Having Joy When You’re Going Through Hell

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Have you had a rough year? Many folks could say 2020 was the worst year of their lives and no one would say they were exagerating. It could easily be called a year from hell. So how can you have joy when going through such a tough time as we’ve had. Well, I can tell you it’s been a tough year for our family, pandemic aside. We’ve gone through so much….and it’s not over. Let me explain.

With in the first 3 months of 2020, my sister-in-law died, my husband got very sick and after recovering from that had to have a 1 cm kidney stone surgically removed. Then the pandemic hit. Just the uncertainty of it all made everyone panic and it seemed like we were going to run out of everything! Thankfully our summer was pretty calm by the time fall arived, we were in the midst of two of the biggest crises we would face.

FALL FELL APART

We found out a few years back that oldest daughter had been born with a maningioma tumor. The doctor’s had said they were pretty common and as long as it wasn’t growing they didn’t feel like surgery was necessary. She had regular MRI’s to monitor it and they hadn’t seen any significant growth so we thought all was well.

In October she started having problems with severe headaches and episodes of not being able to do even the most common things like make coffee. She went to the ER and they found it had grown to the size of an orange and they wanted to do surgery immediately. She lives in Louisiana and I live in Tennessee. My plan was to go down for the surgery….but then I got sick with a sinus infection and they wouldn’t let me come not to mention that the day of her surgery a hurricane decided to make landfall in New Orleans just south of where she lives!! Talk about hard! Momma can’t be with her baby when she’s having brain surgery? To say the least, I was really struggling. Thankfully she came through everything fine and is doing great! God is good!

MY DIAGNOSIS

Then right around Thanksgiving, I found a lump in my left breast. I have very dense tissue so it’s not abnormal for me to find lumps but I knew this one was different. I went through a battery of tests and biopsies. Then on December 18th at 830 in the morning I received my diagnosis…..Invasive Mammary Carcinoma…..cancer. I was in shock! Me???? The one who eats so healthy? The one who tries so hard to take care of herself? YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!

But they weren’t. I had cancer.

It was so hard to take in and yes, I was scared. I mean, who wouldn’t be? It is a life threatening disease! I did pretty well at putting on a brave front for the most part. My daughter that lives in Louisiana was able to come up for the holidays so I was deterined this news would not put a damper on Christmas. My two daughters and I had our usually day of baking cookies and all the goodies that goes along with the holidays. It’s a tradition we’ve done since they were little enough to hold a spoon. We laughed and played Christmas music and had a great time. Christmas day was wonderful! We actually had snow on the ground which was super exciting for me! A white Christmas in our part of the country is not normal! I was almost able to forget about my “situation”.

IT’S OKAY TO BE SCARED

The week after Christmas I (and my husband) noticed a change. I became more irritable, I snapped a lot and just was generally in a bad mood. You see, I felt like I HAD to be strong! I have always been the one to take care of everyone else. I’ve been the “fixer” my entire adult life. So, I thought I couldn’t allow myself the luxury of breaking down. Silly, right? Not in my mind. And I think if some of you are honest, you’ve felt the same way sometimes.

Oh, I put on a good act for the most part. When someone asked how I was doing, I would smile and say “I’m fine!” And for the most part, I convinced myself I was. I knew me well enough to know that if I allowed fear to take over, I would be a mess. It wasn’t that I was in denial, I just didn’t dwell on it. I can honestly say I never asked the question “Why me?”. Others did but I didn’t. When that question was posed to me, I simply said “Why NOT me?” I refused to allow myself to feel sorry that this was happening to me. So instead I tried so hard to focus on other things….ANYTHING but the fact that I had cancer.

THE SHIFT

The night before my surgery, I cried for the first time. I guess you could say it became real at that moment. Oh, I had teared up a few times since my diagnosis but never broke down and really cried. That night, I cried. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. My husband held me and told me it was going to be alright which deep down I knew but I finally let it all out….and I was able to sleep. When I woke the next morning, God and I had a long talk before heading to the hospital. I felt such a peace while I was going through all the prep that those who were getting me ready couldn’t believe my attitude. It was hard for them to understand that I was in there for cancer surgery but was laughing and making jokes! I was like “Let’s DO this!”

GOD IS THERE

Please understand, I’m not trying to make light of a cancer diagnosis. It is a life or death situation…believe me, I know. I had sim[ply decided like Paul in Philippians 1:21 that says “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” I knew God had me in the palm of His hand and that He would take care of me and my family, regardless of the outcome. I refused to allow fear to control my attitude.

You see, at times like these in our lives we have a choice. Whether it be a life or death diagnosis, losing a job, divorce or any number of crises that come in to our lives….we have a choice of what our attitude is going to be like while we go through it. I keep a sticky note on my computer with a quote from Charles Swindol which says;

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we handle it.”

YOUR ATTITUDE MATTERS

So much of our joy is sapped by our attitude! The sad part is, we usually don’t even realize it. We think we have to accept any thought or emotion that comes in to our minds or hearts but the good new is, we don’t! We have a choice of whether we hold on to that thought or feeling OR we can choose to just let it go.

You may be saying to yourself, “Yeah right. Been there tried that and it didn’t work.” Well, I have a question for you. Where was your focus. Now, I mean your REAL focus. Because here’s the thing. So many times we say we’ve tried something when in actuallity, we didn’t give it a fair shot. We didn’t really try. We gave it a half-hearted attempt and then gave up. In James 1:2-8 it says;

2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

WHO HAS CONTROL?

So you see, when trials come (and they will come), we have to believe God is in control and trust Him to know what’s best. I want you to understand that we are not supposed to be happy that we are in a crisis. I was certainly NOT happy for my diagnosis! We aren’t supposed to be happy for our trials but in our trials. Theres’s a huge difference! If we truly trust God then we can give HIM whatever is going on and trust him. THEN is when we are able to have joy during difficult times.

So often, the reason we lose our joy is because we retain (or think we retain) CONTROL. Our mind goes round and round with “What can I do?” “Why is this happening to me?” We think we need to fix it. But here’s the reality of it…..much of the time….we can’t. This was totally out of my control. I couldn’t make it go away, I couldn’t stop it or do anything else about it. But what I could do is control how I responded to it.

WHERE IS YOUR FOCUS?

After my diagnosis, when I was talking to my husband, when I told him how I felt he said “Why you? Why did this have to happen to you?” And my response was, “Why NOT me? I’m no better than anyone else and maybe God wants to use this in my life so I can help someone else know how to go through it with peace and joy.”

Was I still scared? Heck yes! But you see, I knew that what I needed to focus on wasn’t myself. If I focused on what was going on and allowed my thoughts to be something like “Oh my gosh….I’ve got cancer!”, then I knew it wouldn’t be long before other thoughts like “I’m going to die!” would start infultrating my mind. I knew I couldn’t allow that because if I did, it would be just like the cancer if it wasn’t treated, it would start spreading and eventually kill my spirit and I was NOT going to let that happen!

When you start allowing negative thoughts to remain in your mind it’s like being on a huge water slide. Your sitting at the top and when you first push off, your not going to fast but then all of a sudden you hit that steep drop and down you go! That’s how it is with negative thoughts. It may start off with just one little one but then before you know it your mind is spiraling out of control. I’ve been there done that and it’s not fun when you hit that wall of water at 100 miles an hour! It hurts!

FINDING HELP

That’s how the enemy works. The devil is very sneaky and will start dropping little negative thoughts in your mind and at that moment you have a choice. You can believe him and continue to think on that thought or you can call him a liar (which he is according to John 8:44 which says he is the father of all lies) and start speaking positive things. One scripture that God gave me that I said every day prior to my surgery was in Psalms 91:1-7 which says:

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.

This gave me GREAT comfort.

I also went back to some of my favorite scriptures…

Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
    and strength for your bones.

And Isaiah 41: 10 & 13

10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

13 For I hold you by your right hand—
    I, the Lord your God.
And I say to you,
    ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

MAKE IT PERSONAL

These verses are what I focused on and they helped to strengthen and encourage me. I replaced all the “you’s” and “your’s” with “I’s, my’s and me’s”. I made it personal and spoke these words over myself every day. I’ve found that if I focus on scripture and on the promises of God, it strengthens my faith and helps me to truly give whatever it is I’m going through over to Him. That’s what I did with my cancer diagnosis. Was I perfect at it? NO! But, when I realised I had allowed the negativity in, I would get my Bible out, or my cell phone if I wasn’t at home, and I would read those scriptures again and again.

HE CAN HELP YOU TOO!

You can do the same. I don’t know what you may be going through. Your crises may be totally differnt than mine. Your diagnosis may be far worse than mine. Whatever it is, I can promise you one thing. God is there. He’s right there with you waiting for you to hold out your hand to Him. Have you reached out to Him and asked for His help? Are you trusting Him with the future? I promise you, if you will give whatever it is you’re going through to Him and REALLY trust Him…He will give you peace and courage to face it.

AND NOW….

It’s now been two weeks since my surgery and I’m doing pretty good! I have some pain which is to be expected and I’m tired a lot which is also to be expected. I’ve found out my cancer hadn’t spread, praise God!! I’ll still have to have radiation treatment but that’s ok. I KNOW God’s not done with me yet! He still has work for me to do and one thing I can say without a shadow of a doubt is that this diagnosis has definitely made me more aware of how precious time is! I am so excited about what the future holds and I’m ready to get busy to do the work God has planned for me to do.

I hope this has helped you to see that even when crises come you have a place to go where you can find comfort and peace. Run to God….He loves you and is waiting on you. Allow Him to wrap His loving arms around you and comfort you through your tough time. I promise you won’t regret it.

If any of you have any prayer requests, please feel free to comment below or email me for privacy if that is more comfortable for you. I pray for all of you to find the comfort and peace that I have.

Until next time….

Becky

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