Today was an important milestone for me. It was my first Sunday back at church since I started treatment – and I was so glad to go back.
By: Robin Harry
The last Sunday I attended church was the Sunday before I started chemotherapy. I had to avoid crowds, and there’s no bigger crowd than Sunday morning service – the church I attend seats over 1000 people. My church does a lot of “greet your neighbour” and “turn and tell 4 people around you that God loves you” sort of thing, and that’s fine on a normal day. But those seemingly innocuous fellowship and encouragements are a bit scary when you’re an immunosuppressed cancer patient. I know very few people there, and with a compromised immune system, people I would have just called brothers/sisters in Christ just become scary strangers that could put me in the hospital…it sounds bad, I know, but that’s just the truth of it all.
Being back at church felt great. It was so uplifting to be back in a congregation, singing hymns. It was great to listen to the pastor preach. I enjoyed celebrating my faith with others – my faith is such an important part of my cancer challenge. My Christian faith is largely what has helped me get through all of this with whatever grace and acceptance that I had.
There are a couple of Bible passages that have really helped carry me through this, and since they’re as important to me as reporting chemo side effects and complaining about mice, I’m going to share them as well:
“…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5: 3-5)
I don’t subscribe to the popular contemporary notion that bad times don’t or shouldn’t happen to Christians. They do – they always have, and until the roll is called up yonder, they always will. This passage always reminds me that bad times are never, ever in vain. At the very least, if I look at them the right way and persevere, I can become a better person from the lessons learned. I’d like to think that I’m a different person, looking back from this end of the cancer street. I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself, about others. I’ve learned about the kind of character I want to have, and about the limits of my strength (I draw the line at mice, clearly). I’ve held on to hope of better days through all of this, and have never stopped believing in the love of God.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. Yeah, I’ll say! This verse is the reason I’ve been able to be calm and collected, it’s why I haven’t lost my mind (yet), and it’s why no one can understand why I laugh when people tell me to keep my head up. It’s why people commend “the way I’m handling this”. It’s not really just me, but the peace comes from knowing that God’s heard my prayer for His will to be done.
I don’t mean this to be a theological discussion – I’m just stating my beliefs. I know there are a lot of patients who choose to take whatever control they can, and that’s their way of working through this. But I’ll tell you this – I wouldn’t trade this peace for anything in the world.