Rain sprinkled on my windshield as I sat in my car looking at the rays of red light slicing through the darkness one Wednesday night after church. It was in this moment I was motivated by the Holy Spirit to pray something that God would faithfully answer in two years time. “Lord, from childhood, you have led me to pray for other’s hurts and pains. As you substituted yourself in my place, I pray Father God that if anybody in my family would ever get cancer, please give it to me to have in their place. I love you Lord and may you be ever glorified in and through my life. Amen.”
A lot happened after that prayer. Life went on and I completely forgot what I had said. One day I found myself walking into our local coffee shop to buy a coffee totally overlooking the fact that I didn’t even like coffee. The owners were friends of mine and I enjoyed the atmosphere. This particular visit stands out because my friend introduced me to Brittany, a staff member, and soon to be answer to my prayer for the “perfect” girl.
“Let me introduce you to one of my staff members,” said my friend with a smile on his face. Just like that, the awkward-just-met-you-for-the-first-time conversation was initiated. I left the coffee shop that night asking myself if she was “the one” and remembering why I don’t like the taste of coffee.
Falling & Obeying
A Facebook friend request several days later kept my attention on the girl from the coffee shop. For years I had kept a prayer journal and in this journal I had listed “My Prayer for the Perfect Girl.” Brittany was the embodiment of everything I had prayed for in “that” girl.
As our love grew for each other, God began to point us in the direction of marriage. The plan included waiting for her to finish nursing school and begin working at our local hospital. We just knew our lives would include each other and serving Christ somewhere in His great mission field. With my passion for evangelism and Brittany’s medical education, we knew that God could use our skill set in the mission field both near and far. We were so excited about what was to come. I didn’t know what the Lord ultimately would have in store for us but I knew I could trust Him.
A few months later, God prompted me, “I want you to go to Uganda with your home church.” I pray constantly for the Lord to be blunt and direct with me, which He is. I just wish I was quick to be obedient. Instead of leaving me behind, God was and is always gracious and patient. He consistently made it crystal clear that I was to go to Africa. This trip was just what I needed at that time in my life. I came back home with an entirely new perspective: my needs vs. wants, the great need to share the Gospel and God’s faithfulness and protection. Along with sore eyes for Brittany and a sore body from traveling, I had this small bump at the base of my neck. I tried to convince myself that the bump was probably nothing; an infection at worst.
Yet, the bump never went away. It actually grew a little bit. Finally the swollen lymph node was taken out for a biopsy. As I prayed and prayed to God about what it could be, one day a peace that I cannot describe came over me. In the midst of that peace, the Holy Spirit brought into my mind the prayer I had prayed years before at the red light. God had answered my prayer and I knew I had cancer. The doctor would confirm the news several days later.
I was hopeful though. Nothing is too great for my God, His grace is sufficient for me, and trust in the Lord with all your heart. These words became my battle cry to stay focused on Jesus. It was tough and the war internally seemed to grow more intense. “What about Brittany and our relationship?” I would think about this question. I had already decided to propose to her. I even had the ring.
Remember me saying that I need things to be given to me bluntly and directly? God spoke through both Brittany and my friend Josh in just that manner. “I love you. No matter what happens. I will never leave you or forsake you.” It was so special to hear Brittany tell me those words one afternoon before starting treatment. However, what my friend Josh told me wasn’t quite as reassuring. “You having cancer is the most gracious thing God could have done for both Brittany and you at this time in your lives.” Wow. What? My having cancer is God’s grace to Brittany and me? I really didn’t know what Josh meant by that statement. I couldn’t comprehend how it was a good thing. Yet, I took his statement with me throughout the next several months as my treatments increased.
Josh was Right
Looking back at that time in my life, I can’t help but see God’s fingerprints all over it. He gave me an amazing woman who loves Him with all her heart, whose nursing school experience and tender care made my recovery that much more bearable. Family and friends were here for my every need and my faith was strengthened through their love. The drives to and from treatment, days of sickness and weakness, hair loss and hair cuts, kind words and careless words, and moments of frustration and trust, all revealed God’s grace. The body of Christ supported me like never before. The Lord did much sanctifying work on my character and suffer well for the glory of God.
And, eventually, Josh’s words of wisdom made perfect sense.
The Lord was already our foundation but He used this time in our lives to strengthen and secure our commitment to Him and each other. His grace got us through every mountain high and valley low and as an “old married couple” of almost three months, we are ever thankful to God for His most gracious gift – cancer. Yes, you read that right. We are thankful.
I wrote this article for Shattered Magazine in May/June 2014 shortly after receiving the news that I was in remission from cancer.