As I am finishing my second month of remission, I continuously cry out to God with this one plea; “I don’t want my cancer journey to be wasted!”
The question that rises out of this plea is; “God how do you want to use me now? How can my cancer be used for your praise, your glory?”
Questions after facing finality
In staring the possibility of death in the face, I have found that you can ask God one of two things; “God, why me? I have been serving you with my whole life. Why cancer? Why me? Why now!” or “God, allow me the privilege to be a marked vessel for your gospel story. Don’t let my cancer be wasted, God! My heart is open to how you want to use this diagnosis for your glory, your grace, your purpose?”
I have chosen the later as my mantra. Not because I am some super saint or to elevate myself; but simply because I believe that God is enough in the middle of our struggles. It is here in the raw reality of a cancer diagnosis, even here God meets us and makes Himself real. He chooses to use our pain to tell a story of His grace, His unfailing love and His ultimate purpose of glorifying Himself. And in this narrative I have the privilege of being a key player.
“God how do you want to use me? How can my cancer be used to encourage others? How can my cancer give to you the glory and honor that you deserve?”
I find myself rehearsing these questions, almost to the point of becoming impatient with God. I am ready to embark upon a new phase of this journey and He has not revealed next steps to me.
“God, I’m in remission. Shouldn’t I know by now what you want me to be doing?”
What makes me so eager for ministry? Am I fearful that I might miss out? What makes me feel desperate to be doing something fruitful for God?
I am not sure why I sense such an urgency; but I do know that I don’t want to miss what the Master Teacher desires to show me, and I want to learn how He has designed me for this time to be of value to Him. This is an honor, and in all honesty, I don’t want to miss out!
Entering the waiting room
God never wastes our pain. I believe this to be true. I have seen God use the stories of His children to minister grace and encouragement to others in some-dire situations. If we learn to embrace our suffering, God can use our loss and pain to show to the world around us His magnificent power and grace. Even amid our hurt, sorrow, and disappointments He shows up and makes Himself known in our situation.
Again, this is what my heart is longing for. Yet, it has been eight months of looking to God for next steps of ministry. Asking God how He wants to use me and yet, He seems silent.
In this silence I can chose to respond with impatient anger; but experience tells me this is not a good or holy option. I know that it will only lead me towards further anxiety and overwhelm. It carries with it the voice of a begging , demanding daughter asking God to give her something He is not ready for her to have.
I leave this option behind and take the higher ground. One that places me in a posture of trust. With this I lean in a little closer to the truths of who God is. I embrace all that He says about me, and I continue to wait and watch with expectancy. Allowing the waiting room to become a resting place makes my heart ready for Him to lead and guide me in the next stages of ministry. I know deep inside that this reprieve is a wise move.
I trusted God for my healing, now I need to trust Him for clarifying next steps. I am learning that trust comes before we see the answers.
While in God’s waiting room, we patiently sit with eager-believing hearts, rehearsing who God is and reminding ourselves that His timing is never late.
Remembering where God has led in the past
This deep urgency to serve God is not something that is new to me. It didn’t surface with a cancer diagnosis. My spiritual moorings were anchored deep in the truths of God’s Word at a young age and grew steadily with me.
By the time I was a teenager I was sold out to God. In the 70’s that meant faithfully attending youth group, carrying my Bible on top of my stack of text books and praying before my brown bag lunch, or sharing it with someone who had none. It also meant not huddling in the gossip ring of most teen groups and welcoming those who stood on the fringe.
Being sold out for God was choosing to sit on the bus with the not-so-popular kids and often those economically poorer than the rest of us. I hungered for God’s Word, read it and memorized it. I wanted to know God!
This placed me in youth groups and church services that led to life altering responses; “God, I want to serve you. Anytime. Anywhere.” “God, I believe you are sending me into a life of ministry and mission for you. Show me where and when.”
These teen years were spent living out my faith and diving daily into God’s Word. My heart was on fire for the things of God. I was spiritually hungry, seeking for more of Jesus. Yes. I wanted Jesus!
My mother fed the fire of my hunger with missionary stories. To me these men and women were my heroes of the faith. Selling all and following Christ. Leaving behind the comforts of home, family and society, to obediently respond to God’s call to follow Him.
It was through their stories of continual hardship and suffering that I saw how their faith was bolstered because they believed God. Over and over I would find myself telling God that I too wanted to be a great woman of faith. To follow Christ anywhere and to endure the deadliest of situations while remaining faithful to my calling and my faith. To see people come to relationship with Christ because of my determination to stand firm, despite the winds of adversity that swirled in my life. I too wanted to be a Gladys Aylward, an Amy Carmichael, an Isobel Kuhn. Living with little, only to gain much. Accepting adversity as a means of growth and portrayal to the world of the gospel message. Whether my life was filled with loss, sorrow, physical pain or even death, that Christ Jesus would be my sustenance, my all in all. Knowing that Christ is enough-no matter what!
In my college years, after reading missionary stories of women who gave up everything for service to Christ, my soul was shaped even further by their stories of sacrifice and devotion. In my suitcase my mother tucked the book By Searching, authored by Isobel Miller Kuhn. Her story was the beginning of me asking myself the hard questions. “Can I give up all for a lifetime of service to Christ?”
I kept coming to God with the affirmative. I wanted this life because I knew that this was the life of a Jesus follower. It would be hard; but the rewards would be abundant.
After thirty-five years spent in missions and now four years as a pastors wife I find myself at a similar place. Saying; “God, please, don’t waste my cancer. Use me. Help me not to give way to fear of all the “what if’s” so that I don’t see you in the pain.”
In the past few days, as I have gone once again to God and asked Him for next steps of ministry, I have been reminded of my heritage of faith. I have remembered the journey I have taken, and the way God keeps taking me “deeper still”. I have remembered the purpose of the waiting room and embraced its value.
Our faith walk is not stagnant. We go from faith to faith. The next step causing us to go deeper into the caldron of pain and suffering so that all of self is stripped away, and we see only Jesus.
Here we are faced with the truth that God is all we need, He is enough even for this cancer diagnosis. He is faithful and true. And so I see once again that He is my surety in the storm, in this storm. He was with me in the past and He is now with me as I add a new chapter to my story of faith.
Letting every moment count
A cancer diagnosis has a way of making life feel a bit shorter than you anticipated. It pronounces a possible death sentence over you that you are not ready to face. It brings with it a shadow side of finality and deep loss. The moment the doctor pronounces the diagnosis you begin to grieve.
This realization has caused me to stop bolt-still in my tracks. If I keep rehearsing this shadow side I will not continue to live fully present. I need to look out from my loss and possible finality of this chapter of my life and somehow keep living. To stay fully present in each moment that God gives to me. To lay aside fear and possible death and stay the course He has laid out for me.
So, it is in this rehearsal of truth that I ask God to show me how He wants me to live now. In the present. Much of this I know is the same as living before my diagnosis. I live by faith. I live knowing that God is all I need. I live with joy, fully present. I live obediently to the truths of God’s words to me. I live with joy. I live ready to give an answer of the faith that flows within me. I live with the knowledge that God is my surety and my strength. He is my rock, my solid foundation. I live on the security and surety of truth. I live knowing who my God is, rehearsing this on days when the shadow-side looms darkly over me.
And in all of this I look up, asking God to meet me in this place. To show me next steps and believing that He will, just as He has before. And I bow humbly before my Savior and remind Him that I still want to be Isobel Kuhn, Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael. I want to sell all for the sake of serving Christ.
Watching for God to move
And so, as I watch and wait for God to move me, I take this time to strengthen myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Devoting myself to prayer and the Word. Leaning in to the strength that my God provides me at this time of healing, and looking for restoration.
In this I am thankful, for a season of remembrance. To reflect on the commitment I gave of myself to God, so very long ago, and to remember that this is the same commitment I hold today. Despite a cancer diagnosis, I still want to be a woman of faith. A woman who tells God that He can use me. A woman with a heart of compassion and a deep well of yearning to become more for the sake of Christ.
For now I sit in the waiting room. As I steadily rehearse the truths of God’s Word – my impatient overwhelm falls away. There is no dread here. This room has become a holy sanctuary, a place where God waits with me.
As I lean closer, I sense the Father’s presence, and in time, I know that I will hear the whispers of the Spirit lead me. “Beloved, this is the way you should go, walk now in it.”
Linda Jane Dingeldein: Different by Design
As I sit in God’s waiting room, I have enjoyed sketching and water coloring these bluebirds for a new notecard collection.