Don’t be too disappointed that this post is not the second installment of my new series Six Weeks in Psalms. I promise I’ll get back to that. But God is doing some big things in my life right now, and I feel called to share them with you. It’s a little long-winded, but hang on till the end and it’ll be worth it.
First, Some Background Knowledge
A lot of you already know that I lost my dad a few years ago, which significantly impacted my life and my walk with Christ (so you’ll probably hear about it a lot…sorry/not sorry). But those difficult days weren’t all God had in store for my family. Just 1.5 years later, God also chose to allow my brother Ehren a positive diagnosis for two types of cancer, neither terminal but both requiring long hospital stays, chemotherapy, and surgery over the next year. I might almost say that this shook my life nearly as much the loss of my father because at this point in time I was almost 1,000 miles away from the family I loved and longed for deeply. There was nothing I could do. No course of action for me to take. The only things left were to hope in the good God I knew, to pray for strength and healing and patience, and to lean on my support group in Spokane.
Hoping, Praying, Leaning
I had to hope, because I wanted to believe that God would use this for the good of my family and I. To bring us closer together somehow, or maybe just to bring us closer to Him. At the very least, my mom’s strength, bravery, and commitment to Christ were admirable (as always) and gave hope to more than myself. She helped teach me that God meant what He said. He would take care of us. He would heal the wounds. But He might not do it when or how we expect. The key was to trust and to hope in these words, and many like them:
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
I had to pray, because I needed to stay close to my Savior in this time of frustration and confusion. God is always worthy of praise, but this was one of those times I didn’t feel like praising. My prayers were often wounded and angry. How could He let something like this happen? Hadn’t we been through enough already? Why did it have to be now, when I am so far away? When I can’t hug or hold or help them? But sometimes my prayers were more accepting. Sometimes I could move past the hurt and cling to the love of Christ more than the pain of my circumstances.
I had to lean, because I couldn’t stand on my own. My generous and caring boyfriend-at-the-time (now husband) patiently held me as I cried the day my mom called with the diagnosis. He stayed with me for hours, bought me a milkshake, and let me talk as much or as little as I wanted. This was only a week or two before we said “I love you” aloud to each other, but I felt his love then and needed it desperately. He allowed Christ to work through him when he was clueless about how to help me, and gave me a safe place to lean. My roommates were also kind and compassionate, giving me space when I needed it and company when I wanted it. Everyone I knew did the best the knew how.
My Visit Home
It was difficult to concentrate on school when I knew my family was in pain. I needed to be with them, and my mom needed someone to be by her side in the midst of all this. We have amazing family friends and church family, and we treasured their love and help, but it wasn’t the same. I told my professors I had a family matter, skipped class, and flew home about a month after the initial diagnosis was received. I was glad my mom warned me about my brother’s altered appearance, because his physical health had already begun to deteriorate. It was a lot to take in emotionally; I almost cried the first time I saw him. His body, face, and hair were noticeably thinned. His demeanor was more subdued. He looked sick. The time I spent at home that weekend was bittersweet, and I left feeling sorrow for the situation and hope for the future.
Things Were Looking Better
The cancers were very treatable. The chemotherapy sucked all my brother’s energy, but it did the job. A year of chemo and two surgeries later, and things were looking better. After that he began the long road to recovery. By the time Caleb and I got married in July of this year, his hair and beard had grown some, and he was healthy enough to stand at the altar with us as a groomsman. It was so good to have this wedding and incredible, happy time of celebrating love and life and family, and none of us knew then just how much this time was needed. God was allowing us to get a solid foundation of comfort, of hope, and of happiness, because His plans were bigger than we imagined, and different than we’d come to believe.
Things were looking better. Things were good. We were all happy. Ehren had enough strength to attend one class at community college again (a class he had to drop before because of the chemo, so this was a big win). Two solid months of no health issues, no surgeries, no concerns about future diagnoses. Then, his doctor suggested at CT scan, just to be absolutely sure the cancer was gone and there was nothing else to worry about. They found a mass in his lung that made the doctor nervous. He immediately ordered a biopsy and x-rays. The results came in last week.
The Journey Isn’t Over
He tested positive for Ewing’s sarcoma (one of the same cancers he’d previously had). I was at work when I received the news, and my supervisor on duty was gracious and supportive. My mom very succinctly summed up our shock and initial reactions when she posted this: “The cancer is back. He starts chemo on Monday. That’s all I have for now. Thank you for your prayers.”
This cancer is also treatable, and the doctor is optimistic. My mom is also optimistic. She is brave and strong and caring. She is fighting alongside Ehren, with a team of prayer warriors beside her. Prayer is the biggest thing we can do now. It’s nearly only thing I can do, being yet again almost 1,000 miles away. Thankfully, God has also given us people and resources to help make a tangible impact in support of my family, and my husband and I will be flying down to California in a couple weeks to be with them. To sit together. Cry together. Pray together. Remind each other of God’s great love and compassion.
God is Still Good
“‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…”
I don’t particularly like this plan of His, but I have to hold firmly to His promises, His Goodness, and His Love. I have to believe that He will continue to work in our lives and our desperate situations. Perhaps He will lead others to Christ because of our faithfulness in Him. Perhaps He will allow our situation to inspire, to encourage…to give hope to others. Lord knows we need that hope. Every one of us, not just those in my family. Every single person, believer or not, needs something to cling to. Something to motivate them to get out of bed. Something to fall back on, so they know this life is worthwhile.
Someone asked me recently: “How do you do it? How do you get out of bed in the morning with all of this going on?” Because I have decided to let my hope be Jesus. To cling to His Word and His promises.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
Hebrews 10:23, NIV
“Unswervingly”. That means even when life goes haywire or things seem upside down, you hang on tight. I believe that God is faithful. I believe that God is good. I believe that His plans and His purposes are best. Will I still believe that if something goes wrong and my brother’s diagnosis turns out to be worse than we thought? Yes. Will I still believe that even if my mom has to quit her job in order to take care of Ehren’s needs? Yes. Always, always, always, the answer is yes. I believed it when I lost my dad. I believed it when we got the first cancer diagnosis. I believe it now.
An Anchored Hope
I can believe incredible things because I have put my faith in an incredible God. My God is bigger than death. He is bigger than cancer. Bigger than misfortune or discomfort. He has provided me with hope, love, and peace. He has given me a husband who cares and loves deeply. He has given me a mother who is brave and inspiring. He has given me a good life to live.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…”
Hebrews 6:19, NIV
I have a tattoo on my ankle inspired by this verse to remind me permanently, for the rest of my life: I have an anchored hope.
Where are you anchored? In what have you put your hope? I would encourage you to let it be Jesus. He is firm and secure. He will take care of you. He has plans to give you a hope and a future. His promises are faithful if you give Him the chance to show you.
My family’s journey isn’t over, and neither is yours. He will be with us and with you every step of the way.
Author: Susannah Judd
Hello, my lovelies! I am the author and owner of wearethelovelyones.com. I am so excited to share in this journey through life and faith with you! One of my favorite things we are called to as believers is sharing life together. I also love cookies of any kind, my darling husband Caleb, and of course, Jesus himself. Check out my “About Me” page for more. 😉