copy for a friend or loved one suffering with depression. Give a gift of hope!
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/.
Just in time for Christmas!
Lovely handmade jewelry, bookmarks and stationery sets, all hand-stamped with Hope Prevails. Now is your chance to share the Hope that Prevails. Place your order no later than December 17, 2016 to receive by Christmas (while supplies last).