Ebola, Breast Cancer, and Hope for our Fear of Pain

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A second nurse has contracted Ebola.  hazmat suit
I don’t know about you, but that news made me want to wear a Hazmat suit to the grocery store, or just lock myself in my house and order my food online!  But even then some pizza delivery guy could contract Ebola and not know it and it would be his hands and then on the box when he delivers my pizza and then I take the box and it gets on my hands and then I serve pizza to myself and my family…and then…okay, i’ll stop.

The fact is, try as we might, we may never be able to completely protect ourselves from contracting Ebola…or breast cancer.

As we continue through the month of October and Breast Cancer Awareness, we turn to take a hard look at Fear.  I think every one of us struggles with fear, imagining what it would be like to be diagnosed, anticipating pain and the loss of our health.

pumpkin optionsIn my group of friends, we talk about our fears often.  And we face them together, with hugs, with prayer, and with humor.

Last week, we held a “Pink Party” for one of our friends who has been anticipating having a mastectomy, complete with a colorful bikini-top cake and a silly skit where I was a shop owner who sold various kinds of fruit and vegetables to add interesting “definition” to a woman’s shape.  We laughed till our faces hurt.

But then we gave gifts, wrote notes of encouragement and prayed our hearts out over our friend.  Her mastectomy was just a few days ago.

Another friend is recovering from the mastectomy she had last week.  And yet another friend is going through chemo to fight her recurrent breast cancer and anticipating another surgery.

For me, I lost my mom to breast cancer in the spring of 2012, and I realize with my genetic mutation, even though I chose to have a preventative mastectomy, my risk of other types of cancer is very high.

Medical crises are all around us, and they’re coming in closer by the day.  Last February, CBS News reported that 1 in 6 of us will get cancer by the time we’re 75 (click here to read article).  Like my mom used to say, we all have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.

But we have a choice to make.  We can either stand frozen in fear, or we can wash our hands, eat our veggies and move forward, trusting God is holding our future- and holding us.

For a woman anticipating a mastectomy, the fear of pain can feel almost crippling.  In the third chapter of my devotional, The Faith to Free-Fall, written to offer spiritual strength to women who are anticipating this major surgery,  I offer hope for those of us who are afraid of experiencing pain.  May it give you hope today.

faith to freefall amazon book cover

 

Fear

 

A thought, a word breaks through your anger and tears fall. Hot rivulets of fear. You reach for arms to hold you, to reassure you that everything is going to be okay.

Fear steals sleep, smothers peace and renders you immobile. The task of deciding dinner feels impossible. The mundane a stark contrast to the monumental.

In the days before my surgery, I had a zillion fears. And “experiencing pain” was at the top of the list. I have always dissolved into a puddle of tears merely anticipating having my blood drawn, so the idea of a major surgery was beyond my conception.

In fact, at a check-up last week the nurse exclaimed with her thick accent, “Ah remember you! You was the wimp from last yeeeah!” I laughed nervously and tried to erase the fear on my face as she prepped the needle to draw my blood. I thought I looked brave until she said, “Hunny, you need to reee-lax. You look like you gonna pee on yo-self.”

Thank you. Thank you very much. All that to say, during the days leading up to my surgery, I was sure it would be so painful I wouldn’t be able to bear it.

But I did bear it.

Fear is just part of our human condition. That could very well be why the Bible has 365 verses that tell us not to be afraid! We need to be reminded every day of the year.

But our confidence doesn’t rest in our ability to muster up courage. Our confidence rests in God, in His strength.

It’s pure irony that His power is made perfect in weakness. I believe this irony is His design because when we are weak, we can’t take any credit for strength.

So when we make it through another day, or when we make it through a major surgery, we have to thank Him for His grace, for His strength. And He gets the credit. Which is the way it should be.

You can trust that He will give you the strength you need to endure the next moment.

The next moment. You don’t need strength to endure the next week, or the next month, or the next year. Just the next moment.

Corrie Ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor, wrote in her book, The Hiding Place, about the time she told her father she was afraid of losing him. He asked her, “When do I give you your train ticket?” She answered, “Just before I get on the train.”

And so it is with us. We fear because we can’t imagine having the strength to endure something so painful. But God gives us the strength we need at just the moment we need it.

God knows you’re afraid. He sees you. He hears you. And He is with you. Even though I know it feels like a hurricane has swept into your life, you have a big God whose arms are tightly wrapped around you while the storm rages on.

Close your eyes and imagine that He is holding you. Hear the thunder, see the lightning, and feel His arms around you. Rest your head on His chest and listen to His heartbeat. His heart beats of His love for you, His care for you.

Claim this out loud from Psalm 56, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You, in God, whose word I praise. In God, I have put my trust.”

A medical crisis may touch your body, but it can’t touch your soul. Your soul is safe as you put your trust in Christ Jesus for your salvation and your future.

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of hospitals, doctors, needles. I’m afraid of pain.  And yet, You are asking me to trust You, to trust that You will give me the strength to endure whatever lies ahead. You promise in Philippians 4:8 that I can do all things through You because You give me strength. Please fill me with Your strength. I am choosing to give my fear to You, to accept your peace, and to rest. Amen.

 

Ten Boom, Corrie and Elizabeth and John Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books. 1984. 29. Print.

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