I don’t know what it feels like to have cancer. For some its short, for some its long, for some sadly its terminal. Observing my dad, family, and others in hospitals over the last 18 months has taught me a lot. One thing I’ve learnt is that the journey can be long and lonely.
Even in my own journey of being the ‘daughter’ there have been times when it’s felt long and lonely. My relationship with God means I have this promise that I’m never alone, and I know that, but there can be times when you’re physically alone with God and you’re aware of that. It’s been in those times that I’ve dug deeper than ever into God and my Bible.
Back in March I was having a ‘down week’. We all have them right? Everything feels too much, life feels like a drag, you try to lift yourself up but you can’t. My husband Mel was going out to speak at a youth event that Friday evening. He really wanted me to go with him. He just wanted me to get out of the house, be in a different place, do something different. I love how he’s cherished me during this time. I agreed with him that it would be good for me to go out, but for that night I’d already planned to have a devotion time with God. A devotion time with God is when I set aside time, and it’s just me, my Bible and an expectation to hear God speak to me. That might sound strange to some, but it’s become a normal thing I do in my life, something I look forward to. On this particular evening Mel was going to be out with Malachi and I intended to put Judah to bed early, so I could make the most of the time I had. I lit a candle – only because I like candles and started reading Isaiah 43. As I read, some words literally popped out at me. I love it when this happens! This is how God speaks to me, it’s happened many times before. I knew those were the words I needed to focus on that night.
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
That word ‘wilderness’ just grabbed me. That was what I felt cancer was like, it was like a wilderness. It felt like a wild, uncultivated land we were in, like a desert. There weren’t always clear roads. There weren’t always lots of people around. The beginning of the journey looked very different to the middle of the journey. Its often in the middle of your journey that you feel most alone. It can be the messiest, and most painful time. Lovely people may begin the journey with you but because the journey is long they can’t always stay with you. The middle can be the most frustrating part because you long for the end.
This doesn’t necessarily just apply to the journey with cancer. It could be the journey of marriage. That wedding day, the start of this new adventure begins with beauty, extravagance, fun, laughter. But for so many within a few weeks of marriage, the middle of that journey can look so very different. There may be conflict, differences of opinions, clashes, and again you find yourself in a wilderness, a place you’ve never been before. More than anything you just want resolve, you just want to get out of that wilderness into ‘happier’ place.
The funny thing is, it’s in your ‘wilderness’ where you learn the most. As I read that night I sensed God say ‘I will ALWAYS make a way in the wilderness.’ That was it, that was all I needed to hear. In those nine words, He had me. He had my full attention and the heaviness I felt that week just lifted. He was always going to make a way in the wilderness for me. The next morning I called my dad and told him, ‘Dad, God’s going to make a way, He always has and He always will.’ Next I called my brother and I told him the same. ‘We don’t need to worry about the future’ I told him ‘God’s going to make a way.’ In my heart there was this confidence that rose, as I began seeing all the ways God had made a way for us already.
The time mum and dad were feeling lonely and their friends called and said they were bringing over breakfast for them – God made a way!
The time dad needed fluid drained from his stomach but the hospital had no beds available. We prayed and within 10 minutes a bed was ready – God made a way!
The time friends from New Zealand ordered fresh scones to be delivered to my house because they heard my pain – God made a way!
The countless number of people who have turned up at my parents house to pray with them, to encourage them – God made a way!
The friends and family continually asking how I’m doing, the encouraging songs, messages, verses people have sent – God made a way!
The 76 year old man who woke up and prayed ‘Lord send me someone because I’m lonely,’ but then thought of my dad and decided he’d been the one to make the home visit that day – He walked into the house, barely able to walk properly himself, but sat with dad, encouraged him by reading from the Bible and praying for him – God made a way!
The time I sat at Colour Conference with 10,000 ladies, yet feeling alone and heartbroken with what was happening around me and then I got a text from a friend saying ‘where are you? Are you here? I need to see you and pray with you. She ran towards me, baby in tow and we just sobbed together and cried out to God! It was messy, there was snot everywhere 😂, but there was unity – God made a way!
He always makes a way. In that middle of the journey, He makes a way. Sadly instead of looking at all the ‘ways’ God provides, we focus on the result. The result of resolve, the result of healing, the result of completion, the result of ‘happiness’. Could it be that the ‘middle’, this wilderness is more about revelation? It reveals who you are. It may reveal insecurities you have that you never knew you had. It may reveal deep hidden fears. It may reveal a real need for God and community, and in turn you may see God revealed to you in ways you never imagined.
Could we be someone’s way in the wilderness? If we know someone experiencing cancer, or some other kind of wilderness, maybe we could make a huge difference in their lives. Here’s some ideas I thought of that most people could do:
• An encouraging phone call
• Visiting that friend or family member and just listening them. Your presence can be worth more than you would imagine
• Baking them a cake or any other type of food – food does bring happiness!! Find out what their favourite food/ drink is!
• Offer to help in practical ways
• Don’t wait for the person to tell you what they need, try to think about that yourself. They have enough to think about
• Take the person out for a coffee, or a night out, or even just a walk in the park.
• Bring laughter into their life – a funny card, watch a funny movie together, tell them a funny story
Whatever we do, we need to do something. There are too many lonely people out there that need us to be used by God to make a way in their wilderness.