Thankfulness Found in the Gospel

On January 2nd of this year, Claudia and I received news that changed our lives and tested our faith. We were told that Claudia had breast cancer. Right away, I began devising a plan and a scenario of how we would overcome this challenge. I reached out to an acquaintance whose wife had faced the same type of cancer. I also looked to my mother-in-law, who is a breast cancer survivor, to get a plan to overcome this problem. We got in contact with the doctor that was recommended, and I also got details of what my mother-in-law’s journey was like, and I felt encouraged. It was going to be difficult, but I had a plan. I was confident that, like all other challenges I had faced in my life, with the right plan we would get through it. I have always prided myself on being able to overcome anything that is in front of me with a solid plan and hard work. I have always been thankful to God for giving me the ability to push through and conquer any difficulties in my life.

A few weeks later, I went to the oncologist with Claudia to get the plan from the doctor to face this challenge, so we could to go on with our lives. I felt that I already had the plan, and if the doctor would just listen to me I could tell her, based on what my mother-in-law faced, what needed to happen. To my surprise and shock, my plan was not the doctor’s plan or God’s plan. The wise words of Solomon tell us, “We may make our plans, but God has the last word.” (Proverbs 16:1). The plan the doctor had was just awful and the prognosis seemed uncertain. I asked the doctor what the success rate was for overcoming this and she stated, “Most breast cancer patients are survivors.” I said to myself, “Most?” I don’t know about you, but when I come up with a plan the word “most” is not a word that gives me confidence in the way forward. My plan would have been so much better! Leaving the doctor’s office that day, knowing Claudia would face chemotherapy, surgery, and more than likely radiation, was more than I could take. I was completely broken and scared that my wife might die. I am thankful for friends, family, and mostly to God for the strength he gave me to make it through that day.

This year has been a nightmare and a blessing all at the same time. It is crazy how God can quickly change our perspective and plans in life. Yet, God has said to me over and over again this year, “For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). I gathered my family around the kitchen table when we got home that day. I let them know that their mom had cancer and that we were sad, but that we trusted that God would see us through. I spoke those words with doubt in my heart, but as we continued to meet daily to discuss Claudia’s health and read God’s Word, my doubt began to change to trust and hope in Jesus. I am thankful that God has used this trial to lead my family into a closer relationship with him and a deeper understanding of his Word and promises.

I thank God for putting amazing people in my life. I am thankful to my mother in-law who has been a support to my family and her willingness to drive eight hours weekly, if needed, to help and support our family. I am thankful to Talia Jernigan who has been such an amazing help with our children. I am thankful to Jennifer Sharpe who has been an amazing support with encouragement and prayers for both Claudia and me. I am thankful for Josh Rollins who has faced cancer and could understand my fears and struggles. I am thankful for Ron and Ebony who were battling cancer right beside us, for their friendship and support. I am thankful for Willis Davis, a 99 year old man I met when taking Claudia to treatment, who sat and prayed with me while Claudia was in surgery. Willis always tells me “Be still and know that God is with you.” (Psalm 46:10). I am thankful for our church family, for the fundraiser they organized to support us financially, for the amazing meals that the church family brought during Claudia’s treatments and surgery, and for our small group for being an amazing weekly encouragement. I am also thankful for how my love and appreciation for my wife has grown this past year.

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Willis and I at the hospital during Claudia’s surgery.

I am thankful for what God has taught me through this struggle. He has taught me that he is in charge, and that his plan, as confusing as it may seem, is always better than mine. I am thankful that he has given me a challenge that I had to just fall on my knees and put it all into his hands. As I am writing this, Claudia has only one more treatment of radiation but four more months of chemotherapy ahead. I am thankful that I have felt the power of God through prayers and his Holy Spirit every step of the way. I am thankful that I know we have victory over cancer because we put our hope and trust in Jesus. I am most thankful for the gospel and that I have learned through this struggle that no matter what I am facing, I should never go beyond the gospel, the Good News of Jesus, but only deeper into it.

I am so thankful for my relationship I have with Jesus. Addison, my youngest daughter, would almost every day ask her mom “Are you okay?” when Claudia had lost her hair and started looking sick from the chemotherapy. And Claudia would say, “Yes, honey, I am okay.” So, unsure of her mom’s answer Addison would come straight to me and say with concern, “Is momma okay?” I would reassure her that mom was okay and she seemed to find comfort in her father. I am so thankful that I find the same comfort when I speak to my Heavenly Father about the same concern my daughter had. God has shown me again and again through his Word and his Holy Spirit that he is in control and I have nothing to fear.

Claudia and I are thankful that this struggle has not pulled us away from the Good News of Jesus but to a deeper understanding and hope in it. We know that because of Jesus, we don’t have to fear cancer or death. My prayer is for complete healing of cancer and many great years and memories ahead with Claudia. Although, I understand that life is not found in beating cancer but only in a relationship with Jesus. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.” (John 10:28a). I pray that when you read this post, it will point you to a relationship with Jesus or a deeper relationship with him. A relationship with Jesus, is the only way we will never have to fear death. (John 14:6). I am so proud of what Jesus has taught me during this season in my life. I pray that my trials encourage others and point them to Jesus.

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Claudia and I at NC State Fair 2018

 

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