As I write, I’m preparing to have my thyroid removed because the doctors think it has cancer in it.
And I hope it is ok for me to admit I’m currently not very thankful for any of this even though I love Jesus and I treasure the Bible and I know I can and should “count it all joy” when I “experience various trials.” (James 1:2)
Mine hasn’t been one of those cancer stories with a shocking diagnosis. It wasn’t like I was just going about my life feeling great and got a call with crushing news. Rather, I’ve suffered mysterious symptoms for months, getting bounced around to different doctors and machines, leading to tumors at the end of whatever is the opposite of a rainbow. Tomorrow’s surgery will be on the heels of months of weakness and struggle. The pain of surgery and possible radiation now look like the light at the end of the tunnel. Being hospitalized and sliced into is now something I’m looking forward to.
And here’s the honest thing: I mostly haven’t been thankful.
I’ve mostly been sad. I’ve felt lonely. I’ve squinted through tears to see the world continuing to go on without me and my usual turbo-charged participation. It’s been humbling. It’s been convicting. It’s been deflating. It’s been almost defeating.
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Jesus
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” – Also Jesus
And hey, I have plenty of weakness right now. And I’m not convinced this isn’t the end of the age for me. So, while I’ve struggled to have enough thankfulness, I have more than enough Jesus. His presence in my pain. His grace in my insufficiency. His power in my nearly thyroidless body.
I’m scared and tired and Jesus has me right where He wants me. With Him.
And as He helps me, here are three ways I am fighting for thankfulness in the midst of my suffering.
Praying the Psalms
This is what I have as my iPhone wallpaper right now:
LORD, you do not withhold your
compassion from me.
Your constant love and truth will
always guard me.
For troubles without number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me; I
am unable to see.
They are more than the hairs on my head,
and my courage leaves me.
LORD, be pleased to rescue me;
Hurry to help me, LORD.
— Psalm 40:11-13
I spoke about living free from anxiety about a week before I went downhill. I shared that I had the Philippians 4:7 “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…” And I have experienced that in this trial, but some days, it goes missing and all I can do is echo David in my prayers, saying, “LORD, be pleased to rescue me; Hurry to help me, LORD…”
The psalms are beautiful examples of the universal nature of tears and the forever faithfulness of the God who sees when they fall. Praying the psalms reminds my heart of the peace people like me have found when surrounded by troubles.
Remembering Who I’m Praying To
When I’m overwhelmed, I tend to treat God like a giant Christian counselor. Like, “Hi God, so should I just go ahead and get right into my problems? [Word Vomit]…Annnd…amen.”
I forget that God is my dad. I forget that He loves me. I forget that He has literally already died a real death for me, revealing His commitment level to dealing with the “capital T” Troubles that surrounded me. No amount of cancer can bring into question His feelings for me nor His power on this earth. He defeated death. That’s absurd. And He did it for me. That’s…I mean, there really are no words.
“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare his own Son but offered Him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?” (Romans 8:31-32)
Someday and in some way I get everything good. And I’ve noticed that when I start my prayers reminding myself of God’s bigness, it changes the way I interact with Him and affects the peace I feel in that moment.
Refusing to Hide From People
Even if you’re in a Christian community that values living in the light, confessing sin, and walking in obedience, it can be hard to stay close to people in the midst of suffering. Lately, I’ve been so tired. Too tired to talk to my own family members, let alone talk to other people in my life.
But, when we share pain and weakness with our community, the most amazing thing happens. They can remind us of the truth.
Someone saw me crying at church last week and said, “This is hard. Jesus cares. Jesus loves you.” She didn’t know that my heart was asking those very questions, but we share the same spirit. And we have the same hope. So God used her to comfort me when I couldn’t comfort myself.
Our hurting hearts, our ungrateful hearts, need God and His Word and His people. If you’re not getting your thyroid out tomorrow, you will. Well…you know what I mean. We all walk through seasons of suffering. We don’t have to do the winning. Let’s fight to be thankful that He’s already won.