The worst day of my most difficult year wasn’t when the doctor told me I had a rare cancer with a crushingly low survival rate. It wasn’t the day I learned I’d spend many weeks away from my husband and young children receiving a clinical trial drug in Houston. It wasn’t the day of my mastectomy.
The low point came unexpectedly, right in the middle of months of suffering.
It was January 24, 2011. I was in Texas starting my fourth round of chemotherapy. My middle child was celebrating his fifth birthday back home in Arkansas. And I was convinced that my tumor, which had been shrinking, was now growing.
The poison dripped into my veins, guaranteeing that I’d feel terrible for the next two weeks. I wondered if the treatment was working and whether I’d live to see my children celebrate more birthdays. I longed to be a healthy mom who busied herself with gift wrap and cupcakes and stood grinning beside the birthday boy as he blew out the candles.
As I watched my son open gifts over my laptop webcam, I pasted on a fake smile and forced the tears to wait. But I knew they would come as my battle-weary heart wrestled with the question: How much worse would this get before it got better?
I didn’t want to keep fighting; I just wanted to go home to my babies.
I could have written these words along with Jeremiah:
“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord’”
(Lamentations 3:17-18, ESV).
Have you ever been stuck in the middle of suffering? Maybe you’re there right now. The fighting spirit and determination you felt in the beginning has worn off. You can’t yet see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel . . . or you may doubt there is any light at all. The struggles just keep coming with no relief in sight.
Like Jeremiah, we have hope as we persevere through those tough middle days:
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’”
(Lamentations 3:19-24, ESV).
How did Jeremiah move from hope vanished in verse 18 to hope restored in verse 24?
He didn’t deny the difficulty of his situation.
He didn’t connect his contentment to a change in his circumstances.
He called to mind God’s unchanging character.
God’s steadfast love for His children never ends. He gives a fresh dose of His sustaining mercy every morning, and it’s always sufficient for that day’s challenges.
The Lord Himself is our portion, supplying all we need to endure each moment.
Even on that lowest day, the Lord showed me His faithfulness. An impromptu appointment with my oncologist before he left for the day helped ease my worries about the tumor’s size. Extended family and friends did what they could to distract the birthday boy from his mom’s absence. God poured out His comfort as my tears flowed.
Years later, I realize God’s wisdom in taking me to Houston and sheltering my children from seeing my sickest days. He used that grueling treatment plan and clinical trial to give me several more birthdays with my children. I recently watched with a smile as my son blew out 12 candles on his birthday cake.
If our hope is in changed circumstances, answered questions, or a happy ending, we may be disappointed.
But if our hope is in the unchanging, unfailing, unending faithfulness of God, He will never let us down. His love and mercy are a rock we can cling to on our darkest days.
When we’re stuck in the middle of our suffering, let’s call to mind our Father’s steadfast character and hope in Him. Our faithful Lord will meet us with His new mercies every morning.
Marissa Henley is a Christ-follower, wife, mom, and cancer survivor who writes and speaks about faith, friendship, Scripture, and suffering. Her new book, Loving Your Friend through Cancer, will be available May 31. Most days, you’ll find her drinking a latte while shuttling her three kids around in a minivan, wondering if the dog will ever learn to stay and if she’ll ever love cooking as much as her husband loves eating. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Instagram or at www.marissahenley.com