Pathway to Hope #3
Finding Hope From Ashes
If you are like me, platitudes and philosophy don’t really speak to you. Give me something real—something with substance that I can actually hold on to.
Which points to something critical that I’ve learned about hope: the true measure of it is whether it will carry you through a crisis.
I think our natural tendency is to place our hope in things that will not last. We love to find it through things that seem reliable, like money, our own abilities and accomplishments or a vast amount of other sources.
But often these things don’t come through for us when we really need them. It’s like saying our house is solid and stable—and the hurricane comes and knocks it down. Which is why real hope needs to be able withstand any storm.
Speaking of storms, in this Pathway, I want to share more about my personal story. And when I first learned I had cancer, it hit me like a tsunami.
Shock. Fear. Uncertainty.
These quickly became my reality.
In my limited understanding with cancer, it seemed people often trusted two main things to get them through it: medicine and their ability to fight. However, in the case of my diagnosis—incurable cancer—medicine and fighting seemed pointless, as were all of the other things people typically put their hope in.
Here’s my story.
I began having some unexplained back pain in the fall of 2015. I was only 37 years old, and as a husband and new father, I worked for an outdoor program in Colorado. I loved my life.
I was the guy who everybody considered healthy. I ate well. I rarely got sick. I was in good shape. In fact, whenever I entered races, triathlons or other endurance competitions, I often won my age group and occasionally even a race. I had big race plans for more competing that fall and winter, but crippling back pain sidelined me, and I soon couldn’t even perform normal life tasks like working at a desk or holding my infant daughter.
When I sought medical professionals about my pain, they told me it was just a muscle sprain—give it time and it would heal. But over the next few months, the pain kept getting worse and my back started spasming. If you have never experienced that, I don’t recommend it—it’s kind of like getting constantly tazered in your back.
Eventually my pain grew so bad that I needed narcotic-level painkillers just to make it through each day.
When I finally I insisted on an MRI, they discovered the cause of my pain: Stage IV Bile Duct cancer. Among cancer, this is a silent killer, because often by the time you discover you have it, there is little anyone can do for you. In fact, my doctor gave me about year to live. He told me chemo might prolong my life a little while, but even the effort spent fighting would be miserable and futile.
Absorbing the news, my wife and I were devastated. With no medical hope, we felt like zombies, neither living nor dead. I remember visiting a beautiful state park on the day I received my diagnosis. I’m a big outdoor guy but even the pristine landscape couldn’t lift my soul. If anything, it only underscored my pain, knowing my time to enjoy such places would soon be cut short.
Many of the other things I often relied on could do nothing for me either. My physical strength was already waning, leveled by pain. Money, which I didn’t have much of anyway, couldn’t buy my way out of the diagnosis. There was no cure. And as loving and supportive as my family is, they couldn’t change my reality.
I’m not being bleak, just realistic.
Yet, I would be lying if I said I had no hope. With God, I had hope—even beyond my diagnosis—though certainly it was tested by fire.
I grew up in a family who attended church and valued knowing God. When I was about five, I started praying to God—I was young, but my desire to relate with him was sincere. He even helped me miraculously recover my favorite toy—which may sound trivial, but it meant a lot to me at the time.
As I grew up, I became confident that he loved and cared about me, even during my turbulent teenage years when I didn’t want anything to do with him.
Of course, when I faced cancer, the stakes of what I believed were challenged on a much higher level. Faith in God sounds nice and sentimental, but what about when you face incurable cancer?
Yet throughout the ordeal, God helped me walk through the dark valley with hope.
Even from my initial diagnosis, I had a lot going for me. I was confident that God is in control, and that he had a plan for my life, even though cancer certainly wasn’t my plan!
There are many more advantages I experienced because of knowing God. For more, read God’s Help in Cancer.
For example, he helped me face my fear. The potential of not being there to love and care for my wife and daughter was the bitterest pill to swallow. Yet knowing that God would care for them—even if I wasn’t around—gave me peace.
I still stand in that peace today. It’s a kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding.”1
Probably the most critical benefit of how God has helped me through cancer is that he has walked with me through the suffering. As he promised, “Never will I leave you or forsake you.”2
Even with all these benefits, the journey of cancer has still been excruciatingly difficult—especially the initial diagnosis part. Yet, out of those ashes, God helped rebuild my belief and hope in him. And later, he did help me provide some surprising medical hope.
I realize this is my story, and you are living your own story. Yet, my desire is that you would experience God’s hope like I have. His hope can withstand any suffering—anything this life can throw at you. Even tsunami-level.
In the next Pathway, I’m going to share some specific words of hope—words from God himself—that have given me something solid to stand on.
Yours for hope,
Three steps you can take:
Ponder: What benefit of knowing God appeals to you the most?
Remember: The true measure of hope is whether it will carry you through a crisis.
Consider: these words of hope…“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall…”