As the rest of the world waited expectantly for midnight to usher in the new year I sat by my sister’ bedside willing time to stand still. She was dying at just forty-four. Like our mum before her, she couldn’t hold the cancer at bay any longer and I was helpless.
Six weeks later I sat in a cold, sterile doctor’s office as the world outside continued to turn obliviously as I was told that I too had cancer. Mine wasn’t lung cancer like my mum and sister before me, mine was rectal cancer.
News like that punches you in the gut and takes your breath away. Had the heat seeking missile of death had locked in on me?
I might be a pastor’s wife but that didn’t stop me screaming at God.
Are you kidding me? Really, haven’t we been through enough?
What have I done to deserve this? Especially after all I’ve done for you.
I thought you were meant to be good, but maybe not as good as all that.
Like the psalmists before me I held nothing back. I guess I was in good company.
As the dust from my cancer-bomb settled I rallied and prepared for battle.
I’m not just Hardy by name and hardy by nature but a Brit with a stiff and perfectly bleached upper lip but I’m, so despite my family’s track record with cancer, I went into full on fight mode, determined to survive. Until finally, a couple of months later, after chemo, radiation, surgery a new ostomy bag, and yet more chemo, that’s all I was doing. Merely surviving.
When life side swipes you it sucks the breath right out of you. Then, as you do your best to simply survive, it leaves you overwhelmed and gasping for air.
Maybe you’ve been there, feeling as if you’re drowning in a life that just won’t cut you a break. A life you never planned, imagined or signed up for. Perhaps you’ve asked similar questions. I get it.
We know Jesus came to give us abundant life – life in all its fullness – (John 10:10) but as our life unravels, we wonder where that life is and whether we have to wait for our storm – that he also said we’d face (John 16:33) – to end, before we can live it?
It wasn’t until I met people who shunned the name “cancer survivor” for its more desirable and hope-filled cousin, Thriver, that I realized I was wrong.
God’s abundant life, a life full of joy, peace, comfort, strength, and yes, even laughter, isn’t waiting for our hard todays to be over. It’s available here and now, right in the midst of it all.
These Thrivers didn’t fake it, covering over the painful realities of life with cancer. Somehow they grabbed hold of everything good God and life had to offer, right where they were.
I wanted that. Isn’t that what we all want? To thrive, not just survive, no matter what life throws at us? Eventually I discovered that with God, it’s possible and life doesn’t have to be pain free to be full.
I learned that God’s abundant life isn’t somewhere off in the future, waiting for us when our circumstances change; the cancer’s gone, we’ve finally get a positive pregnancy test, or our teenager’s depression to subside. It’s here, now, available to us all right in the midst of the hard stuff.
With God it’s not just pie in the sky but cake on your plate while you wait!!!
I needed to stop waiting for life to get better. I needed to look for the rubies in the rubble.
Slowly I began to chose to trust God, even when I didn’t feel like it. I stepped out into vulnerable places and discovered suppressed emotions control us while expressed emotions heal and free us. Little by little I learned to embrace my journey both with God and cancer, and that I had to grieve to grow. As I found community and replaced feeling brave with choosing brave, I began to uncover more of all He had for me.
Little by little pain and peace were no longer enemies, but sat nestled in the palm of my hand right alongside one another. I learned we can laugh when all we want to do is scream as grace takes grief under its wing.
Our Father doesn’t want us to merely survive what life throws at us, he wants us to thrive.
Jesus came that we might have life, and life in all its fullness, so let’s go grab it.
My new book Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart is a road map for thriving, not just surviving, no matter what life throws at you.
I’d love to send you the Intro and 1st Chapter straight to your inbox for FREE.
Breathe Again is for anyone whose life has fallen apart, either over night or slowly over time. If you need a no nonsense, down-to-earth practical friend who’s been where you are, who’ll help you dig for the rubies buried in the rubble on your life, this is the book for you.
It’s not a quick fix, “how to keep going” kind of book. It’s a road map to finding all God has for you, right in the middle of all life’s thrown at you. Just click the orange button and I’ll send you the first chapter and intro so you can begin to breathe again right this minute.