I memorized Psalm 23 at a very young age. I don’t remember the reason—perhaps I just loved its message and the sound of the words. Whenever my life seemed to be falling apart, it would resurface in my thoughts. I’d find myself reciting it over and over again to myself. It always had a calming effect on my soul.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, I was scared. But I didn’t have a lot of time to spend processing this new twist of fate. This life-threatening crisis meant that I immediately began a hectic round of medical appointments, examinations, and tests. Shortly afterwards, I took my first tentative steps into uncharted territory—a full year of cancer treatments. This first phase of my cancer journey passed by in a blur of fear and anxiety.
Once I got over the initial shock of my diagnosis, I began to rail against God. Why me, God? I lashed out as my heart filled with fear. How could you let this happen, Lord? Why have You abandoned me when I need You most? I simply couldn’t understand why God had seemingly deserted me in my time of crisis. Faith and hope can be difficult to hang onto when you’re faced with cancer.
All too often, clouds of helplessness and hopelessness rolled in, darkening my horizons. They cast their dull gray shadow of uncertainty over my future. I craved that feeling of “normalcy” that had all but vanished. Was this now my “new normal”—living in fear of death? I yearned for the return of some warm rays of sunshine. In those dark moments of desperation, Psalm 23 ran its continuous loop, playing over and over again in my mind—offering me one small ray of hope to cling to.
Having come face to face with the reality and inevitability of my own mortality, I sought comfort in prayer and encouraging Bible verses, such as John 11:25-26 (NIV): “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
Although my cancer left me with a heightened degree of uncertainty about my future, I soon realized that no one is guaranteed a long life. I came to view my cancer as somewhat of a blessing in disguise because it offered me an opportunity to renew my life. In his book, At the Will of the Body, cancer survivor and author Arthur Frank said: “Death is no enemy of life; it restores our sense of the value of living. Illness restores the sense of proportion that is lost when we take life for granted.”¹
The truth is that you never completely recover from cancer. It’s a chronic disease that merely goes into remission. Fear of this disease still lurks in the back of my mind like a dangerous predator, ready to pounce at the slightest provocation. Any little ache or pain regurgitates my worry about a cancer recurrence. In order to regain some sense of control over my life, I needed to come to terms with this fear.
I’ve learned to take fear very seriously because of its power to confound my faith. I’ve come to rely on God’s presence and His promises. He offers me the encouragement I need to hang on to hope when faced with life’s challenges. By learning to live in faith rather than fear, I’ve been able to regain my strength, recover my confidence, and recapture my contentment with life.
¹Frank, A. W. (1995). At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 120
Photos: 1) Psalm 23 – The Sunday at Home: A Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading, 1880, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons; 2) Sun Rays – CC Pixabay; 3) Hope – CC Pixabay