2 Responses to Valley Experiences

Spring and early summer is typically when local communities gear up for Relay for Life; an organization whose tagline “celebrate, remember, and fight back” inspires its participants to raise money for cancer research for the American Cancer Society (relayforlife.org, 2014). It’s also the time of year that triggers a flood of memories from my own experience with cancer.

me and noah rflI frequently refer to my encounter as “the valley of the shadow of death” because those were some of the darkest hours of my life. It was an emotionally charged journey, filled with questions and uncertainty about my tomorrows. “Will I live?” “Will I die?” “Will I always feel this miserable?” These represent just a few of the questions that reverberated through my mind at any given moment. During periods of tribulation our faith is often tested and we learn what we are made of. People usually respond to valley experiences in one of two ways:

1. Grow closer to Jesus – These folks make an intentional decision to grow closer to Jesus; it doesn’t happen by chance. Although their suffering seems unbearable, they cry out to God in raw pain and He answers in tangible ways resulting in growth and greater intimacy.

2. Move further away from Him – Moving away from the Lord in times of tribulation is also a choice, although it may not always be a conscious one. Sometimes, people simply drift from God; usually because He did not answer them in the way that was hoped for.

After some deep soul searching, I chose to grow closer to Jesus. So I sought Him with my whole heart and in the midst of my suffering, I found Him walking with me, holding me, wiping away my tears and equipping me with promises I could hold on to. The most tangible promise God gave me came from 2 Chronicles 20:15-17:

15 “…This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you’” (italics added for emphasis).

Are you currently walking through your own “valley of the shadow of death?” Perhaps your valley isn’t cancer, but the death of a loved one, job loss, financial woes, a wayward child, infidelity, divorce, you fill in the _____________. Choose your response to your valley experience wisely my friend. Refuse to waver in your faith, even in the face of uncertainty. Go out and face whatever mighty army is coming against you and commit this truth to your heart…when God fights, God wins!

 

Why Not Me?

Have you spent any time contemplating what your family, friends and the world will remember about you after you leave this life? I had that opportunity in the fall of 2005. I had been dealing with some annoying symptoms for several months when I finally wised up and got them checked out.

After performing a standard biopsy, a two week follow-up appointment was scheduled to discuss what was expected to be, benign results. Four days later; however, I received an urgent call from a staff nurse advising the appointment needed to be moved to that afternoon. “Will you be bringing your husband?” she inquired before ending the call. “Well that doesn’t sound very good” I responded with a nervous laugh.

Three hours later, I drove the familiar route to the North Raleigh medical park. My husband and I were promptly ushered to an exam room where we anxiously awaited an explanation for this urgent appointment. Moments later, my doctor entered the room donned in her typical white coat and serious expression, took a seat and wasted no time getting to the point “You have well differentiated adenocarcinoma.” Whoa… I had no idea what that meant. I guess the bewildered look on my face gave it away because clarification quickly followed her initial pronouncement, “You have cancer.” Well, I certainly understood those three words! A wave of shock swept over my entire being; I struggled to maintain composure as a team of nurses sprung into action scheduling more appointments for MRIs, CAT Scans and mammograms.

I went home that afternoon still in shock, not knowing what to think or feel. That evening I stretched across my bed and prayed to God for strength and wisdom. I did not yet know if the cancer had spread, what stage it was in or whether I would live or die. What I knew for certain was my desire to leave a legacy of value for my children. Oh sure, I could leave treasured heirlooms and insurance money to pay for college, but I wanted to leave something indestructible that would never break or run out. Something like…a strong faith, and a solid attitude of trust. In that moment, I decided I would not be angry with God, after all- God did not give me cancer! And I refused to take the attitude “why me?” as if to imply I didn’t deserve it and someone else should have this disease.

After surgery and six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, I was pronounced cancer free. Although cancer doesn’t define who I am, it did change me because I walked through the valley of the shadow of death. My body forever bears scars from the scalpel and I still have ink marks on my abdomen to remind me of radiation. More importantly, I am a survivor of a disease that claims millions of lives each year! I grew closer to the Lord and I learned a vital truth: the same God of the mountain top is the same God of the valley! In the end, God rescued me from the grave and breathed new life into my lungs. I have been given a second chance so, “why not me?”