In the Shadow of Your Wings: Devotionals to Encourage Breast Cancer Patients
By Sue Sewell
Shocked by Reality
Lord, today I found out that I have breast cancer. This can’t be right. This morning I was healthy. This afternoon I’m facing a life-threatening, insidious monster. They use words I don’t understand. What is CDIS? What are “calcifications”? I don’t know what invasive or inflammatory mean? Is there a dictionary for this? Where do I turn? How do I know whom to trust? What about my family? I have responsibilities I have to take care of! It can’t be true. They must have made a mistake. I am afraid. Where do I start? This is more than I can process. This can’t be happening!
This is where we all start, but having walked this path I can encourage you. You have an opportunity to know the Lord far more intimately than ever before. You have a chance to experience His grace beyond measure. From now on when you think of the “Big C word,” think CHRIST. Christ alone…
People always want to help; you just have to know how to direct them. Enlist someone to act as a buffer for you, and allow the Lord to bless them by serving you.
These people will surround you, but their response will depend totally on you. If you are strong, they will be strong. If you need to cry, they will cry with you. Today is just the first day.
Your doctor has just discovered one of your most dreaded fears. It is very important to realize that this is not the worst day of your life. Quite possibly, it’s the best. Without this discovery your cancer will grow. But thankfully, you can take action.
Take His Word — grab it as though it were your only life preserver.
“If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I assure you, that person will be rewarded” (Mark 9:41, NLT).
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, RSV).
Paralyzed by Fear
Lord, I am so scared. There are things I really need to do, but all I can do is cry. I sit and stare straight ahead. If I don’t say it out loud, then it’s not true. But I have to make doctor appointments— possibly surgeons to remove my breast, plastic surgeons for reconstruction, MRI’s, and scans of every kind. I am so overwhelmed.
Today I need to begin to take charge of my medical care. It is fortunate that there are many places today that deal strictly with “breast care” in the larger metropolitan areas of the United States. If you live in a rural area, you may be dependent on your local physician to refer you to a larger facility. You are entering “Breast Care 101.” The internet is a great resource, but it can be too much to take in all at once. Don’t try to read it all. Find a couple of sites, such as, Breast Cancer Online at bco.org or Breast Cancer Org. at breastcancer.org. The Susan G. Komen Foundation at komen.org is also a great resource, as well as breastdiseases.com and laf.org.
… Learn to focus on God’s Word. Store it in your heart.
“When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:14–19, NLT).
It’s beginning to settle into my head now. They say I have cancer. I don’t feel sick. I don’t look sick. But apparently I am sick. I am now beginning to wage war on an enemy that I cannot see. It is a ravaging enemy, and I will remember at all times that I am at war. I can cry, but I must remember this is an enemy that will take no prisoner if given the option. I must gather up all the ammunition I can carry and fight with zeal. I know that all of my tomorrows have changed because of this enemy. That doesn’t mean I have no tomorrows, only that they will be different. I am now a part of a new sorority/fraternity. I have a common bond with others who have gone before me, and those who will come behind me. If I forget I’m at war, I will be tempted to surrender to fear. Satan finds his greatest strength is planting the seed of fear in my heart.
I begin today practicing putting Christ in control of my every thought. In Christ I have hope, not fear. I am walking hand in hand with my Lord down a difficult path. I walk with Him because I know I can trust Him. I know that He will not reject nor neglect me. I know that He alone has the strength I need to face the unknown circumstances of tomorrow. He alone will reach down, gently put His arms around me, and pick me up. He will carry me when I can walk no more.
My emotions overcome me with dread of the unknown. They roll over me like the swells of the rising tide. I remind myself that there is no sin in my emotions. This is the way God has made me. When I feel sad and despairing, I remind myself that what I know is more important than how I feel. I call on the Scriptures that I have hidden in my heart. My emotions are totally unpredictable: changing without warning. But what I know is God is immutable— never changing-the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In Him alone can I trust.
“And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10, NKJV).
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
There may be people in your life that you watch, they have a glow about them whenever you see them. There is something about them that is different. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s there. Oswald Chambers reminds us in his book, My Utmost for His Highest (April 14), “‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Where do the saints get their joy from? If we did not know some saints, we would say, ‘Oh, he, or she, has nothing to bear.’ Lift the veil. The fact that the peace and the light and the joy of God are there is proof that the burden is there too.”
My heart desired that joy. I began to sit alone with the Lord and journal. Friends and loved ones shared Scripture with me. I saw Scripture I’d known for years with new eyes and a new heart. God’s Word is a great comfort. As fear of the future crept in, I was reminded that the only fear I have room for was,
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…”
(Proverbs 1:7a, NKJV)
“This is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding’” (Job 28:28, NLT).
With that knowledge in my heart, I began to realize I was wasting my emotional energy fearing cancer. With His Word once again stored in my heart, I came to a place of total peace and serenity.
…I turned to my journal and found a private place I could call out to the Lord. I learned to let His spirit flow through me and fill my heart and mind. His presence simply enveloped me. I began to see that there was going to be a blessing in having cancer. The intimacy with God surprised me.
C. S. Lewis wrote a book titled Surprised by Joy. It describes my experience. Because I had found peace in my circumstances, my opportunity for ministry was now expanded to caregivers, family, friends, and others standing on the sidelines watching. If you are a Christian, you can be sure someone is watching. People may scrutinize all your responses, but you are not accountable to them.
I have spent a lifetime telling the Lord I wanted my life to be a testimony for Him. I don’t think I had recognized that a testimony is drawn from a personal experience of total dependence on God. And total dependence does not come easily.
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 31:24, RSV).
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NKJV).
Today I remind myself once more that I have cancer. I must learn to do this without being overwhelmed with fear and questions of “why me?” The real question is, “Why not me?” Is there something so special about me that I should be spared suffering when Christ was not spared? Today I will surrender my cancer to God, just as Christ surrendered in Luke 22:42 (NLT):
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering
away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”
Last week you thought you were in control of your life. You made plans and executed them. Facing cancer was not on your list. Today it is your list. There is nothing that takes priority, yet life continues to spin around you. Jobs must be completed, meals have to be prepared, errands have to be run, laundry piles up in the hamper, and phone calls need to be returned. All that was before is, but cancer and doctor appointments have restructured your day. You are now much more aware of the sovereignty of God than ever before. He placed the stars in the heavens; He drew the boundaries of the tide in the sand; He separated daylight from darkness; He carved the depth of the Grand Canyon, and He knew you before the beginning of time.
This may be one of the biggest lessons you will ever learn as a disciple of Christ. He is in control. Can you digest this information? Can you acknowledge that a loving, gracious, and just God would allow you to be trusted with such a burden as cancer?
“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NLT).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lets anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NKJV).
Power of an Army
Have you taken the opportunity to enlist your army of prayer warriors to storm the gates of heaven on your behalf? Does this sound a little selfish to you? Do you want to keep the cancer quiet? Do you intend to win this battle—spiritually, physically, and emotionally? If so, you will need an army!
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will” (Romans 8:26–27, NLT).
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19, NLT).