We all face adversity. Some face it more than others. As my pastor says, “If you haven’t met with adversity, get ready. It’s coming!” Does God bring adversity to us? No, but I believe that He allows it to happen. When He allows it, he wants us to depend on Him. I can honestly say that adversity makes us stronger, wiser, more humble, and it enhances our Christian walk.
Comfort Through the Early Years
My life has been very blessed. I grew up in a Christian home. I always felt loved by my parents and extended family. I pursued my lifelong dream of becoming an elementary teacher, and was hired immediately upon graduating from college. I taught at the same school and grade for 35 years. I married my high school sweetheart and we were blessed with a son 7 years after our marriage and two years after building our home. Life was good! I hadn’t met with much adversity in my early years. I actually never really thought about it.
My First Encounter with Adversity
Being an only child, I was very close to my parents. We did everything together. My mother watched our son when I worked; my father built our home. We always went to my parents for advice on things. Suddenly, that changed when my father had a stroke. His carotid artery was found to be 100% blocked on one side and 97% on the other side. Surgery was dangerous because of a short period of time to clear the arteries before brain damage occurs. For the first time in my life, I realized that I may lose my father. This was the first time I’d met with adversity. Was my faith strong enough to bear this? God intervened and got Dad through the surgery. It was deemed a miracle because it proved to be a difficult and risky procedure. About two years later, my father had two heart attacks and two strokes within a few days. He was sent to Pittsburgh and a catheterization showed he needed bypass surgery. He was in a weakened state, but wouldn’t live without the surgery. He survived but couldn’t be weaned from the respirator. He was dependent on the respirator for seven months. The day he was removed from it, his first words to a packed room of doctors, nurses, technicians, and family members were, “Praise the Lord!” Just a few days before this, he had been anointed by his pastor and friends from church. We made about 140 trips to Pittsburgh after working all day, but God provided safety and strength through a difficult winter, and sitters for our young son. What a great witness to the power of God through adversity. This trial gave us strength for future trials. My father passed away a year later, but we had that year to talk, share, and say everything we needed to say. Again, Go d got us through his passing because we knew we’d see him again.
During my 35th year of teaching, I began to realize that my 85 year old mother was needing more help. I made the difficult decision to retire to spend more time with her. I loved teaching and everything involved with it. Although I had prayed about this, I began to wonder if I had truly sought God’s will, feeling so unsettled afterwards. I continually prayed for God to give me something to satisfy this emptiness I was feeling when I wasn’t helping my mother. Shortly afterward, I received a call from the school district offering me a position to mentor the new elementary hires in the district. It was a part time position, involving observing, conferencing, and giving moral support to new teachers. I realized this was my answer to prayer. I’d still be involved with teaching and children, and mentoring was something I always enjoyed. Yet I’d have time to assist my mother. This position was a great blessing and a gift from God.
The News You Never Want to Hear
Two years into this position I found a lump in my breast. After a sonogram and mammogram the doctor said he didn’t see anything. However, the lump remained. Another mammogram six months later also said it was nothing to be concerned about. Why was I feeling so anxious about this? A year later, a new doctor said she felt there was definitely a problem. Tests and a biopsy revealed a 4 cm tumor that was diagnosed as infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Because it had been missed for so long, I needed immediate surgery and chemo. I knew I had to give up the position I loved while doing chemo due to the risk of infection. I never asked, “Why me” because, Why not me? However, I did ask God to “take this mess and make it my message”.
The day of my diagnosis, I had asked God to guide and direct us through the journey I was about to take. My dear friend and secondary partner in the mentoring position immediately stepped up and offered to take my husband and me to see her doctor at AGH. At 9 am, the day after diagnosis, she was at my door with the appointment made to see her doctor, and she had scheduled all of the necessary tests for the next week. That began my journey, and she remained with my husband, son and me all the way. The doctor was worried about lymph nodes being involved since it had gone undetected for so long, but we put that in God’s hands. Surgery went well and I woke up to the words, “It’s a miracle, no lymph nodes involved!” I knew that God was answering prayers. I could see that He had a plan for me. I got through chemo without infections or problems and focused on 5 years down the road when I’d be considered a survivor.
Making my “Mess” my “Message”
Being an only child, I thought about not having a support system in time of adversity. I knew my husband, son, and mother were always there for me, but who would be there for them? I needn’t have worried. My friends prayed till I’m sure their knees were sore, every evening someone was at my door with food, and I received over 500 cards, many from people I didn’t know. I experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding from the many prayers for me. I have never been so humbled, and I then made a promise to God that I would pay this all back to others. I also made sure that when I said I’d pray for someone, I would pray with all my heart. My next prayer was now that I made it through this journey, what can I do to pay it forward to others? A year later, a friend asked me to do training for Reach to Recovery with the American Cancer Society. I now volunteer as a mentor and encourager to other women who are suffering from breast cancer. God provided this blessing, and I have made so many dear friends through this. Again, God led me to do something that helps me as much as it helps others. I know now why I had to go through breast cancer and other adversities.
The Gift in Adversity
On Dec. 28, 2015, it was 5 years that I’ve been cancer free. I am now considered a survivor. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds my future. I am a stronger and a more devout follower of Christ. God worked through this adversity to enhance my walk with Him.
I want to reiterate that adversity in life is something we all deal with. It’s not easy at the time, but it does make us stronger and more dependent on Him. Without storms in life, there would be no rainbows. Isaiah 41:13 says: “For I am the Lord who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear, I will help you.” Trust the God of storms and rainbows, because the beauty of the rainbow out shines any storm. He has a perfect plan for your life! Trust Him. Then give Him your praise!
For Hope and Health,
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