A Note From Cynthia:
Did you know that the chances of winning the lottery are one in 175,000,000?
Did you know that the chances of a child getting cancer are one in 285?
Natalie Hildebrand is all too aware of these statistics, having recently faced a cancer diagnosis with her young daughter. Natalie wrote the article below from the perspective of a Christian mom facing a hard diagnosis, bringing with it some equally hard spiritual questions.
Also this week, we are featuring Chip and Benjamin Waggoner on our podcast, Pardon the Mess. Benjamin Waggoner was born with significant health challenges that have required more surgeries than the years he has been alive. Chip and Benjamin share with us the blessings they have seen in the difficulties and help us navigate tough questions that show up when you live with a disability.
At Christian Parenting, we are committed to walking the road with you as we face real-life parenting issues that go off course from what we have planned. Our prayer is that through these two resources, you will be encouraged in the hard places of parenting, knowing you are never alone as a believer in Christ.
Faith in the Hard Places
“You’re so strong.”
“I admire your faith.”
“I don’t know how you do it.”
These are some typical comments one might hear when going through something particularly challenging. In my case, it was cancer. My one-year-old daughter’s cancer, to be exact. She’s now three. The past two years have been filled with chemo, hospital visits, and similar comments, to which I usually replied with something like, “It’s only because of God” or an equally trite Sunday-school answer. Some days, I wholeheartedly believed that. Other days (most days), I wanted to fire back “Well, it’s not like I really have a choice!”
In the early days of Hannah’s diagnosis, I clung to Scripture. During long days in the hospital, where time crept by, or on the endless nights where the beep of machines made sleep unreachable, that’s when I poured into God’s word and allowed it to penetrate my heart. Deuteronomy 31:6 spoke to me: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” And he didn’t.
My body was weak and my mind overwhelmed. Still, I continued to function. I felt at peace. This was a direct result of Scripture and prayer. A provision from Jesus. I’d love to tell you that continued throughout the next two years of treatment, and I could just do my mic drop right here. But I’ll hold tight to my mic a bit longer.
After Hannah was discharged from the hospital, we settled in to our “new normal” at home. The daily grind of caring for a child with cancer began to wear me down. I grew weary physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My stability became dependent on what was happening around me, which was pretty bleak most of the time. Brutally long and depressing days in the clinic. Even longer days on lockdown at home with a baby cranky from chemo and her brother who struggled to understand and acted out frequently. During this, God’s word no longer beckoned me.
My prayer life was lackluster at best. So, naturally, I began seeking sustenance in other forms. Binge-watching TV, scarfing fast food or candy, or avoiding my family by hiding out in my bedroom were merely temporary, and mostly futile, pain relievers.
Times of seeking the Lord in this chaos were rare. I was on a roller coaster ride of extreme emotions, spiritual highs, and pits of despair. Most often though, the roller coaster broke down deep in the valley, where I was flooded by the circumstances of my life. I lost sight of the only One who could pull me out of the raging waters, and I was drowning. I began to question whether the Lifeguard was even still on duty.
Where was God in all of this?
That’s not to say that the Lord didn’t send his hands and feet to love on our family. There were so many that brought meals, gave money or gifts, or prayed without ceasing for Hannah and our family. God placed people in our lives to help carry this heavy burden.
Sadly, I often had on blinders and could only see the literal cancer in my life. It’s so easy to become preoccupied with the difficulties of life, whether it’s cancer or job loss or a broken relationship. However, if we focus solely on our problems, we lose sight of the solution, which can only be God.
Now, with the advantage of hindsight, I can more clearly see God’s hand in my life. He not only sent people to help with physical needs but spiritual and emotional needs as well. Sweet friends offered to just sit with me or get me out of the house, but, most often, I made excuses not to. I had no problem accepting the things that were offered, especially meals because it was something we needed. But I didn’t think I really needed to be around other people, and what I really wanted was to be alone.
So, I turned them away, not wanting anyone to see how utterly broken and afraid I was. But my isolation only brought more despair. Maybe accepting their offers could have lessened my pain, but, instead, I felt far from people and far from God, with an excess of idle time to be consumed with worry. I missed fully experiencing the Lord’s provision of his people as tangible reminders of his presence. Just as it says in Deuteronomy 31:6, the Lord had not and would not leave me. I just needed to look up.
My response to all those comments I received throughout the course of Hannah’s treatment was accurate. I was strong and had my faith only because of God, even if I said it insincerely at times. God is always faithful and is always with us, whether we choose to see him or not. He was there whether I was seeking his face or seeking the bottom of a candy box.
No matter how rough the road gets, God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our circumstances or on our ability or willingness to acknowledge him. He is faithful because it’s part of his character, and we can only have faith in someone who is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9). My faith, which many saw as strong, had nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. It is not how strong our faith is, but how strong our God is. We can get through absolutely anything with the strength of the Lord (Philippians 4:13).