Joyful Perseverance. My Decision to Make the Most of Cancer.

“this was supposed to be the year of renewal in my life... not the year that I would be diagnosed with cancer”

Joyful perseverance.

A phrase that had been running through my brain all summer. I mean, this was supposed to be the year of renewal in my life... not the year that I would be diagnosed with cancer. This was suppose to be the year that everything fell back into place. I finally had my dream job in healthcare, my marriage was getting back on track, and I was reunited with my church family. Come on God, not cancer, not now. I didn’t have time for this, I had so much to do! Didn’t He understand that? Yes, He understood exactly that. He knew that I would “busy” myself so much that I would never give my heart the chance to heal. He knows me so much better than I know myself and cancer was exactly what I needed.

Harsh? Maybe, but I needed a time of breaking and bending. A time to just strip away what I thought it looked like to be a good christian, what it looked like to serve others, and what it looked like to be a woman of God. A good time out. So as I settled in for my 90 day stint of chemo, the words Joyful Perseverance would not leave my side.

I knew what it meant to persevere, I had been doing that my whole life. Trials were nothing new to me and I often felt proud of myself on how I’d handled everything that life had thrown at me. The problem with that was I was proud of myself for surviving, not always counting on God to get me through. More times than not, relying on my own knowledge and ways to navigate life. I tried to be joyful, succeeding more times than not through just being joyfully polite. (You know, how you act when you think people don’t have the time to help you deal with your problems.)

I asked myself why God was laying this on my heart in this season of my life? After all, I had mastered barely hanging on by a thread in life - all the while with a fake smile on my face. What could He possibly be trying to show me?

The book of Romans states, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us,” Romans 5:3-5.

God came into this season of my life like a wrecking ball with a giant heart attached to it. He raised up a community of friends and coworkers to shower me with love and support. He showed me how He fully provides every need of His children. He reminded me of who I am in Him, of how much He loves me and if I just fully trust Him that He will restore my heart and my smile. He reminded me He is building character in me to take me to places I’ve never dreamed of going while serving Him. He has shown me that being joyful in life’s trials is a form of worship to Him. It’s saying "God, I fully rely on and trust you and because of that, no matter the circumstance in my life, my heart can can be joyful." Not just a happy, fleeting feeling of emotion but a true steadfast joy that can only come from God. Proverbs 17:22 says “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Wow, ok God, so having a joyful heart is actually healing to the body? Ok, God I get the picture.

Having real JOY in your heart is essential when you are pursuing His kingdom. I am so thankful for my cancer, I am so thankful that God chose me to build character in, I am so thankful He has built in me the ability to persevere with His help, and I am so thankful for the joy that has been restored in my heart.

God gives us a choice. We can fake it until we make it, (often never actually “making it” to the desired destination or outcome). OR we can give up what we’ve tied ourselves to; pride, control, stubbornness, whatever you’re dealing with, and turn it over to Jesus, The One who created us, The One who knows us better than we know ourselves, The One who can restore Joyful Perseverance in your life.

-Laura Ray