In the light that today is the 4 year anniversary of the end of my high dose Chemo Treatments, I’m posting the first post I wrote after I was diagnosed with Cancer. This post was written 9 days after I was diagnosed, written October 13, 2013.
Oh how raw the wound was then…
In uncertain times, it is hard to see the road ahead. A young child who’s sick. A life long sweetheart and spouse who is suddenly and tragically lost. A cancer diagnosis or terminal disorder. The affects of aging which degrade us all. Each of these and many others create uncertain moments, an uncertain time. Time itself seems to stand still and yet, at the same time, seems to move too quickly. You want more time, yet you want to move on at the same time. It’s as if you are caught in a time warp and it is pulling you apart a the seams.
I’ve been going through a tough year. Eight months ago, my son was given a fatal diagnosis. I prayed for my wife’s health as she carried our son. Our son James was born, and yes, he did die, joining Jesus at the eternal banquet. We were left with earthly pain and grief… My wife recovered quickly, the physical healing was great. And we began to walk the ‘post-loss of a child’ road together. The road has oftentimes been rocky and treacherous…it’s also been bittersweet and a blessing in many respects. But most times, the road ahead has just been simply uncertain. Tears of joy intermixed with tears of pain. Grief bursting from nowhere in the most surprising, unexpected times. Yet, we knew we walked this uncertain road together, as a couple, with the support of Jesus Christ.
Then, our year became one from a twisted story book, one made straight out of a nightmare. Something so unexpected crossed our path that it was hard…and is hard to digest – a cancer diagnosis. I received a call nearly four months to the day after our son James was born and died from a doctor, my dermatologist saying, Mr. Hartings, “How soon can we meet today? I have news from the biopsy.” Those are words you never want to hear.
The doctor informed me that I was diagnosed with Melanoma, a rare and aggressive form, which brought anger amongst our grief, hurt amongst our healing. We face this new mountain. One that just seems insurmountable, in which a path through or over is not apparent. Where are we to turn? To where are we to look?
I don’t think we have anywhere to turn. We must march forward. Taking the backpacks of pain, grief, anger, and hurt upon our back. We are to take the next step, the next uncertain step and trust that the path will be shown as we go. But this first step and every step thereafter takes much faith. Faith which I currently do not have.
What are we to do in these times of little faith? These times where we lack the faith to proceed? Where we just want to give up? How are we to react? It was fitting that the weekend before I learned of my diagnosis this reading from the Gospel of Luke was shared in our church…
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17:5, 6 NIV)
So as I reflected on the news of my diagnosis, on the loss of my son and the path which is so uncertain, I specifically began to pray for an increase of our faith. Faith enough to take the next step. Just the next step, not every step, just the next one. And as I did, Hebrews Chapter 10 verse 39 all through the next chapter to Hebrews Chapter 11 verse 40 came to mind. It helped me to see where this ‘mustard seed’ size faith has led others before me…
“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 10:39 – 11:40 NIV)
These verses did not explain what is going on with everything this year. The loss of my son. Watching my wife suffer emotional, spiritual and physical trials in the subsequent months. My own cancer diagnosis. These times are uncertain. More uncertain that I could have ever imagined. Frankly, it feels as if I am coming apart at the seams.
But as I read, I understand that many before me, Abraham and Isaac, David and Moses, Jacob and Esau, Noah and Able, Peter and Paul…they did not understand either.
Each of them faced uncertain times. I’m sure Abraham felt as if he were coming apart at the seams as he lay his only son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. To Noah, building an ark must have made him half, or fully crazy. And David, facing a giant, are you nuts!
But they each took the next step, understanding that we are never called to see the entire path ahead. Rather, we are called to have faith, just like the faith of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Faith the size of a mustard seed. Faith enough to take the next step up the mountain.
To be honest, right now, I don’t have enough faith to take this next step. So today, I simply ask for an increase of faith. I need more faith, or I won’t make the next step. As the apostles once pleaded, so do I…
Lord, PLEASE, “Increase my faith!”
I desperately need it. I need faith enough for the next step, faith enough to be sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see.