Over the last 13 years, I’ve walked my son through cancer twice. More than a quarter of his 24 years have been spent on one goal—knocking leukemia on its butt. And that’s not counting the years of cleaning up the fallout of all that chemo and radiation.
Kyle’s first treatment plan lasted over three and a half years. After I recovered from the shock, I zipped from anxious, to uncertain, to alarmed, to discouraged about 20 times a day. Watching him struggle brought on a sadness so deep my chest constantly ached. But every time I thought I’d tumble over the edge, a sense of calm caught me and held on.
Six years later, when cancer returned, relapse protocol called for a two year treatment that lasted closer to three and turned my life upside down. The feelings from Kyle’s original diagnosis flooded back. But they weren’t alone. From day one, I was angry, bitter, frustrated, defeated, and beaten down. Almost two years out from his last round of chemo, I’m still trying to climb out of that black hole.
Why were my experiences so different?
It wasn’t that ignorance was bliss the first time around, and we went into the second with our eyes wide open. Or that the relapse treatment was so much more intense. Or that a 19-year-old Kyle wasn’t as oblivious to the realities of the world as his 10-year-old counterpart. It wasn’t even that reprising my role as his cheerleader felt impossible when he’d had to pack away his dreams and independence to move home from college.
So, what did make the difference?
The first time Kyle was diagnosed, I ran straight into God’s arms. Well, actually, I ran into a tiny restroom at the far end of the hallway at the children’s hospital. But He met me there. And from a chipped toilet seat in a stall that didn’t lock, I prayed this prayer:
Lord, I can’t do this alone. I can’t waste time and energy wondering if You caused Kyle’s cancer or allowed it or could’ve stopped it. I need you to take the bad feelings I might have for you in the days ahead and throw them away. I need to feel Your love and Your goodness. You are my one, true rock.
I’d prayed a similar prayer with Kyle just before we received the devastating news. I’d taken his small, clammy hand and focused on a picture forming in my mind.
Jesus, we’re standing in front of a big, dark, scary tunnel. We don’t know where it leads. But You knew we were coming, and You’ve been waiting with a flashlight to help us find our way. Thank You for knowing exactly when we’d get here and for not making us do this alone.
During our million mile crawl through cancer’s desert, I was scared. Sometimes I did feel alone. Most of the time I didn’t think I could push forward another inch. God did not hand us an overnight miracle. He didn’t spare Kyle from side-effects or excruciating pain or the loss of his friends. We lived every treatment, every emergency room visit, every hospital admission, every ugliness that rides the coattails of cancer all the way to the end.
From the moment I said those prayers, I never hated God. I never blamed Him. I didn’t question His love for me or for Kyle or our family. I never wondered if He cared, or if He was there.
Not because I’d be the perfect nominee for Christian of the Year. But because when I ran to God first, I found contentment.
The second time Kyle got cancer, I didn’t pray either of those prayers, and I did every one of those things I’d avoided over and over until the core of my faith split open.
You might never meet cancer or be forced to watch your child suffer or lose something that shakes your world, or be a victim of someone else’s bad choices. You might have an easy, comfortable life. You might have a great life.
Before Kyle got sick, I lived in that place too.
From the outside looking in, my world appeared pretty perfect. Awesome husband. Cool kids. Supportive friends and family. A nice house. A decent car.
And still, I wasn’t satisfied. Some days it was hard to get out of bed.
If someone asked me to describe what was going on inside me, and I chose to be honest, I’d use words like restless, moody, empty, constantly in pursuit of that elusive something to take the edge off.
Maybe you can relate.
It wasn’t until I realized God made us with a hole in our heart—a hole He was meant to fill—that I stopped chasing what I’d never find and waited on the only One who offered true contentment.
When I think of biblical contentment, three words come to mind—Peace. Rest. Hope.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
I’ve done life both ways—with and without Him—and the game-changer every time? Where I run first.
Doing life on my own leads me straight into a black hole, where contentment can’t be found, every single time.
Running to Him first, letting him fill that hole He made, doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. Avoiding tragedy and hurt isn’t what contentment is about. It’s about God walking with us through the good and bad. Giving us peace and rest and hope. For doing something in our lives no one else can—taking that bad and turning it into a good of His making.
In Romans 8:28, He promises, “… for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Pray with me:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I claim Romans 15:13 for you and for me. Lord, would you shine a bright light on that hole in our hearts You created. If we’re not aware of what’s missing, we don’t seek change. Whether we’re in a hard or easy place, fill us with Yourself. Show us what true contentment means. Thank for offering us what no one else can.
Photo courtesy: Unsplash.com