By JENN WALDEN – *My apologies for what appears to be an offensive word in the title. But there’s a point here.
“Jesus will carry you,” we’re told by well-meaning friends when we face challenges. We smile, putting the best face on our pain.
We read “Footprints in the Sand,” because somehow, we’re supposed to just know, Jesus will pick us up and walk us through any trial.
But can we be transparent enough to ask, what does this actually mean? What does “carrying me” look like in real life?
When Numbers are Stacked Against Us
Another phrase we hear a lot is, “The numbers don’t lie.” And sometimes, those numbers can almost destroy our faith. Some numbers I remember well . . .
In 2001, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer called a Germ Cell tumor. A brief description of my journey is important, because my cancer treatment was not typical. The chemo I received, as my oncologist described, was the equivalent of killing a fly with a sledgehammer; effective but brutal.
The medical term for a germ cell is teratoma, Greek meaning monster tumor.
Only one percent of teratoma tumors prove cancerous. After an initial visit to the waiting room and being informed everything looked great, my family received a second visit from the surgeon, who with tears in her eyes, informed them that the removed tumor was cancerous. I was the one percent.
After recovering from emergency surgery, I started treatments. Each round required a five to six day hospitalization, and within an hour of beginning the regimen, like clockwork, vomiting and nausea would ensue. IV’s pumped my body with fluids to provide hydration and prevent long-term damage to my vital organs. In total I spent more than 30 days at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, TN.
As a result of medical breakthroughs, the long-term survival rate for my form of cancer is over 90%. Yet, recounting these experiences, some seventeen years later, requires a few mental gymnastics as the haunting question still surfaces, what if I am in the 10% and the monster returns?
When first diagnosed, I thought I would be strong. That this would be a time when I would dig deep into my faith, find new truths and show the world how a Christian should–and could–face trial. I would be a shining light for God’s glory! I had watched others walk through trials as with seemingly flawless faith: I would be strong and do the same.
But for me, heroic faith didn’t happen. The real truth? I was too broken, physically and mentally, to pray. I just couldn’t. Somewhere in me, I wanted to pray, but I had nothing left. Nothing.
After arriving home from my first hospitalization, in tears I told my family I was unable to pray. Because I wanted to appear strong (isn’t that what we’re supposed to be when we face a trial?), my admission was embarrassing. But I was desperate, so I didn’t care. As they surrounded me in prayer, the tenderness of the Lord showed up; comforting my heart with simple words; “I will carry you”.
God did not remove me from the path of this monster, I lost my hair, felt the effects of each and every treatment, experienced depression and a number of physical challenges that accompanied me in the years following. Yet in God’s great provision, Jesus carried my weak body and allowed my weary head to rest on his shoulder through the storm.
With all sincerity, I learned very little during the day to day of fighting cancer; I was just trying to survive. I remember thinking more than once, “sometimes life just sucks.” There are seasons of life when unexplained heartache hits and things go wrong. Regardless of our goodness, badness, belief, or unbelief, pain and suffering is a human universal.
But beyond the reality of learning that sometimes life will inevitably suck, in the days and years following my journey with cancer I experienced deep aha moments.
A Lesson from Easter
I was taken to the emergency room and my battle with cancer began on Easter Weekend of 2001. I share this because the power of the cross forever gained new meaning.
God is love, and in Him no darkness dwells. The suffering of his own Son was endured to give each and everyone of us a promise and a hope–regardless of the trial at hand. Carrying Jesus from the grave to resurrection of new life; God proclaims his great love, saying to us all “I will do the same for you.”
In turn a faithful Father turns to his only begotten Son, saying, “Faithful unto death, you now have all power and authority. Carry those who are hurting, broken, and afraid; this is your mission.”
His love is not so fragile, his arms not too weak, to pick us up in our darkest hours. This is the power of the cross. A cross Jesus was and is still willing to bear for each of us. In our imperfection, he still carries the cross.
If Jesus was willing to carry our brokenness and shame to the cross, enduring suffering and shame he did not deserve, he has a lot of motivation to get us through every storm of life. He is for us; his love carries us.
When our numbers stack against us and life knocks us to the ground; when we are found ever so fragile, he will carry us. We can’t be too proud to lean on the faith of others, asking them to lift us. This allows those who love us a beautiful opportunity to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. One of his greatest tools is to carry us through the love of others.
As I approach another Easter seventeen years later, I am mindful of another number. It only took one sacrifice to give me hope. It only took one faithful God to make a way for me to get through the messy challenges of this life. It is this love, multiplied over and over, that can change the hurt in our world.