Just over ten years ago, I faced a crisis of health. And received a gift of faith.
I looked forward to the start of the school year with barely contained excitement. For the first time in over a decade, all of my children would be in school all day. I would have 8 hours a day to myself! I imagined a lot of possibilities: cleaning closets, getting in shape and planning a career. An expanding waistline triggered some medical appointments and a gym membership. With 5 children between the ages of 6 and 14, it was difficult to make any arrangements for childcare, so check-ups and work-outs had been difficult to schedule.
The first appointment with a doctor turned into an immediate ultrasound, which was followed by an urgent MRI. The medical professionals were kind, but their silence and expressions told me more than any words could have expressed. The expanding waistline was a tumor, not middle-age spread. It was large; the origin was unknown. Within days, I was a patient at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The surgery was delayed, hour by agonizing hour. In a hospital gown, on a gurney, I talked with my husband, who patiently, and gently, discussed my worst fears with me. If I didn’t make it through surgery. . . . Who would perform the funeral? Who would care for our children? My worries were consuming.
I was worried for our children. What impact would this have on all of them? What would this mean for our two adopted sons, in particular? One was adopted at 5 months; the other at 6 years. Both had lost both biological and foster mothers. It seemed supremely unfair that they would have to worry about losing a third mother. However, my faith reminded me that our God, who loves his children, far more than even his or her parents could, will fulfill the promise made in Philippians 1: 6. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
I was worried about the suffering that was ahead of me. It seemed likely that the surgery would be radical, and that the treatment would be painful. My faith reminded me that Jesus, at the cross, has gone before me in all suffering.
I was worried that I would die in surgery. My faith reminded me of Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. All of us will die. However, whether through a prolonged sickness and suffering, or through a sudden illness, we will fear no evil, no matter how death comes.
As I laid there, the gift of faith overwhelmed my fears. I had faith that, as Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.”
I woke up from surgery to my husband’s voice. He had been assigned the task of telling me, that it was cancer, but, that despite its size, it was contained. The surgeon had removed all evidence of disease. I would have to remain vigilant for the rest of my life, since it could recur at any time, as long as I lived, but I was, for now, surgically cured.
I received a lot of gifts in the weeks, months and years after that devastating diagnosis. The gift of healing restored me to physical wholeness. The gift of community nurtured me and my family. The gift of brokenness prepared me for more years in ministry for the Kingdom. The gift of gratitude allowed me to celebrate every passing year with delight. However, the gift of faith trumped them all.