The month of June is my “cancerversary.” On June 6, 2004, I went to the hospital for an ultrasound, which led to a mammogram, which led to a mastectomy, which led to six months of chemo and seven weeks of radiation and more surgery…and you get the picture.
This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the days, weeks, months of my cancer journey. Back then we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter, and computer nerds were the only ones blogging. So we kept our care network informed via email updates and phone calls, and I journaled the old-fashioned way, recording events, feelings, fears, prayers as the Lord gave me strength.
Recently, as I’ve been praying the Psalms, God captured my heart with Psalm 77. The words keep on inside me like a chorus. The psalm is one of Asaph’s, and he starts by crying out to God. In fact, Asaph does nothing but cry for the first nine verses: “My soul refuses to be comforted” (v. 2); “I am so troubled I cannot speak” (v. 4); “Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (v. 9).
The psalmist’s deep sadness echoes my own frame of mind 11 years ago when I sat by myself in the mammography room at Mercy Hospital, waiting for the radiologist to tell me what the pictures showed. “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted” (vv. 1-2). I begged Him to let everything be all right.
In the days leading up to that appointment, well-meaning friends had tried to reassure me that the lump I’d discovered was only a cyst. But when the doctor entered the room, I knew it wasn’t. I was 29 years old, had been married almost 7 years, had a two-year-old son…and I had breast cancer. I felt like Asaph must have when he cries, “Will the Lord spurn forever and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?” (vv. 7-8).
What I didn’t realize then is that God’s promises were just beginning. Looking back on the events set in motion that day, it feels like it all happened to someone else. But the scars daily remind me that it didn’t. It happened to me, to us.
And that’s when I arrive at verse 10: “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’” The same Most High for whom a thousand years are as a day. He is the hinge between lament and hope. Because the eternal, sovereign God of the universe will never leave his people without hope.
Asaph clings to God and urges me to cling right along with him. Verses 11-13 in particular seeped deep into my soul:
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?”
Remember. Ponder. Meditate.
My scars are daily reminders to:
- remember how He has worked and continues to work all things for good in my life;
- ponder the mighty deed of healing He performed in my body, and also the mighty deed of salvation He worked in my soul;
- meditate on how He has used something as awful as breast cancer to glorify Himself and to grow me more into the image of His Son, Jesus.
All of us bear scars of one kind or another, and it’s not pleasant to think about past trials and hurts. Life does go on. But in trying to avoid or repress memories of the dark times God has led us through, we miss the opportunity to point others to Him and shout with Asaph, “What god is great like our God?”
Over the next few months, you will see me sharing about those awful, beautiful, grace-filled events of 11 years ago. As I do, feel free to share your own stories of God’s goodness in even the worst of times. Join me in remembering, pondering, meditating on all God has done and is doing in our lives.