Part of all this trial is coming face to face with the man in the mirror, in God’s hands, by the trial, God is showing you what kind of man you are really and what kind of God he is really and what it really is he wants you to be.” –Mike Mobley
My desperate prayer and hope for this story is that you read this and become enamored with the strength, faithfulness, and love of our God. Pause perhaps for a moment even now before you continue reading and praise Him for his marvelous works in your own life. May we know deeply that it is not any one of our stories that matters, yet his alone; it is not about my name, but all about exclaiming his wondrous name.
For the purposes of information let me explain my circumstances. In September of 2012 I began to experience pain in my left ankle, thinking I had re-injured a spot of tendinitis I thought nothing of it. I wouldn’t be able to rest my leg (the required treatment for tendinitis) until mid-December, so I acted as if it was fine and continued life as normal as possible for the next few months. When I got home in December I stayed off of my leg for 3 weeks the pain and large amount of swelling that had already taken over my ankle only got worse. I went to a sports clinic fearing that I had pushed my leg to far and snapped a tendon in my ankle. They ran X-rays and found a large fracture in my tibia that was the source of the pain; it was the source of the fracture that caused the doctor to pause. I was told that they would need to have a radiologist examine the X-rays and I would hear from them within the next day. The radiologist called within the hour. It was January 3rd; I was home alone sitting on the couch when I was told about something called osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. It only took 4 short days for tests and other doctors and surgeons to confirm the radiologist’s fear. After they biopsied the tumor in my ankle and received a pathology report from it I was informed that it was stage four cancer. Based on the location of the tumor and the way that it had ruined my tendons and ligaments I would never walk again without amputating my leg. Within the next month I had already began aggressive chemo treatments almost weekly requiring hospital stays of up to five days. At the end of the treatment, about nine months away, there would be a chest surgery on my lungs to remove all of the tumors found within. Osteosarcoma isn’t a soft tissue cancer, the cells rapidly growing are bone cells, and the tumors in my lungs were calcifying and could not remain there.
I could continue, I could explain in detail each treatment or hospital stay. Or the side effects of chemo or about the nausea, but that’s not what’s important. In fact my story isn’t important. You have your own. Whether it’s cancer or not, your story can do one of two things: it can break you or it can create you.
My entire life I’ve been extremely good at knowing the right thing to say, I’ve been able to pass as a Christian for a very long time, I could live however I wanted, but look extremely pure. I’ve wasted a lot of God-given talents and opportunities throughout my entire life. I’m not trying to beat myself up, I’ve done good things but I’ve masked my life in many ways. For the last six months of 2012 I was praying that God would put something in my life that either completely broke me and ruined my faith or on the other end required me to lean wholly on him. This year he has blessed me with an opportunity to experience a situation in which I had no hope if I relied on my own strength and yet if I gave it to him I had all hope. You story, your trials or sufferings can either break you or create you.
I’ve had one prayer on my heart throughout this process, I’ve begged and pleaded with God that if I were going to have to go through this valley that it would have a purpose. My prayer was simple. That God would use my cancer to make his name great. I could care less of any other outcome, but it would mean something if my story caused people to praise God. Something that came to me early was a phrase, the title of this article actually, God is bigger than cancer. Anything I sent out from then on, any update or tweet or email or Facebook post was sure to have that hashtagged along with it. #Godisbiggerthancancer became something people could hold on to. It’s a cry for hope that no matter what lies ahead God is bigger than it. The thing I’ve learned though is that, sure God is bigger than cancer, but he’s also bigger than me. I’ve never had to stare death in the face before. One of our biggest concerns in life is control. I’ve learned that I have none. Even better still, I’ve learned that I want none.
Two verses seem to have oddly become coupled to me throughout this process. 1 Corinthians 13:13 and Hebrews 11:6. The first: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The second: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he is the rewards those who seek him.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 starts with faith. This remains, why? Because we must have it to please God, not just to please him, but because it is the foundation of everything God hopes for us to access in our lives. What does he hope for us? Listed more times than any other commandment all throughout scripture, listed even more times than the commandments to love God and love one another, is the commandment fear not. Why is that his greatest desire? Because someone who fears nothing this world or Satan tries to throw at them is someone who is fully invested in God; a God that forms mountains and breaths life. Base your faith on that principle: that God is bigger than anything.
When you fully believe and know that God is everything he says he is 1 Corinthians continues, that kind of faith breeds hope. Why? Because if you truly believe with all your heart, soul, and mind that God is able you will find that he is active. See he doesn’t just offer his proof, he offers his power, Hebrews 11:6 ends with him currently being described as the rewarder. Doesn’t that give you hope? Hosea is placed in constant turmoil in his life to be a direct example to Israel of their relationship to God. He describes a valley, the valley of Achor, which literally translates to the valley of trouble, in chapter 2. In the beginning of chapter 1 God explains that he will put an end to the house of Israel and “on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley.” Hosea explains the trouble Israel will go through. In chapter 2:14-15 there’s a turn, though. He writes: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. Egypt.” Their trouble became hope. God, who is able, was active.
Faith gives you the strength to get through trials. Hope, bred by faith, gives you the sight to see the end of trials. But love, why does love remain and why is love the greatest? It’s simple, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 3:18-19.) Notice the language of being perfected in love. Perfected how? “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4). How do we know that he first loved us? Because instead of just existing, which was enough, he chose to reward us.
Therefore faith, which produces strength, gives birth to hope, which produces sight, which harvests love that proves our hope and invigorates our faith and eliminates our fear. In love we understand Paul’s writings “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:54-57).
We have a victory, because God is bigger. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps 107:1)!