The Break I Didn't Want to Take: Experiencing God's Goodness in the Midst of Trials
Sometimes we have to take a break from the things we love to do. This can happen for many reasons - some good, some not so good. For the last year I had to take a break - and it was a break that I didn't want to have to take.
It has taken me almost a year to get to the place where I can resume the life I once lived, doing the things that I love to do. The first step to get back to my life is to write this article that highlights the goodness of God that was revealed to me during this break that I didn't want to take.
Why Take the Break?
It all started on May 5, 2020. I received some news that would forever change life as I knew it. My mother... my best friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach and I couldn't catch my breath. When I got the news, I dropped to my knees and cried right there in my kitchen. As a nurse I knew what the diagnosis meant - and so did my mom. She was a nurse for over 35 years and cared for many people with the same diagnosis.
When I finally picked myself up and dried my eyes, I walked into my office, closed the door, sat down, and talked with God. I prayed for the strength I knew I would need and that I also knew could only come from Him. I prayed for healing for my mother and for Him to step in and be with her and my family through this storm.
I leaned on God's promises that He would go before us, be with us, never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). I realized that this would be a hard road for my entire family and that promise of God would be so important to cling to.
So... this journey began on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.
To write the whole story from start to finish would take a long time. What I will write, however, is about the goodness of God that came to light throughout my mom's battle with cancer.
Priority Number One
My first order of business was to make sure that my mother was truly saved. I had to know that her eternity was secure. The thought of this amazing woman not making it to Heaven was honestly priority number one for me. So, my family and I drove to Florida for Mother's Day which fell on the week of her diagnosis. It was then that I would have the conversation with her.
When she and I were alone I asked her one simple question (and I recommend asking yourself and others this same question if you're unsure of salvation):
"If you stood before God today and He asked you why you deserve to get into Heaven, what would your answer be?"
My mother answered incorrectly. She said that she was a good person and all of her life had been devoted to helping others - among other great things that made her who she was. Well, most of what she said was true - she did devote her whole life to helping others, she was a kind and caring person. But the Bible tells us that Jesus said in Mark 10:18 that "No one is good but One, that is, God" and Paul tells us in Romans 3:10 that “There is none righteous, no, not one..."
The truth is, none of us are "good." We live in a sinful world in a body of flesh that is constantly tempted by sin. Being "good" doesn't get us into Heaven. Only JESUS gets us into Heaven. (Click here to read more about how to get to Heaven in my blog post: Eternity is a Breath Away: Where Will You Spend It?).
I informed my mom that for her to get into Heaven, she had to accept the gift of salvation given to us by Jesus Christ on the cross. It was HIS sacrifice that paid our sin debt and our acceptance of this amazing gift is what gives us eternal life in Heaven. She understood and acknowledged what Jesus did for her - what He did for all of us. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued throughout her illness to remind her all that God does for us and how Jesus paid the enormous price for our eternity.
Over the next two years my mother underwent chemotherapy treatments which caused weakness, fatigue, hair loss, and a perforated bowel. When chemo was no longer an option, my mom tried autoimmune therapy. This therapy destroyed the good cells in her body (in fact, I believe the autoimmune therapy did more damage than the cancer itself). During and in between the pharmaceutical treatments, my sister and I had my mom try many holistic medications and therapies - and I believe that some of these did help my mom.
It was really hard to watch my mom go through everything. But as the time passed, I saw a spiritual transformation in her that could only have come from the Lord. I continually reminded her of the words of the prophet Isaiah in chapter 41, verse 10: "Fear not for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
These words helped me as well.
Fast forward to May 2022 - two years after my mom's diagnosis. She seemed to be doing ok - considering all that she had gone through. The PET scans showed no increase in tumor size and no metastasis. However, by this point the treatments that my mom received had done significant damage to her good cells. She could no longer eat very much, she was getting weaker, and it was evident that she was tiring out. She was consistently receiving blood transfusions for GI bleeding that the doctors could not get under control. It was very hard to watch my once vibrant mother failing this way.
It was at this point that I decided that I would have to take a break from writing, running my shops, and leading Bible Study classes. I knew had to be available to travel to Florida if my parents needed me.
From May 2022 until my mother's death on December 6, 2022, I spent more time in Florida with my parents than I did at my own home with my husband and boys. And I am so thankful that I was able to do so.
The point of this post is to highlight God's goodness in the midst of this trial my mother and family faced, and for me to share God's faithfulness, mercy, grace and love that He showed during this time of heartache.
Some people ask: "Why would a loving God cause things like this to happen?" or "If God is so good, why doesn't He just heal people?"
The fact is that we humans are in no way able to understand the ways of God. He sees the big picture and knows everything from His point of view and we can only see the tunnel vision aspect of why and how things happen. Isaiah 55:8-9 reveals God's answer to the question... WHY?
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9
God has a purpose and plan for everything, including illness, suffering, and death. The truth is, in times that seem impossible to handle, it is then that we have to lean on the Lord, find His goodness, and praise Him through these times.
The Goodness of God
There are many things that I could share about the goodness of God through this trial my mother and family faced. Here are just a few of them:
1. My Mother Lived Thirty-one Months After Diagnosis
While most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer like my mother's live less than two years after diagnosis - my mom lived 31 months. God granted us extra time with my mother to share memories and to spend quality time with her. Although it was a hard time, it was precious to me. My mom and I had some of the best talks we've ever had and I will always cherish them. She outlived the prognosis and the statistical averages.
2. God Healed My Mom of GI Bleeding
Although I knew deep down that God would not heal my mother's cancer, He did heal the GI bleeding that plagued her for several months. I could not begin to estimate the number of blood transfusions my mother received from May 2022 to October 2022 - it was a big number. She consistently had GI bleeding due to the tumor laying against her stomach. I prayed and prayed for the bleeding to stop and had others praying as well. I thought that if my mom wasn't going to make it, at least she didn't have to die from bleeding.
On October 23, 2022 my mom chose to enroll in Hospice after a large amount of bleeding occurred a few days prior. She decided that she wanted to go home to die peacefully, with family and friends around her. On Wednesday October 26th my mother arrived home and from the time of her arrival home to the day she took her last breath, there was no bleeding whatsoever. The GI bleeding had stopped completely - all glory to God! That was certainly an answer to prayer.
3. My Mother Had No Fear of Dying
At the onset of diagnosis, my mother was fearful of the unknown. Her attitude when she was first diagnosed was that she would do whatever she could to beat cancer - she wanted to live. We all stood with her and respected her decisions and offered advice and help whenever she asked. Despite her willingness to fight, she also told me that she was afraid to die.
As the months passed and she grew closer to the Lord, her fear of dying lessened more and more. The turning point occurred on September 22, 2022 when I received a Facetime call from my mom. I had just returned to my home three days prior to this. She stated that she was going to die that day - and she said it with conviction. She felt as if her time had surely come and that while she was in the coma for the previous two days, she saw Jesus. (The two day coma incident is a story for another day).
We prayed together over the phone. I tried to comfort her as best I could. It was honestly the most heart-wrenching experience I've ever been through. I had just come home and couldn't get back to Florida quick enough. I did not want to see my mother pass away over Facetime.
My mother did not die that day, but from that moment forward, she had absolutely no fear of dying and told everyone that she knew where she was going. I believe that God gave her a glimpse of eternity in Heaven and that vision completely eliminated all of her fears.
It was because of this experience on Facetime that I began to pray for God to allow me to be with my mother when she passed away.
4. I Was With My Mom When She Died
As I just stated, I fervently prayed for God to grant me the blessing of being with my mom when she passed. On October 22nd I flew to Florida and stayed until my mom passed away. Not only did the Lord answer my prayer, He answered it beyond my expectations.
I was there to care for my mom for the 43 days she was on Hospice. I was there to talk to her and spend time with her, to help her and encourage her. Although it was tiring and at times I thought I would pass out from exhaustion, God saw my family through it and He gave me the strength I needed to keep going.
On Friday, December 2, 2022, my mother was speaking with us and communicating as she always did, however, after that night she did not fully wake up again. She would open her eyes and I believe she would try to speak, but she was never able to utter another word. For four days we watched as she slipped away.
Finally, on December 6, 2022 at 22:00pm my mother took two small breaths, opened her eyes and looked at me, and then exhaled her spirit. She was gone. I watched it all from her bedside.
God allowed me to witness the most amazing woman in my life pass from this life on to the next. Not only did God answer my prayers to be with my mom when she died, but I was standing next to her when she did. It was sad, yet amazing at the same time. I cannot explain the feeling I had, but I will always remember that moment for the rest of my life.
5. My Mother is in Heaven
My mother experienced the saving grace of God through a heartbreaking diagnosis. Her reward is far greater than anything she could have experienced on earth. She is spending eternity with the Lord. Had it not been for pancreatic cancer, my mother may never have accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior.
My rest comes from knowing for certain that my mother is in Heaven with Jesus and that when my time is up on earth, she will be there to greet me with open arms.
God is so Good... All the Time
I refuse to be upset with or to blame God for what my mother endured or the tremendous loss and heartbreak I feel. I will forever praise Him for what He did and how He answered my prayers and the prayers of all who prayed for my mom and my family.
Although I would love to have my mom here with me for many more years to come, I acknowledge that her healing was only to come when she passed away. She lived a life that was selfless and giving and in the end, her example is one that many who knew her will follow as long as they live... myself included.
God did not leave my mom or me or any of us during this hard time. He was always there and He revealed Himself in so many ways. I want to praise Him for what He did. I want to shout it out to everyone who will listen:
We have a loving God available at all times and in all situations and He is just waiting for each of us to call on Him!!
I pray that no matter what storms you face or trials you endure that you will look for the goodness of God to shine through. The Lord is there in the midst of it all. Focus on GOD and you will begin to see Him everywhere you look.
My mother was an amazing woman. She was my example for how to be a mom.
Please click here to read my tribute to my mother: Unconditional Love: A Tribute to My Mother