May 18

Losing Your Faith?

 

Have the trials of life caused you to lose your faith in God? Or are the doubts starting to pile up and you’re wondering if you’re on the verge of turning your back on Him?

Oh, you still believe God exists, but you don’t feel like you can or want to trust Him anymore. The difficulties of life and especially serious health concerns can lead to a spiritual crisis in many lives.

“Doubt rises up to obscure His presence and disillusionment settles into despair,” writes Dr. James Dobson in When God Doesn’t Make Sense. “The greatest frustration is knowing that He created the entire universe by simply speaking it into existence, and He has all the power and all understanding. He could rescue. He could heal. He could save. But why won’t He do it?” [1]

Feeling abandoned by God is especially terrible to experience after you earlier felt a closeness with Him.

“Satan then drops by for a little visit and whispers ‘He is not there! You are alone!’” Dr. Dobson adds.[2]

I can’t begin to explain to you why yet another family member is sick or why your child has cancer or why you’ve received such a dismal diagnosis. I agree with you that it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem right, and it certainly doesn’t feel like God cares.

But I also believe that despite life’s tough situations, we all are deeply loved by our Heavenly Father. I believe He proved that once and for all 2,000 years ago when He sent His one and only, perfectly sinless Son to die on the cross for your sins and for mine. I believe that even if God never answered another single prayer on our behalf, He already has done enough because when He raised Jesus to life, He defeated our greatest enemy: Death.

So go ahead and ask Him all your questions. As the praise chorus says: “Give Him all your tears and sorrow. Give Him all your years of pain.”

But remember, God is not required to defend His actions (or seeming inactions) to you and you may never know in this lifetime the reasons for the suffering which has touched your life.

He asks only one thing of you—to trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense.

 

[1] James Dobson, When God Doesn’t Make Sense (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers), 1993,

[2] Ibid.

May 11

How Could God Let This Happen?

 

When you believe in God, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that He has allowed adversity to come into your or your loved one’s life. Author David Biebel talks about this fact in his book If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? He says there are two truths suffering people have to reconcile: sometimes life is agony, and our loving God is in control.

 

Think about it.

If God knows everything, this diagnosis did not surprise Him.

If God sees everything, He saw the bad news coming.

If God has power over everything, He could have stopped it.

But He didn’t.

 

He didn’t stop you or your loved one from getting cancer (or AIDS or lupus or Alzheimer’s or kidney disease or whatever else has afflicted you). He didn’t stop it from happening to you or your loved one or many other people and their loved ones.

But the reality is that God’s Word never promises that He will stop all bad things from happening to us. On the contrary, it promises us that He is prepared for each battle and will equip us, too.

The Message Bible paraphrases 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 this way: “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized. But God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”

God is in control.

Errant cells aren’t.

Toxic medicine isn’t.

White-coated doctors aren’t.

Herbs and vitamins aren’t.

We aren’t.

 

The sooner we learn this truth, the easier our fight against cancer will be. It’s actually quite freeing once you get it right. You can relax knowing Someone else is in charge—Someone much more intelligent, powerful and vigilant than we are or could ever hope to be.

Be encouraged that this health crisis has not taken God by surprise. He is in control and knows how to equip you for the fight.

May 04

Laughter IS Good Medicine!

 

 

It’s been said “Laughter is like changing a baby’s diaper—it doesn’t permanently solve any problems, but it does make things more acceptable for a while.”

How long has it been since you had a good laugh?

There’s nothing funny about cancer, but every time we laugh, it reminds us we’re still alive and that feels really good. I believe that we all need to keep—or—get a sense of humor even in the shadow of illness.

Laughter is good for the body. Science is just figuring that out, but the Bible told us that a long time ago. Proverbs 15:30 says: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news makes for good health.” Proverbs 17:22 reiterates the point: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

For some people, the ability to laugh comes easily, but for others—especially those going through trials—it takes a more effort. If your funny bone could use some strengthening today, here are some suggestions from Endurance with Jan & Dave Dravecky:

  1. Start your own comedy collection of jokes and cartoons. (Do an Internet search for “clean jokes” or read the daily newspaper and you’ll find some funny ones. Post them at your desk or on your fridge so you can remind yourself to laugh.)
  2. Get your groceries and a chuckle by reading some of the tabloid headlines while standing in line. (Pick a long line so you’ll have time to read about things like aliens with anorexia and manure as a miracle cure for arthritis!)
  3. Hang out at greeting card racks and enjoy reading funny cards. (You’ll get a kick out of them yourself and you also can buy one and send it to someone who hasn’t had anything to laugh about for a while.)
  4. Become a humorous people “groupie” by hanging out with funny people. (Either you’re a funny friend or you need one!)
  5. Make the most of embarrassing moments. (Share your foibles with a trusted friend and have a good laugh together about things like how your wig blew off your bald-from-chemo head.)

Laughter is healing medicine, so please take a full prescription of it!

Apr 27

A Place to Call Home

 

Our world could use some good news couldn’t it? In many ways it’s a frightening time in which to be living; wars, rumors of wars, the constant threat of terrorism, the ups and downs of the stock market, violence in the classrooms, so many friends and relatives with cancer, families torn apart by abuse and divorce. Life is not only hard; it’s often downright unfair, as some people seem to have more than their share of troubles. You might even be one of those people.

I once overhead a middle-aged gentleman remark: “Every time I think I have my life together, something happens and it’s falling apart again!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a world where everything was fair and people didn’t get sick, and sad things didn’t happen, and nobody had to die? Who wouldn’t want to call such a place their “home?”

Did you ever wonder why there’s such a longing in each of us for just such a kind of place? It’s a longing for home, you know. A longing for our real home. You see, we weren’t created to live in California or New York or Florida or anywhere else on the face of this planet. We were created for our real home: Heaven.

The Bible describes heaven in Revelation 21:4 as a place where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.”

And why won’t there be any more tears or death or sorrow or pain? Not because we’ll have all the money we ever wanted or all the fame or all the knowledge or any other tangible item.

It’s because we’ll have God Himself.

In Revelation 21:3, the verse right before the one about no more tears, pain or death, it says: “Look! God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them and they will be his people.”

That’s why there won’t be any more tears or pain or death. We’ll have what we always really needed to be whole—the constant presence of God Himself.

The great 17th-century philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote that each of us has a “God-shaped vacuum” in us. There’s a hole, so to speak in our hearts that leaves us longing for something more than this world has to offer. It’s a hole and a longing that God put in us when He created us. He knows only He can fill that hole even though we try to fill it ourselves with all sorts of other things. Some of us try to fill it by buying “stuff” or with relationships or with work or sports or with learning or religious rituals. Some even try things like food or sex or drugs or alcohol. But none of these can fill the God-shaped vacuum in us…instead they only make it bigger.

The only thing that fills that hole and makes us whole is when God fills it with Himself by putting His very Spirit inside us, one life at a time. And when God’s Spirit lives inside us, we discover our purpose for living.

A health crisis often makes us realize how precious life is and can send us scurrying to discover the meaning of life. So, why are we here?

It’s really quite simple. Do you know what it is?

We were created to praise God.

That’s right. We find true joy, true fulfillment when we realize there’s Someone bigger than us. Someone greater than us. Someone worthy of every bit of praise we can give.

We were created to praise God with our lips…and our lives.

And when we do, there’s a feeling of peace and power that comes over us that hardly can be described. It’s a feeling that reminds us this world is not our real home.

If you’ve never really had praise for God well up in your heart, we pray that you will as you read He Cares today. Revelation gives us just a teeny glimpse of what it’s going to be like in heaven standing before the throne of God with Jesus at His right hand and us telling them how much we love them.

And if you’re still trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with other things, I pray you’ll allow God’s to fill you with Himself and satisfy that longing for your real home.

Apr 20

That’s NOT Fair!

 

Remember when you were a kid and indignantly informed your parents: “That’s not fair!”

They probably responded with some important information for you: “Life’s not fair.” Their response only made you madder!

Nobody who’s being treated unfairly wants to hear it. It’s a logical response to a heartfelt emotion. But the longer we live, the more we all realize how true that statement is. Perhaps life has been unfair to you or your loved one recently or perhaps for a very long time. Either way, life has disappointed you. Maybe if you’re really honest you’ll admit you even feel disappointed by God.

I have another truth we’d like to share: don’t confuse life with God.

In Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment with God, he writes about a man named Douglas whom he interviewed because he thought Douglas might feel a great disappointment with God. Life, as Yancey describes it, had been very unfair to Douglas. While his wife was battling advanced breast cancer, Douglas was in a car accident with a drunk driver and suffered a terrible head injury that left him permanently disabled, often in pain and unable to work full-time.

But when Yancey asked this victim of unfairness to describe his disappointment with God, Douglas said he didn’t feel any and instead told Yancey the following:

“I have learned to see beyond the physical reality in this world to the spiritual reality. We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair,’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life—by expecting constant good health, for example—then I set myself up for crashing disappointment.

“If we develop a relationship with God apart from our life circumstances, “ said Douglas, “then we may be able to hang in there when the physical reality breaks down. We can learn to trust God in spite of the unfairness of life.”

Cancer is very unfair. Even if you “did” something to “get” it or didn’t do something not to get it, it’s still unfair. Maybe you are a smoker diagnosed with some smoking-related cancer. It’s still unfair because many smokers never get develop a disease from their habit (only about 20-percent get lung cancer). Maybe you quit smoking ten or twenty years ago and you still have been afflicted. Hardly fair.

Perhaps you didn’t get regular mammograms, PAP smears or PSAs and now you have cancer. Guess what, it’s still not fair, because lots of people don’t get those screening tests and they don’t get cancer. Besides some people get them faithfully and the cancer isn’t even detected! That seems even more unfair.

Maybe you are overweight or out-of-shape or didn’t get regular physicals and now you have cancer. It’s still not very fair because you know many others in your same circumstances with great health. Or perhaps you received the ultimate insult in being diagnosed with cancer in spite of taking the best care possible of yourself and doing everything right not to get sick.

Go ahead and say it.

It’s not fair that I have this.

It’s not fair that my loved one has this.

It’s not fair that this has happened to us right now.

Say it, but don’t be confused that life should be fair because God is.

Life is not fair, but God is not life.

 

Yancey says that “Every time a believer struggles with sorrow or loneliness or ill health or pain and chooses to trust and serve God anyhow, a bell rings out across heaven and the angels give a great shout. Why? Because one more pilgrim has shown again that he or she understands that Jesus is worth it all. God is faithful.”

There’s a law firm I once heard advertising on the radio by spotlighting people who have had awful, unfair things happen to them and then hired a lawyer to try and rectify the situation. The commercial concluded, that you, too, should call this law firm “when life hands you moments you just don’t deserve.”

I have some even better advice: When life hands you moments you just don’t deserve, put your trust in the Lord, because even when life is unfair, God is faithful.

Apr 13

Finding the Right Attitude

 

 

It’s often said that there are two kinds of people in life: optimists and pessimists. You probably think I’m going to tell you to be an optimist, but I’m not.

I think the best attitude for someone facing cancer is neither total optimism (without a doubt, I’m going to be cured) nor total pessimism (without a doubt I’m going to die), but realism (without a doubt I have a life-threatening illness and I may or may not get better, so I will plan for both).

When we insist we are going to be cured, we set ourselves up for a terrible defeat if it doesn’t happen. On the other hand, if we insist our situation is hopeless, we already are defeated before we start. I believe it’s best to be realistic and make plans to be financially, emotionally and spiritually ready to depart this life. That’s not giving up. It’s coming to grips with our own mortality, so we can really life fully without fear of death.

I believe there’s a difference between total optimism and a positive attitude. Total optimism says: “I’m absolutely, positively going to be cured.” A positive attitude says: “I hope and pray and even expect that I’m going to be cured, but even if I’m not, I will not be defeated.”

A totally optimistic attitude insists lemons will get sweeter. A positive attitude adds some sweetener and makes lemonade out of the lemons.

Author Chuck Swindoll has a wonderful description of the power of a positive attitude: “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I am that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it. I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important that my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.”

I pray your heart finds the right attitude—a positive, realistic attitude.

Apr 06

Entrusting Our Loved Ones to God’s Care

 

When cancer hits someone in a family, it’s as if the whole family “has” the disease because it disrupts our lifestyle and affects everyone in the home. We wish we could prevent its impact, but it’s not possible.

Those of us who have been diagnosed with cancer may even soberly imagine what life would be like for our families without us.

And when we do, the bottom-line question we must face is: Which do I love more—my relationships on earth or my relationship with God? It’s fairly easy to say we love God most of all, but when push comes to shove (or illness comes our way), will we be longing for our heavenly home or only hanging on to our earthly one? Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think God wants us to turn our backs on our family or our home with some sort of misdirected heavenly gaze.

 

He wants us to love our family with an unending, unconditional love.

But He still wants us to love Him more.

He wants us to love life with a passion and a purpose.

But He still wants us to love Him more.

He wants us to love this world with care and concern.

But He still wants us to love Him more.

 

Have you been able to entrust your family to God’s care no matter what happens to you? Here’s a conversation I had many years ago with the Lord.

They love me and I love them so very much.

I love them even more than you do.

I know You love them, but I want to take care of them.

I love them even more than you do.

I know You love them, but they need me.

I love them even more than you do.

I don’t want to entrust them to You, Lord. I want them to be entrusted to me.  I…I…I…

            I love them more than you do.

 

It’s time to walk by faith and not by sight. God loves your loved ones even more than you do.

 

Mar 16

That’s Not Fair!

 

Remember when you were a kid and indignantly informed your parents: “That’s not fair!”

They probably responded with some important information for you: “Life’s not fair.” Their response only made you madder!

Nobody who’s being treated unfairly wants to hear it. It’s a logical response to a heartfelt emotion. But the longer we live, the more we realize how true that statement is. Perhaps life has been unfair to you or your loved one recently or perhaps for a very long time. Either way, life has disappointed you. Maybe if you’re really honest you’ll admit you even feel disappointed by God.

I have another truth I’d like to share: Don’t confuse life with God.

In Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment with God, he writes about a man named Douglas whom he interviewed because he thought Douglas might feel a great disappointment with God. Life, as Yancey describes it, had been very unfair to Douglas. While his wife was battling advanced breast cancer, Douglas was in a car accident with a drunk driver and suffered a terrible head injury that left him permanently disabled, often in pain and unable to work full-time.

But when Yancey asked this victim of unfairness to describe his disappointment with God, Douglas said he didn’t feel any and instead told Yancey the following:

“I have learned to see beyond the physical reality in this world to the spiritual reality. We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair,’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life—by expecting constant good health, for example—then I set myself up for crashing disappointment.

“If we develop a relationship with God apart from our life circumstances, “ said Douglas, “then we may be able to hang in there when the physical reality breaks down. We can learn to trust God in spite of the unfairness of life.”

Cancer is very unfair. Even if you “did” something to “get” it or didn’t do something not to get it, it’s still unfair. Maybe you are a smoker diagnosed with some smoking-related cancer. It’s still unfair because many smokers never get develop a disease from their habit (only about 20-percent get lung cancer). Maybe you quit smoking 10 or 20 years ago and you still have been afflicted. Hardly fair.

Perhaps you didn’t get regular mammograms, PAP smears or PSAs and now you have cancer. Guess what, it’s still not fair, because lots of people don’t get those screening tests and they don’t get cancer. Besides some people get them faithfully and the cancer isn’t even detected! That seems even more unfair.

Maybe you are overweight or out-of-shape or didn’t get regular physicals. Your diagnosis still is not very fair because you know many others in your same circumstances with great health. Or perhaps you received the ultimate insult in being diagnosed with cancer in spite of taking the best care possible of yourself and doing everything right not to get sick.

Go ahead and say it.

It’s not fair that I have this.

It’s not fair that my loved one has this.

It’s not fair that this has happened to us right now.

Say it, but don’t be confused that life should be fair because God is.

Life is not fair, but God is not life.

Yancey says that “Every time a believer struggles with sorrow or loneliness or ill health or pain and chooses to trust and serve God anyhow, a bell rings out across heaven and the angels give a great shout. Why? Because one more pilgrim has shown again that he or she understands that Jesus is worth it all. God is faithful.”

There’s a law firm that advertises on the radio by spotlighting people who have had awful, unfair things happen to them and then hired a lawyer to try and rectify the situation. The commercial concludes, that you, too, should call this law firm “when life hands you moments you just don’t deserve.”

I  think I  have some even better advice: When life hands you moments you just don’t deserve, put your trust in the Lord, because even when life is unfair, God is faithful.

Mar 09

David vs. Goliath

 

If you or your loved one is up again a particularly scary diagnosis, I encourage you to think of the shepherd boy David as he went into battle armed only with a slingshot and five pebbles to fight against the giant Goliath. Do you know what his battle cry was? He wasn’t like The Little Engine that Could, chugging along and repeating “I think I can, I think I can.”

No, his thinking was more like “I know I can’t. I know I can’t.” David was the youngest and smallest boy in his family—too small to wear a protective suit of armor—and Goliath was more than nine feet tall. But David’s battle cry was: “I know God can. I know God can.” If you read 1 Samuel 17:47, you’ll see his exact words: “The battle is the Lord’s.”

That phrase appears many times throughout the Old Testament as mighty warriors went up against even mightier appointments. It’s a phrase you may want to pray as you awake each morning.

Lord, I feel like a little shepherd boy with a slingshot facing a giant named Cancer, and it is more than I can handle. But I choose to believe it is not more than You can handle. The battle belongs to You, Lord. Fight for me and through me. Do what I cannot do on my own.

I believe that sometimes we do get more than we can handle in our own strength, but I also believe in the promise of Philippians 4:13, which says: “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me the strength.”

You don’t have to reach down inside yourself and muster up some super strength. Even if you feel you can’t always “live strong,” you can live by His strength.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah described that strength: “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall into exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Live strong BY HIS STRENGTH.

Feb 17

Telling Children about Cancer in the Family

I know what a great deal of courage it takes to talk to children about cancer in the family.

When I was diagnosed, our daughters were 8, 10 and 12, and we wanted to protect them from cancer’s assault on me. So, we decided we would tell them I was going to have surgery, but we wouldn’t use the word cancer.

That bright idea lasted about 24 hours until I realized that somebody in our church or our community was going to use the word cancer and my girls would hear it.

So we sat them down again and using the dreaded word tried to give them an idea of what to expect. I remember being careful not to give them too much information that would scare them but also not making promises we couldn’t keep.

We were cautious not to talk about any specific cure odds, but about five years later my eldest daughter, Danielle, confessed she had overhead someone talking at church and knew that the odds I would die were greater than the odds I would live.

I wish I had known Danielle knew that because I would have talked more with her about my uncertain future and encouraged her more to ask questions and express worries. But she is my introvert and didn’t mention the overhead conversation until she was seventeen.

 

If you still have children at home—or even grandchildren nearby—you have a great opportunity to show them your faith in action. It’s easy to talk about things like praying, having faith and trusting God, but a diagnosis of cancer in the family gives us a chance to see if our walk matches our talk.

In those first really dark days after my diagnosis, I remember feeling as if I wanted to go to bed, pull the covers up over my head, and have somebody call me to come out when it was all over. But I also remember my head talking some courage into my faint heart.

You’ve always told your children:

That God can be trusted.

Now they can see if you really do trust Him.

That God is faithful.

Now they can see if you will be too.

That knowing Jesus makes all the difference.

Now they can see if it really does.

We were a family, and that “for better or for worse” pledge my husband and I made applied to our children too. Together we would face cancer with the courage that God supernaturally would pour into each of our hearts, no matter what our age or bravery status.

Cancer probably was the best real-life lesson to prove to my kids that God can and will meet our deepest needs—that He can give us courage to face things we never thought we could.

My daughters, now in their thirties, also have seen that because God poured courage into our hearts, we now can pour it into others.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. . . . For when God comforts us, it is so we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. 

2 Corinthians 1:4, 6 NLT

 

One of the ways I’ve noticed that God pours courage into people’s hearts is “putting the right people in your life at the right time.”

The apostle Paul talks about this method of God’s encouragement in a letter he wrote to the believers in Corinth, Greece.

When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy. . . .

2 Corinthians 7:5-7 NLT

Many times I have seen God, who encourages the discouraged, “show up” in just the right person and at just the right time to encourage me. I hope you pray believing He will do the same for you and those you love.