God is a God of all comfort. His comfort sustained me after my diagnosis with lymphoma 5 years ago.
1Cor 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort.” V. 5 goes on to say, “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
After I had surgery to remove 2 enlarged lymph nodes from under my arm and on my side, the pathology reports strongly indicated cancer. My husband and I were quickly ushered into the staging phase where doctors would perform tests to determine the extent of cancer before deciding on the best course of treatment.
The weeks that followed were a blur of unpleasant tests, waiting on results, and doctor visits. It was truly a difficult time as we tried to digest the news while I was still recovering from surgery, but it was not a time of devastation as it could have been because we were so comforted by God and amazed at all the detailed ways we felt His presence during this time.
One of the early details God took care of was my claustrophobia. The first round of tests entailed a PET scan where I’d be enclosed in a scanner for up to an hour. My husband was incredulous that this test frightened me more than the bone marrow biopsy, which even the doctor described as very painful. As senseless as it sounds, pain didn’t worry me, entrapment did.
I remember thinking God had some sense of humor to choose someone with claustrophobia to be a cancer patient! During my quiet time that same day, God led me to, Ps. 118:5, I laughed when I saw it! This verse says, “From my distress I called upon the Lord; The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.”
I memorized the verse knowing I’d need that large place in a few days when I was inside the scanner. As the nurse injected me with the radio-active tracer die the test would use, she assured me I’d be fine in the machine because, “It is really pretty open”.
I did not find this to be the case, when they slid me in the machine with my elbows out and I was touching the sides! I had only about 6 inches of space all around my body and could not see the opening! I began to panic and wondered how I’d ever make it through the next 30-60 minutes, but when I closed my eyes and remembered the verse, the Lord did set me in a large place and the scan passed in what seemed like only a few moments, although the clock said I was in the scanner for 40 minutes!
Another way Jesus lavished comfort on me was by allowing me to see good come of my situation. A few days after my diagnosis I prayed specifically for God to reveal to me how he was using the situation for His glory. Within hours of that prayer, my dad called, who has been a Christian in title most of his life but who had never really seemed to allow Jesus in his everyday life. My brother and I have prayed for him for years and had conversations with him without any visible results. During this phone call from my dad, he commented that he was very glad for the strong faith my brother and I had and wished he had the same for his own life. It was a huge breakthrough!
Then a few days later a friend told me she’d brought up my cancer situation during a lunch with co-workers and a girl who was not a Christian began asking questions like, “How are she and her husband dealing with something like that being so young?” and my friend was able to share with her that we had a faith in God and were leaning on Him. It comforted to me to see God using my situation to turn hearts to him!
I am not going to lie and say that every moment of my journey with cancer was easy and that I was able to stay focused on God without fail. Each day presented a battle with human nature and Satan, both wanted me to feel sorry for myself and focus on the worst-case scenarios.
When I’d begin to get down or consumed with worry, I’d also feel tremendous guilt, because I knew that God was in control and was going to take care of me and of my family but at those moments it was so hard to really believe it. During those times I was too overwhelmed to pray.
But by God’s perfect plan, just 2 months before my diagnosis I’d started going through a Bible study that ended up relating so perfectly to everything I’d go through with cancer. One of the lessons was on the power of the name “Jesus” and how just saying it aloud can bring His presence and mercy into any situation in your life. So during those dark times, I’d come to my senses enough to call out, “Jesus!” that was all the prayer I could manage, but without exception, each time, one of two things would happen, either I’d immediately feel a consuming sense of peace or there would be a heaven-sent distraction – a friend would call or my son would need me and my self-pity would be forgotten.
I am so thankful for the healing God has given me from cancer. But the greatest gift has been the comfort not the healing. The healing may be only temporary, with one swollen lymph node, I could be right back in the thick of cancer. We are not promised a trouble-free life on earth, but God’s promises of comfort are everlasting.
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