2 Peter 1:3 …as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue… (NKJV all verses following, emphasis mine)
This week we have looked at Scripture and Bible characters who have demonstrated their faith in God during the most extreme of hardships. Through their stories we have seen that God’s Word is indeed true declaring that He is sufficient to sustain us through anything life throws at us.
It’s natural to see people in the Bible almost as “super Godly”. After all, that’s why they are in the Bible, right? Well, no, not necessarily. But it’s understandable why we would struggle with relating to characters in Scripture. It’s natural to see them as extraordinary by default.
So I would like to finish up this weeklong series about God’s sufficiency by sharing a story with you. Last year, Annie went through a war with cancer, the kind that especially terrifies a woman. Annie was so faithful and trusting in God, that it was difficult to even be aware of the severity of her trials. I personally never saw her down, nor ever heard her complain. I never heard her question God, ask why or pity herself. For those that know Annie, they will tell you how happy, vibrant and full of encouragement she always is. She has an infectious enthusiasm for God and proclaims His goodness openly.
God is sufficient in our darkest hour. Not just for Bible characters or super-Christians. For you and for me… for average, everyday people. Annie is one of us. Here is her story told in her own words:
“Ann, you have cancer.” With those words, our journey began. I sang “When I Am Afraid” through my tears over the phone to my sweetheart husband the day I was told I had breast cancer.
Right after I got home from the doctor, my husband and I admitted to each other that we were scared and worried. We knew we had to turn to the Lord in prayer and depend on His Word for comfort. We found a promise from our Good Shepherd in Isa 41:10. “So do not be afraid, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Our fear melted into peace, the peace only God can give.
A couple of weeks later, God would give my husband Duke an opportunity to experience complete faith in Him. Duke wrote in an email:
“Last night at 10:15, Ann became lethargic and would not respond. I immediately went to the front desk, which God had placed right outside our door. I stood in the room and watched the nurses slap Ann’s face and yell at her trying to wake her. I was soon ushered out of the room as I heard them say she is not breathing. I was taken to the end of the hall in shock to sit and wait. Within minutes a ‘code blue’ was announced hospital wide and I watched 15 people rush in to Ann’s room. For the next few minutes I tried to call people who I could lean on and got busy signals and answering machines. The nurse asked if there was anyone they could call for me and I told her I had tried and the only one left to call was the Lord.
It is now obvious that the Lord had wanted me to call on Him first. As I prayed, a sweet nurse named Shirley came out of Ann’s room and slowly walked toward me. From the look on her face I just knew Ann had gone to be with the Lord. Thankfully, she had come to give me the grim update. Ann was not breathing on her own and they were going to put a breathing tube in. She had a pulse but we just had to wait. She apparently had a bad reaction to morphine and they were giving her drugs to combat that. Hopefully they could get her on a respirator and moved to intensive care where she could be stabilized. As I continued to pray and give Ann to the Lord, a second nurse came out and related that Ann was now breathing, on her own, and was asking if her husband was OK.
It is now 3:00am and for the last few hours we have been listening to hymns and choruses and are finding that worshipping the Savior will never be the same.”
Our natural reaction is to pray, “Lord, remove this hardship, ease the pain, take it away.” But often God gives “No” as an answer. God will deliver those whose hearts are set on Him, but it is deliverance His way and for His purposes. Instant rescue is rarely the Lord’s way. He may not answer on the day that we cry out to Him. But He will always answer.
Ps. 27:4-5 says “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, And to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.”
The outcome of such intimacy and time with the Lord is a very real sense of security. We grow confident in God’s protection and strength during times of trouble. Duke and I found this to be true when we were faced on another occasion with the possibility of ovarian cancer. An elevated count on a test indicated that I could be facing yet another dilemma. Again, Duke and I turned to our heavenly Father and depended on Him to calm our hearts and replace our anxiety with trust and peace.
Duke and I prayed for the Lord to use this illness to draw our neighbors closer to Himself. At the same time we were praying, there was a couple in Arizona praying for their daughter and son-in-law who had recently moved next door to us. They were specifically praying that neighbors would show them the love of Jesus. One day, my neighbor came over to tell me through tears that she had come back to the Lord after having strayed away for many years. She told me that God had used my response to breast cancer to get her attention.
The Lord showed Himself one day to my sister Sue and me. Sue was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 5 months before my diagnosis of cancer. Try and picture this: the MS patient with her cane and hand-controlled car picking up the breast cancer patient who can’t drive, humped over with her right arm by her side going to the hair dresser because neither can wash their own hair. It was quite comical.
As we were on our way, Sue got a cell phone call. She immediately pulled over to stop because she can’t drive and talk at the same time. While we were stopped, I looked out the car window and noticed a bird hopping in the yard. Upon closer observation, the bird had only one leg. I thought to myself, “That little guy hasn’t let his one-leggedness slow him down one bit. And the Lord of Creation sees him.” When Sue finished her conversation, I said, “Sue, look at that bird. What do you notice about him?” She said, “That’s the same one-legged bird that I saw last week here. Can you believe that God let us both see him together?” We both laughed and cried and thought of Matt. 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” What a GREAT BIG GOD WE SERVE!!!!!
The ultimate answer to our prayers was for someone to come to know the Lord through our suffering. This was answered as a result of the CODE BLUE during the hospital stay. The nurses and doctors told us that a code blue was rare on the 10th floor. I was the 1st “young” person to code in several years. All of the nurses and doctors were visibly shaken and surprised by this. Duke and I believe that the Lord used our reaction to this to draw my nurse to Himself. She wanted to know why we were different and why all the people who visited us were different. Before I checked out of the hospital, she had surrendered her life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
When we find ourselves most helpless, the road most taxing, we find it is then that the Risen Christ comes and makes Himself known to us. This is the one pure joy for those who sorrow.
A few days after our visit with the oncologist I felt the sin of worry creeping in and robbing me of my peace and joy. I was anxious about the unknown world of chemotherapy treatments. I was about to call Duke in to pray with me when I decided to read through the sweet cards that had come in the mail that day. I opened a card with a letter attached. It was from a dear sister in the Lord who had gone through this several years ago. She shared her heart after struggling with just the right words for many days. She addressed each concern that I had. I simply wept through the whole thing, knowing that this was a direct answer from my Heavenly Father who knew about each one of my anxieties. Her words of encouragement came at the very hour my worry was at its peak. Jesus Christ Himself satisfied my need to be free from anxiety, worrying about the unknowns. He refreshed me and I entered chemo with joy in my heart.
Duke and I experienced confident trust in God and expectation of the Lord’s leading in our life again when we were faced with ovarian abnormalities. During this time, for the 1st time, we were at a loss for the direction the Lord wanted us to take. We had many questions regarding more possible surgery, long term effects and more drugs based on my kind of cancer, etc. We felt impressed to have a consultation with our oncologist. Mine was out of town, but were told Dr. Keller could see us. God used this doctor to make His will perfectly known to us. He answered our questions before we even asked them. We were instructed to have a full hysterectomy whether or not ovarian cancer was found.
Once again we entered surgery full of peace and joy knowing our lives were in the best hands possible—the nail scarred ones. Duke titled the email following that surgery: “No cancer, No pain, No morphine, No problem for our God!” Just last week at our oncologist appointment, Dr. Panicker shared that in December, a study revealed that women with breast cancer who have their ovaries removed are just as cancer free as those who have chemo. And here I’ve had both defenses! How good of God to confirm that we had been in His will all along. When I shared the good news with the kids, our son said, “Wow, that was God!”
The hardest time for me to “count it all joy” and trust the Lord came a few nights before surgery when I could not sleep because the Lord wanted my attention. I was restless from 10 p.m.-12 midnight. Finally, I decided to get up and meet with the Lord. This next part is hard for me to explain, but my mind became convinced that I would not survive. Not that the cancer would kill me, but I was sure something unexpected would take my life. This thought was so real that I had to address it. During the next 4 hours, I sobbed and mourned the idea of separation from Duke and the children.
I struggled with how they would get along without me. Who would tenderly raise the girls as they became women; show our son the type of godly young woman to marry; and meet all of Duke’s needs? And then as loudly as I had cried out to God, His answer came to me. “Ann, I love them each even more than you do. I purchased them with a high price. I am capable of meeting their every need. You have given me your cancer, now will you give me your dearest treasures?” So, I surrendered my family and their future to the Lord that night with open hands.
After struggling with the Lord and finally accepting this outcome, I took the time to write “good bye” letters to each of the children telling them how much I had loved them and encouraging them specifically in their walks with the Lord. Then it was time to put into words my feelings for Duke… the lover of my life. Oh, how I wept!! I cried so loudly, I knew I would wake the whole house. Those letters have never had to be read.
Then came the next hardest thing—telling Duke that I truly believed I was going to die. You see, we had promised to each other that we would share each sorrow, concern, struggle, and praise, keeping nothing back. We would go thru this together as one. When I came back to bed early that morning and told him, we cried together as we once again went to the Throne of God to find grace in our hour of need.
When God wanted me to surrender my family, I didn’t know until later, that He had just wanted my heart. Once surrendered, all was well as long as I did not grab them back, as though they would be safer in my hands! Boy, did I grow through that experience.
Through this journey, our family has learned to depend on Him first. God gave us rest from anxiety and worry, and revealed Himself to us in every part of our lives. Learning to wait on the Lord, we grew closer to the Lord while walking through the valley of the shadow than at any other time in our lives.
Is God trustworthy and sovereign? Is He loving and good, faithful to His promises? You will find the answer to those questions most vividly during the darkest hours of your life. But not if you aren’t looking in the right place.
Gracious God, thank You for having the answer for anything life can throw at us. Thank you for dear faithful saints like Annie who demonstrate that You are Faithful and True. In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: When tragedy strikes, do you turn to God? When discouragement calls, do you turn to God? When things just simply don’t go your way, do you turn to God? Do you ever turn to God?
Application: Our God has plainly declared that He is sufficient for every trouble life may bring. It is our choice to take Him up on it.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?