Today’s blog comes from Joan Floyd, a dear friend of mine who died of cancer 12 years ago this week. She was my mentor, my ministry shepherd, and my dear friend. Her impact on my life and on the lives of others around her is still being felt. The following words were written in a message she wrote for our Bible Study class covering Romans 8:31-39.
Can anything ever separate us from God's love? What if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? That's the million-dollar question, isn't it? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have problems? Can anything, then, ever separate us from His love? Does that include cancer? Really?
Paul answers those questions by emphatically stating that nothing or no one can ever separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
Cancer and God's love
When you accept Christ's sacrifice of love for you, you are personally loved by God, and you belong to Him as His child forever! Nothing or no one can change your eternal destiny with God! And nothing can separate us now during the problems and pain of living here on this earth. Nothing can separate us from His love as He walks together with us through them. He is right here with us in the midst of everything we encounter here on this earth. Does that mean he will take all problems away? No, that is not what that means. It means that in the midst of what I experience in this fallen world, God offers me all of Him to experience it with me. The abundant life that God offers his children through Jesus Christ is comfort in the midst of uncomfortable circumstances, peace in the midst of turmoil, joy in the midst of all. Now isn't that what we all want?
Now let me get personal and tell you how I've seen God love me, His daughter, Joan Floyd, through a difficult time. On June 1, 2005, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I guess I really can't explain what a shock that was. It was so hard to tell my husband and our daughter, especially because it was the year we were planning her wedding, and nothing was supposed to interfere with the joy of planning this event. And equally hard for me to hear that I had cancer was accepting the treatment that was offered—chemotherapy. I hated the thought of it. I still do.
I had "faith" that God was still God and that He would see me through it all; but I tell you, I was very sad. If you came up to me and said, "Joan, I'm so sorry!" I would get tears in my eyes. And you all are so nice; I was tearing up all the time!! In addition, I now know what it means to have a "knot in the pit of my stomach"! All the time, it never went away! These were true feelings, and very, very understandable. But, being sad all the time was not the abundant life He offers.
During this time, God was gently comforting me, He was initiating His love and was carrying me in His arms when I was too weak. On July 2, a Saturday when no one was home, I chose to actively participate with God in my "abundant life" recovery. I picked up my Bible and just started reading it! Please get this—I didn't run out and get something to make it better. I ran "in" and claimed something. I ran to my Father so He could remind me what He had already given me!
I began refreshing myself with His love and His character and His goodness and with what He has promised me! That day I got my joy back. Or should I say, I got His joy back along with His peace. My diagnosis did not change, and the dreaded treatments were still going to happen. But, God reminded me that my identity was not a cancer victim … He reminded me that I was His child who was currently going through a serious illness called cancer!
I'm telling you that knowing this and relying on that truth made me remember that cancer could not "separate" me from the love of God through Christ Jesus, from the reality of His love for me, or from experiencing His love for me. I had to ask that question: does it mean He doesn't love me if I have cancer? No. In fact, He loves me so much that He died that I did not have to bear the cancer alone! The difference between being sad all the time and having His joy and peace was worth His Spirit in me continually prodding me to remember all that He has made available to me, as His daughter.
I memorized Bible verses so that I could refresh my mind and heart with His truth about me when other thoughts would come creeping in. One of them (which is only one sentence and I am ashamed to say it took me days to memorize it!) was Romans 15:13: "Now may the God of Hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that hope may abound by the power of the Holy Spirit."
I quoted that verse in my mind many times daily, but I especially remember one night when I couldn't sleep (chemo did that to me) and fear kept creeping in. I must have repeated that verse 50 times. Over and over again. It was my choice to let God's truth replace worrying about a future I knew nothing about. Listen to what I was choosing. I was choosing to let the God of hope, real, absolute hope, to fill me with all joy and peace! And I wasn't the one making it happen. I got all that joy and peace by the power of the Holy Spirit. God's very spirit in me generously filling me with all His riches, as He said He would do!
Cancer and God's peace
Other verses I memorized and repeated constantly were from Philippians 4:4-7:
- "Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say Rejoice!" (This always made me smile.)
- "Let your forbearing spirit be made known to all people." (That is what I truly wanted, for God to be seen in me to everyone I came in contact with.)
- "The Lord is near!" (I would say that very emphatically because remembering that was so awesome to me.) Then,
- "Be anxious for nothing" (Don't be worried about having cancer, Joan, or about the treatments and all the side effects as a result of them),
- "but in everything in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" (again, I would emphatically stress that word "thanksgiving," because I still had so much I could be thankful for. But sometimes we need to be reminded even of that.)
- "let your requests be made known to God" (God, I would love to have you remove the cancer and not have me go through having poisons put through my body.)
- "and let the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard your mind and heart in Christ Jesus." (And let me tell you. That truly was the result.)
I cannot tell you how much better it was to have the peace of God and to have joy while going through the surgeries, the treatments and the consecutive weeks of daily radiation. What a difference to being sad and having a "knot in the pit of my stomach." The difference between those two on July 2 was radical enough that I did not want to go back to sadness.
I know God cares about my emotions and how I was feeling, so I wrapped my sadness in the truth of His Word and that freed me to trust Him even with all the pain and confusion. I chose daily (and several times daily) to believe God! He very personally saw me through the worst experience of my life up to this point, and I can't thank Him enough for walking with me every step of the way through my cancer treatments. And I know that He will do it again and again and again until I am in His presence experiencing the rest of my inheritance with Him as His daughter!
Nothing can separate you from God's love
I want you to remember just how much God loves you, His child. He is surrounding you with His love and power! I want you to feel free to trust Him and to feel secure in His love and in His power even if everything else in the world is uncertain!
Your faith in the credibility of God might be tested, but His credibility will stand firm.
Your "feelings" that He loves you might be tested, but His love will never waver!
Nothing or no one can separate you from His love! No one or "no-thing" can separate you from all He has for you now—and for eternity!! All of God's love and power is utterly committed to you personally every minute of every day! He said this is true, and you can believe Him!
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From Melanie: If you are facing cancer or other chronic or deadly illness right now, my dear friend, please take to heart what Joan found to be true in our God. Nothing can separate you from His immense, grace-filled, powerful love. He’ll get you through it with His power. Bask in that.