Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ Matthew 1:23
Immanuel…God with us. This four syllable biblical word describing the baby Jesus is a staple for Christmas carols, sermons, and cards. I have probably heard the word Immanuel numerous times every Christmas season of my life, yet until recently I have probably not understood it’s depth of meaning.
Somehow grasping for hope causes us to search for meaning…the meaning of life, the meaning of death. In the midst of Stage IV metastatic carcinoma, what does “God with me” mean? As a Christ-follower, faith assures me that He is WITH me, in the good times and the bad times, in sickness and in health, in celebration and in defeat. But exactly what does WITH mean? Perhaps the WITH of God explains the peace I have felt in the midst of cancer treatment. Or does the WITH of God answer the unexplainable joy, or the unwavering hope that God is in control of my life? His WITH for me means His very nature permeates my thoughts and reactions when I am scared of hearing scan results, or when the pain of the tumor in my leg reminds me that I am living with cancer. The “with” of God enables me to not only survive this time of my life, but even to thrive during this time.
God often reminds me that He is Immanuel to me. He is with me and is in control of everything. Ten years ago, I received a Christmas cactus as a gift. I parked it in our master bathroom where I would remember to water it (even cacti need some water!). The cactus sits all year looking rather nondescript. In fact, it’s rather ugly. But every year in late November or early December, beautiful amazing red flowers appear.
I remember four years ago when I was going through my first breast cancer. I glanced at the beautiful cactus one day and made the comment to Bob, “How does that plant know it is December!” Immediately the Lord reminded me that He is Sovereign over everything. He tells the Christmas cactus that it’s time to bloom! So why would I have to worry about ANYTHING.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I can thrive in the cancer battle because He is Sovereign Immanuel. The “with” of God knows and orchestrates every day of my life.
I also thrive because of encouragement of family, friends, and even those people I hardly know. Encouragement is powerful and fuels strength to fight. It comes in many forms…through cards, promises of prayers being offered, surprise gifts of blouses that will fit my arm plagued with lymphedema, or even through my grandchildren. Every now and then God surprises me with unexpected encouragement. I smile as I think of a recent gift:
My morning began as usual. On Tuesday mornings Tucker arrives around 8:30 and then we head out to Ladies Bible Study around 9:15. This morning was like any other…nothing out of the ordinary. Until I changed his diaper. As I leaned over him to complete the task, Tucker looked up at me, and in his innocent, charming toddler voice, said, “Grammy, you look like a princess!”
You can imagine how shocked I was to hear those words. In these cancer-laden, chemo-driven days, I often don’t feel like a princess. I limp. I have one arm almost twice the size of the other. I have gained weight due to steroid infusions and increased appetite. My “princess” days seem to be over. One of my fears in my reoccurrence of cancer has been that my grandchildren may not remember their Grammy as vibrant and full of life, but chemo-destroyed, old, sickly. I try as hard as possible to seem as normal as possible in the abnormal.
Tucker made my day that day. I realize that the comment was probably spurred on by the “princess-type” sleeves of my new blouse, but I can always fantasize that he really saw his grandmother with the blind eyes of love and not the clouded eyes of the world.
“…but let us encourage one another…” 1 Thessalonians 4:18
That we would all live this way.
Encouragement feeds thriving.
To more than survive in life’s most difficult challenges, I believe we must experience the “with of God,” being thankful for any encouragement He sends our way. People encourage me, but the Word of God, His Son Who made His dwelling among us, and the Holy Spirit encourage me even more. I could not live in peace, joy, and hope without this assurance. I love the theme for our upcoming women’s renewal event. I hope I am living testimony to the truth of God’s Word:
God has made known to us the secret to THRIVING… “That secret truth, which is for all people, is that Christ lives in you, the hope of glory.”Colossians 1:27
I want to thrive in the midst of cancer…not just survive…that He may be glorified!
A previous and most excellent post by Elaine about her diagnosis of bone cancer: When What’s New is Hard
Click here to find out more about THRIVE:Gathering 2016 where Elaine has been a featured speaker.