While on vacation this week Gail and I met Cindy. We didn't plan to meet her (or her wonderful family). It was one of those "God made this happen" things.
In our conversations over dinner she mentioned that she was a survivor of cancer. Like so many who battle the dreaded "C" word, her experience included surgery, chemo (and all of it's fun after-effects) and the ever-present questioning, "Why me, Lord?". For many, a disease like cancer is life's greatest crisis. I can only imagine.
But here was Cindy, several years later, looking as healthy as could be, with a glow on her face and a twinkle in her eye as she shared her story with us. Her crisis didn't defeat her, it made her stronger. And, not only that, it gave her opportunities she would have never had before to help others.
How? Oh, I forgot to mention that Cindy is a committed Christian. In fact, she was a bit disappointed that her vacation was taking her away from her church for a couple of Sundays where she has a regular ministry as a volunteer. In telling her story she spoke about faith - not in some nebulous pie in the sky fashion - but in words that described reality. For her, the crisis was real, but no more real than the Lord and His followers who were there every step of the way.
She spoke what I have often wondered myself: "How can people who don't know the Lord get through these kinds of things?". After all, cancer strikes non-Christians as well as believers. For some Christians that's a paradox in itself - not that non-believers get sick, but that believers do - but that's a subject for another time.
I guess the answer to that question is, "Some do. Some don't. But those for those who do it must be the most frightening experience". I guess that's why some choose to end life rather than go through the experience itself.
The reality is all of us go through crises in life. All of us. What makes the difference is that a growing relationship with Christ builds within us a strength and a reserve that continuously taps into His power to help us "do all things" and get through anything. That kind of genuine Christianity doesn't necessarily protect me from crisis (some crises are of my own making, but not all), but it gives me the faith and the relationships needed to take me through it.
Then (and only then) does this wonderful dynamic within the church body take place. Paul wrote, "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." (2 Cor. 1:4 NLT)
The "rest of Cindy's story" was what produced that look of wonder in her eyes. Friends were giving her name and number to others in the same seemingly sinking boat. "Here's someone you should talk to. She's been right where you are." She shares with them the fears she felt and the doubts and the "What if's?" about her family should she not survive.
God has not only cured her of cancer, He has given her a new voice and platform to encourage other women and to let them see and hear how her faith in Christ and the prayers and support of her church family helped carry her through. There's nothing like a life story to bring the truth of the Divine down to our level.
Handling crises with a rock-solid faith isn't random. A strong foundation of knowing God and His promises coupled with a passion for knowing Him daily and discovering the new mercies He offers with each sunrise is God's prescription.
You don't wait until the crisis kicks in to reach for that kind of faith and walk with the Lord. If you do it's like trying to dip a bucket-full of water out of a coffee cup. Instead, you build that kind of faith now, daily adding another brick to broaden that foundation for the time the storm arrives.
And there's where our humanity tricks us into thinking that because everything might be smooth sailing today, I'll worry about dealing with trouble tomorrow. And by neglecting those God-ordained relationships with Christ, His Spirit and His people we set ourselves up for life-shattering/faith-shattering crises that could and should result in our ability to glorify God, but instead bring us hopelessness and anger at Him.
I heard Rick Warren (whose wife Kay is also a cancer survivor) once say that you're either in a storm, have just been through a storm or about to go through one. How prepared you are is really a choice you make.
So start now.