As I woke up in recovery, I strained to see the time on the clock—oh no! I was in surgery for more than four hours, over twice as long as expected. On the radio were updates of school closings because of the winter weather heading our way. One of the nurses came over to me and with the most pitiful voice, patted my hand and said, “Oh Honey, you are going to be okay. . .” With her sing-song, hushed voice and the amount of time the surgery took, my new realization was churning over in my mind. As uncontrollable tears escaped, I silently began to pray, “Jesus, oh, Jesus please help me, hold me. . .” Suddenly, all the background noises stopped. It seemed as if someone turned up the radio volume. The song, “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe, was beginning to play. The music was so clear and played uninterrupted as I breathed in the comforting message of a promise of Heaven. Though I felt God’s presence as I listened, I thought the song meant I was dying.
Abruptly, as the song ended, all the background noises came rushing back. The orderly came to take me to my room. As I entered, I could see the pain in the faces of my precious husband, my eighty-year-old mother, and my pregnant daughter. My fears were confirmed. I spoke the first words, “You don’t have to say it—I know. It is cancer.” They tearfully nodded.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of more doctors and tests. Both oncologists and radiologists were coming up with a plan to save my life. Because my diagnosis was stage four throat cancer, nobody was painting a pretty picture of the treatments or my chances.
“. . .Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” Job 2:10 (NIV)
Is God good? Even in cancer? Is it all true—the Bible, Heaven? Do I really believe what I have claimed to believe all of my life? Then came the big questions—why, why me, why now?
During these questioning days, my husband and I felt God clearly speak to our hearts, “Pray for My Glory, not healing.” In all honesty, we thought that also meant I was going to die.
Cancer was a long, awful, and complicated journey. After the first week of chemo, I was immediately admitted to the hospital for a month. I had a violent allergic reaction to one of the chemo drugs. All the skin on my face looked like a burn victim. I was in ICU for ten days, in and out of consciousness, with a constant, high fever. The pain was real, both the pain in my heart and my body. Watching the heart ache and helpless struggle of my family and friends was the hardest pain I experienced. Many days and long nights were so dark and painful that I actually prayed to die. I lost hope. But God was there every step of the journey, even when it all felt so horribly heavy to the point of not feeling His presence. Deuteronomy 31:8 is true: “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Even though I did fear and I was dismayed, He sustained me. Not because I was faithful, but because He is Faithful.
Even as I write these words of remembrance, I must confess, I have to apply the same truth of His sovereignty, purpose and grace to what I am struggling with today. I am continually learning more lessons of trust. I say with Isaiah, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (ESV)
When God allows suffering in your life, please be encouraged to look to WHO HE IS and not focus on the circumstances of what He is doing or allowing in your situation. Because even though I did not learn all the “why’s” of cancer, I did learn that HE IS GOOD. HE CARES. HE HAS PURPOSE. HE WASTES NOTHING, especially our pain.
Guest writer, Stacy Bentley, is a wife to Jeff of nearly fifteen years and a mother to Amy and Brett, who have blessed them with five grandchildren. The youngest two grandchildren were born five days apart, weeks after Stacy’s last of thirty-seven radiation treatments. Those grandbabies will be seven this August! Jeff and Stacy recently moved to Lima, Peru, where they are learning a new culture and praying for God's direction in this new journey with Him.
What does the Bible teach about suffering? If you have questions regarding this topic, I invite you to download the 4-week Bible Study: "Biblical Truths About Suffering".