When I began sharing my diagnosis of endometrial cancer with friends last year, more than one confessed in all caps, “I HATE CANCER!”
I get it. Nothing lovable about cancer cells, nothing joyful about malignant tumors, and definitely nothing fun about surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and the rest.
But there’s another side to this unexpected journey. Some glorious, eye-opening, wouldn’t-trade-anything-for-them moments came when I was willing to embrace this truth with my whole heart: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Liz, are you saying you’re grateful to have cancer? Yes, that’s what I’m saying.
Feel free to shake your head, roll your eyes, or sigh loudly at this point. What I’m about to share may sound like a woman who has swallowed one too many steroid pills before her latest chemotherapy treatment, and is floating on a drug-induced euphoria.
The truth is, my gratitude has nothing to do with chemicals and everything to do with Christ. After three dozen years of knowing Him as my Lord and Savior, I now know Him as my Comforter, Healer, and Friend. I have never been more aware of His presence or more in awe of His power. And I’ve never felt more compelled to speak His name or sing His praises!
Though I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, I long for my brothers and sisters in Christ to experience firsthand what happens when we accept the reality of our circumstances and not only trust God, but also thank God for the path He has laid out for us.
Here are six reasons I’m grateful for His unexpected gift to me:
A greater sense of His faithfulness. When I cried out to Him from my hospital bed in the middle of the night, He was already there, calming my broken heart, assuring me of His love, just as His Word tells us, “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Psalm 36:5). Even when I was physically by myself, I never felt alone, never felt unloved, never felt forsaken.
A richer understanding of His peace. After the oncologist explained my diagnosis, the Lord dried my tears and reminded me of His sovereignty in all things. Since He’s in charge, and we are not, we can let go of our anxious thoughts and rest in Him. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). His peace is palpable, beloved. It settles around our shoulders like a warm, fragrant, fresh-from-the-dryer blanket.
A constant assurance of His goodness. Because His plans for us are always good and always purposeful, I can lift my head and say, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13 NIV). With every greeting card, every encouraging note, every thoughtful gift, the people of God demonstrated His goodness, month after month.
A deeper dependence on His presence. Desperately aware of my need for Him, I find myself praying more often and more earnestly than ever before. When I’m on my knees, He meets me without fail. I’m never more aware of His holy presence than when I’m listening for His voice. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2).
A fresh experience of His freedom. Of all the emotions that have washed over me, fear held sway for only one terrible day. After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I chose to stand on His truth and be set free. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10a). His love overcame my fears and flung open the door of my heart, so I could say yes to what He has next for me.
A clearer vision of His hope. Whatever the outcome — healing or heaven — God holds out a bright beacon of hope for the future and provides the greatest reason for gratitude. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful…” (Hebrews 12:28a). With each passing season, I’m learning to embrace each day with an awareness of how precious this life is and how glorious it will be when we see Him face to face. With Jesus, it truly is a win-win situation. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Yes and yes!
Liz Curtis Higgs has one goal: to help women embrace the grace of God with joy and abandon! She’s the author of 37 books with 4.6 million copies in print, including Bad Girls of the Bible and 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path, and she’s spoken at 1,800 Christian conferences in all 50 United States and 15 foreign countries.