It was the day before I would receive my cancer diagnosis. I needed to be alone so I went down to the river and sat on the side of a small dock. The gently flowing Chattahoochee instantly brought calm. With my feet immersed in the cool current I took out a book of poetry that I’d neglected for some time: Toward Jerusalem by Amy Carmichael. As I slowly pondered her words I wondered why I’d left this book alone for so long. Some pages were dog eared and on others I had written a date – 5/8/02. Why that date? What was going on then that these poems had such an impact? It was a year after the youngest of my three children had been born and my husband was still struggling to find work. One rejection after another had left him deeply discouraged and I was barely keeping my head above water with three small children.
That was a very difficult period of our lives, of my life, and I remembered how I’d found solace in Amy Carmichael’s words:
But the Lord is always kind,
Be not blind,
Be not blind
To the shining of His face,
To the comforts of His grace.
Hath He ever failed thee yet?
Never, never: wherefore fret?
O fret not thyself, nor let
Thy heart be troubled,
Neither let it be afraid.
This time, for a very different reason, I again found solace as I mulled over her words and allowed them to lift my gaze up to the Lord who already knew all the results of every test and how this cancer would change my life. He got us through what would turn out to be fifteen months of unemployment back in 2001 and 2002. Could I trust him with this? As I kept turning pages and reading these lines of verse, I knew that I could. My spirit swelled with peace as I penciled in a new date – 8/16/21.
The river near my home is unpredictable. Sometimes it floods not because of rain but because the Army Corps of Engineers decides to release more water from the dam upstream. Hours later it will overflow its banks alongside our favorite running trail, making it impassable. Ever since that day when I found out I had cancer, the peace I’ve experienced has continued to overflow the banks of my soul. I’ve been a living and breathing example of Philippians 4:6-7; the peace of God has truly guarded my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. The gracious work of God in me along with the many prayers being prayed on my behalf have combined to do something remarkable. One of the tests I underwent after my diagnosis checked for a genetic component to my cancer. If it was positive, the course of treatment would drastically change. On the day I went to hear those results, I sat in the parking deck next to the doctor’s office, hastily committing to memory another poem of Amy’s which was marked with that same date almost twenty years ago – 5/8/02 – and the words ‘life prayer’ written in pencil. I was nervous but as I read these words His waves of peace continued to roll over me.
Long is the way, and very steep the slope,
Strengthen me once again, O God of hope.
Far, very far, the summit doth appear;
But thou art near my God, but Thou art near.
And Thou wilt give me with my daily food,
Powers of endurance, courage, fortitude.
Thy way is perfect; only let that way
Be clear before my feet from day to day.
Thou art my Portion, saith my soul to Thee,
O what a Portion is my God to me.
Two months later and my prognosis is good and there’s a plan in place for treatment. Genetics came back negative. I have had no pain and there are times I even forget I have cancer. I know that isn’t the story for everyone who has cancer so I am extremely grateful. But I am even more grateful for this peace I continue to experience. It’s not of this world. It’s from the Lord, the Prince of Peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27