Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.
Psalm 13:12 (AMP)
I will never forget Friday, November 14, 2014. That is the day I was told I had cancer. It was also the day I was set free. Perhaps it’s better stated to say that is the day I released myself from me. It was the end of myself and the beginning of the surrender God had been gently seeking for so long. For years, I had felt the weight of so much emotion and pain and in an instant I was willing to release it.
I recently shared how anger simmered underneath the surface of my life. The problem of helplessness and the loss of control over life’s circumstances was the result of not trusting God with the situations in my life. The root of my anger was hurt and pain for situations that I couldn’t make better in my own strength. In addition to the circumstances I shared in the last blog, I was constantly stressed at work. The mismanagement of our office meant more work. Then, I received a promotion into a position that was very demanding. I was barely keeping my head above water in 2014.
During that time, I had some very specific prayers for my husband and marriage. There were things I wanted for him and for us to have a better life. My prayers were focused on my husband and what I wanted and needed from him. So if you read my last blog, you know my go-to emotion when I had a need or if I felt wounded was anger. Unfortunately, my feelings of helplessness caused me to have a bad attitude with my husband. It seemed we were always frustrated with each other. I had unresolved hurt, I was stressed, and I was completely exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to do anything after work. I left all I had at the office; there was nothing left when I got home.
The pressures of life were taking a toll on my physical well-being. For a few years, I had been dealing with the side effects of uterine fibroids. I didn’t realize at the time how much a uterine fibroid can drain you of energy. Not only that, but I had many of them and some were large. Between the stress and the fibroids, I was always exhausted. I remember telling a friend July 4th weekend in 2014 that I wasn’t myself and I knew I wasn’t myself. I knew it was time to finally have a hysterectomy.
There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head [like the waves of a flood];
As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
(Psalm 38:3-4 – AMP)
A couple of days after my surgery in November 2014, I had to make a routine return visit to the doctor. Neither my husband nor I was expecting to hear the words that everyone dreads. The pathology report returned with a finding of lymphoma. I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. The life of stress, anger, deep grief, and helplessness had finally caught up to me. Amazingly, all the prayers I had been praying regarding my life were answered in a way I had never thought. It wasn’t the answer I had expected by any means. The reality is that the change I had been praying for was for me rather than the circumstances of my life. God didn’t need to change circumstances; He needed to change me. When the doctor told us of the pathology results, my husband looked at me with tears in his eyes. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of love he had for me as we sat in our car and prayed a few minutes later. This diagnosis was a new beginning, not an end.
The diagnosis began an amazing, intimate journey with God for which I will be eternally grateful. Within a few hours, God reminded me of how He had already prepared me for what was to come. Six weeks earlier, my dear friend and spiritual mentor had sent me a text message sharing with me God’s purpose and plan for my life. At the time I received the message, God said, “you will stand on this promise and know I have a plan for your future.” In addition, I’d constantly been seeing Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” The Word delivered by my friend and the Scripture saved my life. God had a plan for me. I was not going to die of cancer. I was already healed. This was a journey.
The journey wasn’t always easy. Someone recently described chemotherapy as taking you to the brink of death to convince the cancer cells that you’re no longer a good host. That’s exactly what chemo feels like. But, there’s such beauty in brokenness. At the end of myself was an Almighty God that had been waiting for me to surrender it all to Him. Having been diagnosed with cancer and a promise of life at the same time, I had never felt so alive. Because my body was broken, I had to completely trust and rely on the Lord. The devil is a liar, but the Truth was in me. After several tests, the doctors diagnosed me with stage 3 lymphoma due to a suspicious spot on my liver. I never believed that spot was cancer. Months later, it was discovered I was right. I trusted the Spirit of God within me to tell me the truth about my condition. The doctors were my advisers, but He is my Physician.
The condition of my physical being was not going to dictate the purposes of my spiritual being. Regardless of the things that life may throw your way, God has a plan and a purpose. I just had to trust Him. This period of time in my life was the resetting of my life. I needed to re-prioritize my life and surrender to God. God ministered to me in such an intimate way. I’ll never despise that period in my life. Only in the presence of God with a peace that surpasses all understanding could you treasure an experience for which your physical body is brought to the brink of death.
During this time, God showed me my identity had been in my work. I was striving for man’s approval through my work performance. This will cause unbearable stress. I was constantly striving to reach the bar that was being pushed higher the closer I got. As a result, I was fighting against the wind and exhausting myself. My husband was getting the crumbs. I think I’d also been fearing death since my husband’s brother was murdered. I was in bondage to this fear. I had felt my life and emotions were so out of control due to the grief of loss of loved ones in the previous two years. I was holding on to the injustices as if I could bring justice, which I could not. God was asking me to surrender all of this to Him for the promise of a new life. I answered, yes. I am still answering, yes.
Laying down your hopes, fears, grief, good and bad at the altar can sometimes look scary. However, I’ve learned the scary doors that we walk through can also be the most beautiful. Here are the beautiful doors I passed through during those months…
I surrendered my health, life and death. If God has a purpose and plan for my life and I’m following the Shepard’s voice, then no demon in hell is going to rob me of my life. If this earthly life ends, then I’m going into eternity trusting my Lord’s timing.
I surrendered the injustice of the horrific loss of my sweet 19-year-old brother-in-law, because the world is not a just place, but I serve a just God.
I surrendered my marriage to God. I stopped worrying about the things that once concerned me. I have an amazing, Godly-fearing husband. He’s prayerful, generous and kind. Daily, I walk in surrender to remind myself to cast my cares upon the Lord.
I surrendered my career. When you refuse to acknowledge that God has opened a new door and you refuse to exit, it is exhausting! I’d thought my purpose was to continue in the criminal justice field. It was not. I was pushing back against the will of God. I cried when I left, but I have not regretted it for one second! I’ve never felt so blessed in my life to be able to work alongside my husband and support him in his business.
I surrendered relationships with dear people. I did so because I could not be tethered to the past. If even for a season, I must release those things that would cause me to look away from God.
I surrendered my vanity. For years, I had been so caught up in negative body image that I let it dictate my happiness. I never felt as confident as when I had a bald head and only three eyelashes to put mascara on! God gave me a healthy vessel and I am not going to hate it any longer.
I surrendered my anger, because the gentleness of the Holy Spirit breaks me. I surrendered my grief, because the joy in my heart chased it away. I surrendered my strength, because I have none. I am weak. I am nothing. I have nothing. I want nothing separate and apart from my God.
I came to the end of myself. I began anew with God. And it has only just begun. Four years later, God is still asking me to surrender and cast my cares upon Him. Yes, I will surrender. I am broken. He has given all to me and I can only offer Him my broken spirit.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
My [only] sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart [broken with sorrow for sin, thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.
(Psalm 51 16-17 AMP)