Trusting Him


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Trusting Him…

should be easy

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

Wow it is amazing how fast time flies. I cannot believe I have let months go by without writing. I have enjoyed so many amazing experiences over the last couple of months, and I have been completely overwhelmed with work at the same time. I want to share a few things that have been heavy on my heart the last couple of days….so much so that I cannot sleep for the word of the Lord in my ear, telling me to share this with you.

First, I will say that I have been especially moved during this recent graduation season, witnessing all of the changing lives around me. This time of year is always emotional for me. Graduation of any sort marks a change in life’s course. When my son graduated from preschool, I thought I would never stop crying. Then came kindergarten, and now he has “graduated” from lower school, moving into middle school…6th grade next year. I can hardly look at him without feeling a stir of nausea over how fast time has gone by.

And then I look back to the many graduation ceremonies I have lived through….high school, junior college, undergraduate university, medical school, internship, residency, fellowship…I think my philosophy must have been to stay in school as long as possible. Looking back, I think that was a good philosophy.

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Ethan, preschool years 2005

Each graduation brought me to a new crossroads. I felt relief, anxiety and excitement all at once. The possibility of what my future held catalyzed a drive to move to the next chapter with vigor and energy. Moving into a new apartment or home was a hallmark of the change. Every adventure carried along the need for a new address. I think I even counted moving 7 times in 3 years at one point. I am not sure I can explain that association any more than just pure restlessness.

Looking around me, at this time of year, the energy of change is contagious. Everyone seems restless when springtime arrives. College students are moving, and high school students are getting ready to move…to leave home and spread their wings. Children graduating preschool and kindergarten are excited about going on to the next level. Smiles are everywhere…what a happy time!

Romans 15:13 

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 love making plans this time of year. Even though I have celebrated my last graduation (that I know of…), I completely get into the spirit of the season making plans for my own family. We are busily preparing schedules for vacations and summer camps, day trips and weekend getaways.

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In the excitement of our plans, I was struck by another type of graduation recently at work. One of my patients celebrated her graduation from chemotherapy. I did not even realize that her last chemotherapy treatment coincided with ECU graduation day.  On my way into work that morning, I was held up in a long line of cars waiting to turn into Ficklen stadium for the commencement ceremonies, and although the traffic made me late to work, looking at all the cap and gowns and smiles in each car made the commute a happy one that day. I arrived to work with the graduation bug, excitement in my heart for all the graduates that morning.

When I walked into the room to see her, my first scheduled patient, there she was all smiles herself. She was completely decked out in a full blown graduation attire with a cap and gown, all in pink, of course .. the honorary breast cancer signature color. She had the most hysterical glasses on and her cap was decorated completely. But most of all she wore pure happiness. Not only was it her last day of chemotherapy, but it was also her 40th birthday. She was amass in celebration status. And although the chemotherapy would surely wear her down that afternoon and maybe for a few days, nothing about it could tear away her pure joy over being finished with treatment. IMG_3357

I think about her perspective on such an occasion. I know that I have not walked in her shoes and truthfully I do not really know what chemotherapy feels like, although I have witnessed enough to be as close to the experience as possible without actually enduring the physical reality of it otherwise. I contemplate my own physical health and my even my own mortality, something my patients deal with daily.

I remember attending a grand rounds as a medical resident at MCV in Richmond Virginia and listening to Heidi Schultz Adams, a young adult cancer survivor telling her story of diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Her story was moving and so frightening to me…a young girl in her 20’s experiencing leg pain that woke her up at night. She at first thought it was just a pulled muscle or leg strain, but the pain persisted and she sought medical attention. She ultimately was diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer known as Ewings sarcoma, and she faced many months of treatment including surgery, radiation and debilitating chemotherapy treatments. I was so moved by her candid discussion about how she faced one of life’s greatest fears: her own mortality. She learned at a young age that we are not forever here on this planet. We are transient bodies moving through this life. (You can visit her website and learn more: http://myplanet.planetcancer.org).

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My patients inspire me every day. I looked at this particular patient on this day, dressed out in her cap and gown for the most monumental of graduations she has likely ever had, and I am truly moved by her courage and her positive outlook. This is a turning point for her.

But as many survivors will often say, I must think her cancer blessed her in ways she never would have predicted. I mean, who really thinks about getting cancer when you are in your twenties? Or for that matter, in your thirties or forties even? Do we really ever think about dying? Isn’t it something that happens all the time, but will be a long way off in our own futures? How can we glean any sort of blessing from such morbidity?

Truthfully this is how God wants us to live our lives – with great regard and appreciation for His presence in our lives, despite our circumstance. With good or bad, we look to Him and walk each day beside Him. We take for granted so much in our daily routines….the ability to get up each morning and take a shower for example. The ability to stand up and walk across the room without feeling short of breath. The ability to eat and enjoy the taste of food. These are precious gifts in life that can be temporarily paralyzed by cancer.

Thinking on all of this leads my heart in another direction entirely….not only do I consider the obvious emotions of what cancer “can and can’t do” to our lives, and to the lives of our loved ones, but I also consider the serious test of our faith when we are placed in such life altering and potentially life threatening situations. How strong is our trust in God?

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

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Trust is both fragile and delicate and yet should be sound.

Trust is naturally a part of us when we are small children, always trusting that we will be fed, loved and cared for. At some point in our life, that trust is broken. For some the trust is broken far too soon in our childhood or even infancy when someone in our life does not hold up their end of the bargain and we are hurt in the process. Perhaps we make it to our teenage years before feeling the let down of broken trust. Or perhaps we are lucky enough to become adults before learning the sad reality of what the loss of trust can do to our hearts.

I have been through much hurt and sadness in my life, although not anything like many people in this world have experienced and suffered. I have felt the broken heart of failed relationships… and my trust has been shattered many times. I have told myself to learn to trust again the very people who had broken my trust before.

Patients dealing with cancer have a different set of trust issues. They must trust a their doctor to do the right thing. We live in a world where every time you turn on the media or listen to friends, there are stories of medical mistakes and negligence that resulted in a bad outcome for the patient. On the other hand, doctors may not trust their patients. We as physicians practice such “defensive medicine” these days…doing everything we can so as to protect ourselves from a lawsuit. Putting a monetary value on a medical mistake drives the legal system towards lawsuits every day…to the physical, emotional and financial detriment to far too many patients, families and doctors. All of this erupting from the small flicker of broken trust.

Although cancer can slow us down and change our lives considerably, it can also change our perspective and open our eyes to the life that God has blessed us with. He provides for us even in the darkest of days. In truth, those are the days when His light is the brightest. He fills our spirit with hope when things are hopeless. He is the answer to our question if we can only be still and hear His voice. Therefore, it should not be our doctor that we have to learn to trust, or the people in our lives that we have to teach ourselves to trust. We should only trust in Him: the God of the universe who can bring you through all trials if only we look to Him to carry us through.

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Psalm 9:10 

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

That is to say, if I do not trust my doctor, for whom I have prayed and been placed with, then I am really saying I do not trust my Lord for bringing my doctor into my life. If I do not trust my best friend or my husband, whom I wholly believe God has brought into my life, then am I not then distrusting God in reality? Trust really has nothing to do with the people on this earth and the choices they make, but rather, trust is simply the belief that God is in control of your life when you believe in Him. We are trusting in God, when knowing our lives may not be turning out the way we had hoped or planned.  He will guide us through any storm without fail, and although the outcome may not be what we envisioned or planned, He will be glorified in the journey.

Psalm 56:3 

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

So how will we trust in the darkest times of our lives? When we are faced with a terrible diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one far too young, or the infidelity of a spouse or the hurtful behavior of a friend? We do not need to train ourselves to “regain trust that was lost.” In fact, we ought never lose trust in the first place. Our lives will be difficult at times, and we will face disappointment, hurt and sadness. But our trust should never falter that our Savior is with us constantly, living in us and for us. God sent His son for only us. He died so that we are forgiven and through no act of our own, we are blessed with His amazing grace that will never leave us. We cannot be plucked from His hand so long as we believe and accept Him, and trust in Him always.

1 Peter 5:7

Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.

If we use every moment to see God moving in our lives, He is glorified in it. We can take a chemotherapy day and turn it into a celebration. We move past a hurt and see the good that comes from the experience. We are better for it. We live in the trust that God will never forsake us or turn from us, so long as we are seeking Him every moment, every day. If we turn our hearts over to Him completely, in return, we experience the mysterious love that overfills our hearts with purejoy and peace that will truly be everlasting.

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One thought on “Trusting Him

  1. A friend sent me this link…what a good friend I have! I have CLL and I am , once again, caught up in the chemo chain….I was diagnosed 9 years ago, and this is the 4th time I’ve had chemo…this time it is more aggressive and I had quite a reaction to it a few months ago…I know that if it wasn’t for the Lord,my wonderful doctor, and my awesome friends I would have given up at that time. God bless you for taking the time to remind us of what matters and what doesn’t!

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