It was one of those calls that you just don’t want to get.
My day, though busy, was pretty routine…until I received the phone call.
I saw her name pop up on my phone as I was working in my car, waiting to pick up one of my daughters from basketball practice.
“Ang?” I could hear something was wrong the moment she spoke my name. “Hey, Jojo! How are you?!”
As I spoke the words, my mind raced trying to think what could be the matter. I had seen on Facebook earlier in the week that someone we both knew from back home had passed away from cancer, I assumed she was calling about that. I was wrong.
“Do you have a minute?”
“Absolutely! What’s up?”
For the next 20 minutes or so, time seemed to stand still as she told me the heartbreaking news. “I have ovarian cancer.”
She shared how she had been feeling and how she had recently gone to the doctor. One doctor visit lead to another which lead to scans. Two masses were found in her abdomen.
She was going to need to have an operation.
My heart sank upon hearing the news. I felt as though someone had unexpectantly punched me in the gut. I wasn’t prepared for this news. It was as if my breath was taken from me and I could barely breathe. I was shocked.
She of course in her Jojo fashion, assured me that all would be fine. Whether she gets healed here or in heaven, her salvation is secure.
Later that week she had her surgery and we were very optimistic from the surgeon’s remarks. All the masses had been successfully removed and no cancer was found in the lymph nodes. Biopsies were taken and now all we had to do was wait on the results to find the stage of ovarian cancer she was in.
From the success of the surgery and learning that the cancer had not progressed into the lymphatic system, I was feeling more positive than not.
Then I received the second call, the cancer is stage 4. She was given a year until the systems would begin appearing again.
My heart broke.
This time when I talked to her on the phone, I couldn’t hold my tears back no matter how hard I tried.
I had to fly out and see her.
Weeks later I found myself being picked up by her at the airport. On our drive back to her house, we wasted no time with pleasantries and got straight to the point.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around news like this.
Thoughts like, “Why me?” “Why now?” invade your mind.
We talked over all of it. The good, the bad and even the ugly, gut-wrenching truth of the situation she found herself in.
It wasn’t what she wanted.
It wasn’t how she envisioned her life to look.
She and Papa are finally in their retirement years. She has five grandchildren under the age of 7.
Would they remember her? What about her dreams of growing old together with Papa?
The conversation was raw and honest. And then turned a corner.
When viewing my life through the “me” len, this all doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair.
But you know, Ang…my life isn’t about me.
My life is for His glory.
The hard truth of the matter is, she’s so right.
Everyone who is called by my name,
Whom I created for my glory,
Whom I formed and made. – Isaiah 43:7
You see, Satan tries to tempt us into thinking that our lives are well…about us. But they aren’t.
When we choose to view our life through Him instead of us, we realize our lives aren’t about you or about me.
We were made, created and uniquely formed for His glory, not ours.
Once we change what lens we are looking through, hard times, disappointments and yes, even cancer diagnoses take on a whole new light.
Instead of seeing it as a setback, we choose to see a unique opportunity. When we choose to give God glory and praise in the midst of broken dreams, and harsh realities – the world takes notice.
It’s one thing to give God glory and praise on the good, easy days. It’s something totally different, something supernatural when we can do it through our grief.
This journey has just started for my sweet Jojo. But from watching her these past few months, this is what I’ve seen. People God placed people in her life YEARS earlier, people who have had the opportunity to work with her, do life with her and raise their kids with her – amazingly these very people are coming to salvation due to the seeds God planted in their lives from Jojo’s years of intentionally living her faith out for them to see.
For years Jojo had spoken of the difference God makes in her life, now she is showing it.
When we choose not to give in to Satan’s temptation to view our lives through the “me” len, but rather see our lives through the lens of Christ, our lives take on a greater purpose.
Instead of being me focused, we become ministry focused.
Our heartbreaks, pain, and cancer diagnosis go from pointless to purposeful when we choose to see setbacks as opportunities to give God glory.
Let’s Talk: How has Satan tempted you to view your life through the “me” len?
Love God Greatly,
If you would like to know how to pray for Jojo (Joan), she recently started blogging at: A Sojourner’s Walk.
Week 4 Challenge: Look for ways to shift your focus from “me” to “ministry” this week. How does it change the way you view your life? Record it in your journals and share in your groups or with friends.
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“Everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7
This chapter of Isaiah begins with the beauty of comfort only God can give. “Fear not… you are Mine… I have redeemed you.” It is a command not to fear, not a suggestion, followed by a promise. We will never be abandoned by God. When we answer the call of His name, our souls are safe even if our bodies are in danger. There is victory in the battlefield of the mind when God fills us and we allow Him access to our fears. This is where the peace that transcends all understanding resides.
“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.” Philippians 4:6-9
I’ve seen and experienced how fear can shackle and bind, yet I have also seen and experienced how God frees. Jesus came to set us free from sin and death. Fear kills everything in it’s path when we let it have it’s way in us. Isaiah 43 is a reminder that no matter what scatters us, God will gather us. No matter what binds us, Jesus holds the keys to free us. Fear creeps in, yes, but we are held by the almighty Creator of the universe. His Kingdom holds a place for each of us at His table. The reservation is good for life. No matter how dark, His light makes me see the way to Him because I was created by Him and for His glory. Keeping my thoughts fixed on what is true of God, true of me, and the beauty I find around me has given me access to real peace.
Lord, I am aware of what unhealthy fear can do. I have known intense fear and I know others who struggle with anxiety. Pierce through the fears that entangle and imprison our minds and let us feel Your presence and safety in Your arms. Fill our minds with Your truth and beauty. Thank You for Your promises to never leave us. Thank you for the strength to endure and thrive in the face of evil. Let freedom reign in our lives so that we can glorify You through good works and serving others for Your Kingdom. I am Yours, and You are mine. In Jesus’ name, amen.
I am sitting in bed reading this and praying for our Joan. What a beautiful example she is to us all!