Social media is a funny thing. It’s sort of like a party where you’re having one conversation and overhearing bits and pieces of other conversations nearby. Sometimes there’s so much chatter it’s hard to get all the details of the conversation right in front of you. So it was as my writer friend Nancy shared about her fight with cancer. I knew she’d dealt with the diagnosis before and was now dealing with it again. I prayed for her and looked for updates on her wall, but it wasn’t until I sat down with Nancy’s book in hand that I got the whole story: all the pain, all the doubts, all the unexpected healing, all the epiphanies. Reading her devotional memoir, Unshakable, was like leaving the loud party and finding a quiet place to sit and ask a friend, “No, really…. How are you?” Nancy is a refreshingly brave one who will let you ask her the hard questions. She’ll tell you how she lost it in the exam room and how she walked through weeks of doubt and depression following her diagnosis. She’ll tell you how she was shaken. But she’ll also tell you how on the other side of that, she found a new trust in her Creator and Rescuer, a faith unshakable. Please check out Nancy’s book and join me in welcoming her as she shares part of the story at Message in a Mason Jar today.
Guest Post by Nancy Backues
I entered the brightly lit room and the familiar smell of antiseptic washed over me. After three years cancer-free, I found myself facing another biopsy for a new “suspicious” mass.
I wanted desperately to believe everything would be fine, but I sensed there was something terribly wrong. Although the medical staff was as warm and friendly as always, this visit felt very different from the others. The doctor explained it was highly unlikely the cancer would spread to this location. Still, something in the tone of his voice caused my worry to grow.
I tried to distract myself by asking questions about the procedure and what to expect. But it was no use. I could feel my heart racing, my face growing warm, and my eyes growing watery. There was no stopping it. Soon, I felt big, hot tears rolling down my cheek as the staff did their best to calm me.
“It’s just a biopsy.”
“You won’t feel a thing.”
“It will all be over quickly, and you can go home.”
They asked me about my family and where I was from, kindly trying to distract me, but nothing helped. I cried through the entire procedure. A sweet nurse gently wiped my tears with a tissue.
“Your eye shadow is so pretty,” she said in a gentle, soothing tone. I was thankful for her kindness, but I couldn’t help thinking, I must really be a mess if she’s complimenting me on my eye shadow!
I finally managed to pull myself together for the drive home, dreading what I knew would come next. It would be several days, maybe a week, before we would know the results. In the meantime, we would wait…and pray.
We filled our days with the routine tasks that come with raising a family, trying to paint our world with a sense of normality. But in the rare moments when life quieted for a bit, fear and worry would raise their heads again. It was a constant struggle to keep our thoughts and emotions in check.
Finally, the call came: The biopsy was positive for soft tissue sarcoma…the same type of cancer I had battled before.
Somehow I managed to remain upright on the outside, but inside I crumbled. No one wants to hear, “It’s cancer,” but to someone who’s been down that road before, those words carry extra weight—they undo all the fighting and bring immediate defeat. That simple statement stole every ounce of triumph—all the success of my previous battle—and left my emotions and my faith in a crumpled heap.
I had beat cancer once; I didn’t want to have to do it again. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was up for the fight.
How many times did I have to fight this same battle?
How much could one person endure?
Where was God and why would He possibly allow this to happen?
I needed answers, but all I had were questions…a lot of questions. In the following days, I spent hours in God’s Word, working hard to make sense of my situation and desperately seeking to find God in the midst of my mess. I found myself reading the story of Job often. His was one story to which I could suddenly relate!
As I made my way through his story, I learned some valuable lessons from Job.
1. It’s OK to be shaken.
Job is often heralded as the poster child of suffering, and rightly so. He endured more hardship than many of us can imagine, losing his business, his employees, his livelihood, and all of his children in the span of a few short hours. As if that weren’t enough, he later suffered from a terrible condition that left him in much pain and anguish.
We often point to Job as the example of patience in suffering (and he is), but he didn’t start out that way. He didn’t immediately respond with unshakable faith in the midst of his storm. His initial response sounded very much like the way we respond when a storm shakes our life…Job threw up his hands in despair.
“After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” -Job 3:1
For 37 chapters Job wallowed in despair. He questioned God. He blamed God. He wondered if God had abandoned him.
2. You don’t have to remain shaken.
God let Job speak his mind. He didn’t interrupt Job in his sorrow. He didn’t curse him for lack of faith. God let him get it all out. He let Job fully experience the roller coaster of emotions that come when the storm strikes: shock, fear, disappointment, despair.
God let Job experience his pain and despair, but He didn’t let Job remain in it:
“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the whirlwind.” -Job 38:1
3. You serve a God who is unshakable.
It would still take a few more chapters for Job to find his faith again, but when he did, he found comfort in God’s response: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted…I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know, which I did not know.”
Job didn’t have to know why his life was suddenly shaken. He was content to know that God knew. He recognized that God was in control, and if God was in control, he was in good hands. Job understood that faith is not the absence of emotion; it is the presence of Hope.
You may be shocked by the circumstances you find yourself in, but God isn’t. You may be overwhelmed with the situation you are facing, but God’s not. The test results, the pink slip, the divorce papers, the diagnosis…none of it caught Him off guard. He isn’t wondering what He’s going to do about it. He is still in control. And He wants to take your hand and lead you to the other side.
“[God] knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” -Job 23:10
Adapted from Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm by Nancy Backues.
Nancy Backues is an author, speaker, wife, mother, and two-time cancer over-comer. She lives in Missouri where she relies on God’s grace and good coffee to live out authentic faith in the midst of a mostly messy life. Read the rest of her story in her new book (available in paperback and Kindle formats), Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm.