by Debbie Stovall
Sitting in the waiting room, staring at all the terribly sick people around us, my first thought was, “We don’t belong here.” But we did belong there. That hematologist’s office was just where we belonged. Over the next few months we would be so grateful to be there to receive answers, healing, and life-saving treatment.
You may have been in that same place. You may have found yourself face-to-face with a life-threatening diagnosis. At that point your emotions are high and you start really evaluating what you believe. It’s not a fun place to be. I would never choose to put myself back there, but I would also never give up that period of our life because of the lessons learned through that journey.
If you are just stepping onto that path you probably feel afraid. You are probably wondering if this will be the end, or if the treatments will cause much pain and discomfort, or why did God allow this? But there are no answers. It is a walk “not by sight” whether you want it to be or not.
But whether it is a walk of faith… now that is your choice.
When my husband was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 1997, all I knew was there was no cure for this blood cancer. I didn’t know if he would live to teach any of our 4 children, then under 11-years-old, to drive. I didn’t know what ramifications it would have for our children or how I could ever live and raise a family without the love of my life and our financial provider. I didn’t even know what a hematologist was until we ended up in that waiting room. It came out of nowhere and I was caught totally flat-footed.
I would love to tell you that I handled the physician’s diagnosis that day with faith, totally depending on God, but that wouldn’t be true. My first reaction to this news was fear. I danced with denial, tried to brush off reality, but finally came up against a wall in a hematology office. Cold fear gripped me so much that it was a physical sensation down in the depths of my stomach. I lived for weeks with fear as my constant sidekick. I cried. I prayed desperate prayers. I freaked out to any friend who would listen. I lay awake in the night staring at my sweet husband trying to memorize his face in case he died. I kept going to church regularly, sitting in the back weeping the whole service. But sadly, what I did not do was I did not choose the path of faith right away. Over those months I learned that when we can’t see what lies ahead we have a choice to make: to walk by faith or by fear.
Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” John 8:26
One morning, alone in my living room, I cried out to God. Literally. I vocally shouted out to God, “Please don’t let my husband die!” At that moment God began to work in my heart. He confronted me with my fears. He made me acknowledge that I didn’t know what was best for my life, but He did; and even if that meant losing my husband, that He, Father God, would be with me every step. He opened my eyes to see the reality that He loved me and cared for me and would be with me through every hard and horrible situation I would face in life. Did I have the faith to grasp onto that and let go of the fear?
After that day we faced chemo, neutropenic fever, hospital stays, bone marrow biopsies, blood tests, isolation rooms, doctor visits and all the other not-so-fun things that go with cancer treatment. It was a long, tiring, often emotional journey. But we learned what mattered in life and what didn’t. We learned to walk by faith, not fear. We learned how deeply the Father loved us. We learned that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us was our treasure.
“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” – Jesus questioned the disciples on their fear. Their fear was seen as a direct response to their lack of faith. Here’s the whole story:
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” John 8:23-27
How often do we find ourselves alone in a storm? Or maybe not totally alone, maybe we’re going through that storm with our family who are also Christians. But among all of us, just like among the 12 disciples, we find we can’t muster up the courage to face it. We’re overwhelmed with fear of death, destruction, and devastation. We feel like we’re drowning. This passage reminds us of how the disciples dealt with their fear: they went to the Lord. “They woke him,” it says. God is not asleep on us, but sometimes we feel so afraid and alone we feel like saying, “Hey Jesus, wake up. Are you there? Do you see what’s happening to me?” And that’s ok. Just like with the disciples, Jesus will get up, ask us why we “of little faith” are so afraid, and will handle the situation. We then find it is suddenly completely calm. We find the “peace that passes understanding” that Philippians 4:6-8 talks about, and awe and amazement of Him overwhelms us!
It’s now been 20 years since our leukemia journey started. Randy is still alive, and yes, he taught all our kids to drive! We still face the yearly blood test to see if his numbers are good. We hold our breath for a few days. And his segs and bands come out normal again. (Praise the Lord for being average!) I know not everyone gets those results and I’m grateful we have. But even if we hadn’t, God would still be good and still be in control. I’m grateful that we learned to walk with God the Father through every valley. (And we have faced several serious valley’s since 1997.) What we went through with leukemia is the thing that built our foundation in Christ and gives us the will to walk by faith not fear when we can’t walk by sight.
As you face your giant, whatever it is that is in front of you igniting that fear reaction, pause and take time to think. It is your choice whether you fight that giant everyday. But it is a wearisome battle. You cannot know the future. But you can know the God who will get you through it. His Word will reveal Him to you. He is loving. He is caring. He is faithful. He forgives you. He will fight for you. He is on your side. He has plans for your life. Though bad things come, He has no intention of harm to you, but rather works things out for your good. And so you have two choices, A) to walk this unknown path with fear gnawing away at you every day, or B) to walk this unknown path with faith in this One who is a good, good Father. You don’t have to fight that giant; have faith in the One who fights for you!