Christ and Cancer

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I have cancer. I never would have thought those words would spring from my fingertips onto a page. That simple word…cancer…it conveys fear, doubt, helplessness, and loss.

I have Christ. Oh how the power of that name clings so closely to my heart. That wonderful name…Jesus.. He is our hope, peace, joy, and comfort. And he is the God over all things, including cancer, and his purpose for it is glorious.

On October 24, 2013 I went out to my office, got on my knees, and with everything in my heart I cried out to the Lord, “Lord, grow my faith.” The Lord had been revealing  areas where I  had more faith in myself and others than in Him. I asked for the Lord to reveal areas of sin I had not seen as well as to transform me into a man with Christlike faith. My passion was to grow in an authentic walk with Christ as opposed to living in  spiritual “cruise control.”

The next day I became sick. For months I was told it was bronchitis but as time went by pain and fatigue began to increase. Finally, on February 10 I felt so much pain in my chest the doctors ordered a CT scan. Two days later I got the call. Lymphoma. I had heard the word in passing but had no understanding what it was. All I knew was I had cancer.

I looked at my girls, Jane 6 and Brooke 4, and my wife Daisy who is 7 months pregnant and a wave of fear came over me. It felt as though I had moments before death would snatch me. Questions and doubt rattled in my mind and fear was pounding on the door of my heart and screaming, “your world is falling apart!” But the truth was, Jesus was answering my prayer. He began the life-changing process of growing my faith.

For the past 10 years I have been a pastor, and countless times I have preached we need to give “everything” and “all” for the sake of Christ. My go to verse was  Luke 9:23  “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” But I found myself not wanting to deny something. My family.

To love my wife as Christ loves the church, to raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and to meet our unborn child and to be the first to tell them of the glories of Christ.  To be honest, it was overwhelming and waves of emotion came crashing from all sides. My Brooke would say “I love you daddy” and I would fall apart. I would see my wife with her pregnant belly and fall to my knees. But I am a Christian and a pastor right? Shouldn’t I have it all figured out? Again, the Lord was answering my prayers. He was growing my faith.

On the day of my biopsy they wheeled me down the hall and began prepping me for the exam. For about 20 minutes I laid on a gurney with tubes in my nose and needles in my arms waiting, and I began to pray. I confessed to the Lord how I did not want to surrender my family for I wanted to serve him by serving them. And then His peace fell upon me.

His Grip is greater than mine. His hold of my wife and my family is tighter, more faithful, more leading and more protective than mine could ever be. With moments to go, i simply prayed, “they are yours.” It was one of the single hardest prayers to pray. With question as to what the biopsy would reveal and the fear of death looming over me, God was answering my prayer. For he was teaching me what it was to authentically trust in the Him alone.  Psalm 20:7  “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Cancer brings the Psalms into technicolor. Psalm 88:1-2 “O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!” Psalm 61:1-2 “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,”

As the week pressed on the results started coming in. The primary mass in my chest was 13 cm by 10 cm,  the cancer had not spread to my abdomen, and I would need chemotherapy and radiation. In addition more tests would be needed for more answers. Visits to the oncologist, hospitals, bone marrow biopsy’s, PET scans and the like flooded in.  And now we wait.

I’m learning that waiting on the Lord is a battle of fear and trust. Fear crippled me, but trust gives us His strength.  Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Tomorrow, March 3, we will get the final diagnosis that will affect our life. We have cried out to the Lord specifically for Hodgkin’s lymphoma that is treatable and curable and that the additional tests revealed no more cancer.

I have cried out to the Lord that he would preserve my life so that I might serve Him, my family, and His church. So that I would take what he has taught me and will teach me and RUN with it.

That is why I wanted to call this blog “Holding True. Holding Fast”   Phil. 3:16  says ” Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” In our walk with Christ, he sanctifies us through the truth of His word. He gives us wisdom that changes us and seasons where there is nothing we can do but cling to him. We must hold true to those things. To keep them clenched to the chest. To remember his promises and to bask in the radiance of who He is.

In  Rev. 2:25  Jesus says, “Only hold fast what you have until I come.” Jesus is coming back. May we hold fast to He and His truth in every season. Whether it be the loss of a job, persecution, personal blessing, or cancer, we must hold true and fast to Jesus, for when we do, it produces mountains of glory for our Lord and Savior. And when he returns, may he find us  hungering and thirsting for him.

As we walk through this journey, I have purposed to chronicle these lessons the Lord is teaching my family and I.  Psalm 96:2  says “Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.”  I pray earnestly for the deliverance from cancer into a deeper faith in Christ. And may the road he has called my family and I to walk be a blessing to you.

Thank you all for your prayers and love for our family.  We covet them and know He hears them, for he is faithful. 1 Thess. 5:24 “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Serge and Kristin H. says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us John… We are praying along with you and are assured that He hears the many prayers offered on your behalf. He is truly holding you and your family in His capable hands.

  2. Danielle Robertson says:

    We await the news as you do with confidence in our great God! Our prayers are that He will use and strengthen you and your family for many years to come.

  3. Nickie Schweitzer says:

    John,
    Thank you for sharing your heart, for your transparency and for your faith. We are praying along with you for you and your precious family.
    In His Grace,
    Nickie

  4. Fran & Mel. Reece says:

    John.Mel and I just finished reading your blog it touched our hearts very deeply we of course also will be praying for you that the answer will be a positive one and you will be free to love and serve The Lord. We are praying each day for this

  5. You have a beautiful family John. I too have kids 6,5,3. I don’t have cancer John. I too hope the Lord keeps me around for my kids, my wife. I know, like you that they are cared for greatly by Him, but I too want to serve Christ, by serving them. I want to see the final product in my life, what Christ has done through me, for them…not to gauge my own fruitfulness, but to applaud God in my heart and see what He has accomplished. I’m gripped by the thought…what if my going becomes the catalyst for their salvation, would I gladly trade that in? Sure, if I knew that would be the result, but I don’t so I tend to fight it. We know we live in a fallen world and cancer/disease are its effects and so we ought to fight against ‘falleness’ in all its forms. This life has soooo many surprises and turns and its amazing that any of us lives to old age. We know to be with Christ is better by far, and when we get there we will know that instantaneously. I am crazy about my kids, my wife…and I am always thinking about the what if’s…and you are living the what If…oh I pray that great grace be given you as you walk through the valley of the shadow….we know you are not alone as the King of ages walks with you, and the body of Christ. We all have to traverse that way and its just a matter of time…we all hope to make it to old age, but this precarious world doesn’t ensure that…I pray John, that God would allow you to live, so that you may Shepherd your family and serve the flock under your care. Praying for you and your family.
    A brother in Miamisburg Ohio

  6. Emily B says:

    I read this and weep, John. When I think about everything you have been through in the last few weeks, and everything that is yet to come, I feel completely overwhelmed, and anxiety floods me. I want to pound the walls and scream and somehow rescue you from having to go through this. There is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings about cancer. Then God quietly reminds me that His ways are not my ways. My vision is limited to my narrow human scope, and the here and now. All my “what-ifs” are simply speculation, and mean nothing at all. God sees the whole story, the true story. He knows the players, the plot, and the outcome. And even more…He wrote the story. I believe that He is going to accomplish amazing things in the coming months, because you are wide open to His work in you and through you. I anticipate many opportunities to radiate God’s goodness, and I know that people will see Him in you. I watched it over and over with my mom, and I think it will be even more pronounced with you because of who you are. I still don’t understand why it had to be cancer, but I will rest in Him, and daily give my precious cousin back to Him. I won’t hold on, but will trust Him to have His way with you, because I know He loves you far more than I ever could. I’m praying and praying for you John, and for Daisy and the girls, and the coming little one. I wish I could be there to just come over and hang out, to help Daisy, to love on Jane and Brookie. Know that my heart is there with you, and my prayers for your family are strong and frequent. I love you.
    Em

  7. Holly Schrader says:

    Pastor John,
    My name is Holly Schrader, and my husband and I visited your church twice in August as we were RV-ing in Sierra City from Arizona. Just to let you know that I, too, had cancer, of the bladder, it was in my lymph nodes and I was not supposed to survive. But fifteen years later, I am still here, by the grace of God, although there are many days that I wish I were in our Lord’s actual presence. You have nothing to fear as God is sovereign and whatever happens to you is in His will. Have faith and trust in Him, and be strong for your family and church. You are right- cancer is a blessing! You have time now to sort things out and set priorities in order in your life. You will become a better person for it.
    Praise God from whom all blessings flow! I will keep you in my prayers-
    In Christ’s love, Holly

    1. jim winans says:

      Hello John
      I want you to know that Ruth and I have been praying regularly for you and Daisy and family since we first heard about your cancer. I sent you an email to the only address I had and hoped it was received by you but since I have not heard from you I wanted you to know we continue praying for God’s healing in your life. I met Lynn at Wilma’s memorial service and she gave me the website and I appreciate the information and how God is leading you through the journey. Our prayers will continue for you and your family as God speaks to your heart and draws you closer to Him.

      In His grip

      Jim
      Proverbs 3:5-6

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