Christ’s victory over death gives us the power to overcome fear with faith.
FEAR. Just the sound of the word can evoke the very emotion it describes. Even as believers, if we focus on what fear represents to us individually for too long, it can be a burden on our spirits and take us into dark places that God never intended for us to go. Isaiah 41:10 reminds us, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God” (NLT). God has a better plan than fear.
I’ve learned much about the art of overcoming fear with faith over the past six years through my journey with cancer. I am a three-time cancer survivor. Already is a bit of a rarity, but what makes my situation even more of an anomaly is my cancers have all not been related. In most cases, when a patient experiences multiple cancer diagnoses, the second or third cancer typically stems from the first one. This was not so in my case. But in the face of three diagnoses inside four years’ time, God launched me from gripping fear into a place of faith, abundance, and peace.
When you allow fear to strike you full-force, you can become paralyzed and unable to think of anything else.
I found this to be true after my first diagnosis. In April 2011, my family physician discovered what he thought might be skin cancer during my annual physical. After rushing me that same day to a dermatologist who immediately performed a biopsy, a hidden melanoma was confirmed.
After my husband and I went home from the dermatologist’s office and told our kids what had very unexpectedly unfolded from a routine annual physical, I was gripped by fear. I spent all night thinking about whether I would live to see my kids graduate high school, see them get married, or if I’d ever know the joy of being a grandma. I went to work the next day, hoping the busyness would take my mind off the “C” word that had been dropped like a bombshell into my existence the day before, but I just couldn’t shake it.
That ugly fear was seeping further and further into my psyche, and I felt like I was drowning.
Then I finally did it. I prayed the prayer that I should have prayed 24 gut-wrenching hours before. I prayed, “Lord, I cannot do this. The fear of this disease is eating me alive. I cannot and will not live another day of my life like this, ever again. I need you to take this fear from me now, and I trust that you will take care of me, no matter the outcome. I leave this in your hands. Amen.”
The next morning I woke up and waited for the fear that had become so familiar to start seizing me. But it didn’t. I got up and calmly went to work, but the fear still didn’t come. Three weeks later, the cancer was eradicated through surgery. My doctor later told me if I had chosen that year to skip my annual physical, my children would likely have been without a mom at the same time the next year.
Despite this news and the whirlwind of the last few weeks, I was no longer shaken like before. Why? It is because of His amazing promise that “the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). I had heard that Scripture many times, but I realized that I had never had to claim it for myself. I found out it was absolutely true—His promise of peace and faith over fear was suddenly real for me.
A little over two years later in June 2013, I received a call from my surgeon who told me I had early-stage breast cancer. Thankfully, it was caught at the earliest possible stage, and I was able to get by with a lumpectomy. My radiation oncologist recommended 33 treatments of radiation as a precaution, as it reduced my chances of recurrence by 50 percent. I completed the treatment only with some fatigue and slightly sunburned from the radiation.
About a year and a half later, in the fall of 2014, I began noticing that my overall health was declining. I wasn’t one to get sick very easily, so it seemed odd that I’d been unhealthy for several weeks in a row. Since we had school-aged kids, I chalked it up to kids bringing their sick germs home for me to enjoy. But then the bruising started. I was concerned enough to visit the doctor and request bloodwork.
Early the next morning, my doctor called me and said, “The numbers from your lab work were way out of normal range.” My oncologist ordered a bone-marrow biopsy and told me to report to his office a couple of days later to discuss the results. It was then that he told me I had Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL). My blood was so sick with cancer that I was not allowed to drive home to tell our children. My oncologist feared that if I were in a car accident on the way home, I would bleed out. After 5 ½ weeks of intense inpatient care and a subsequent year of outpatient chemotherapy, I was pronounced in remission. At present—praise God—I have had no further recurrence of melanoma, breast cancer, or leukemia.
In one of my husband’s recent sermons, he stated that “fear” is a four-letter word, and for good reason. We all know that fear can be paralyzing. I personally believe fear is the enemy’s number one tool of destruction.
Fear can render us useless for God’s purposes if we allow it to.
The fact is, we are all dying. Our physical bodies are subject to death; we have no choice in that. But we cannot allow fear—fear of the diagnosis, fear of the unknown, fear of failing—to stop us from living the full, abundant life that God so desires for us and has provided for us!
Recently, I had an unexpected surgery due to one of my doctors being concerned about potential health risks in the future. The pathology report after the surgery revealed pre-cancerous cells. With God’s help and putting amazing healthcare providers in my life, I dodged a major bullet—again. I was also told a few months ago that unless a cure is found, my leukemia will someday return. But staying true to my faith in God’s promise to me, I have been freed from the gripping fear over these rather disturbing facts of my life. I have laid down my burdensome idol of fear and have found restful assurance in the fact that “He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:57, NLT).
As the currently popular song by Bethel Music so perfectly states, “I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.” Someday cancer may take me, but today is not that day. I have no plans just to exist and wallow in fear of the “what if’s.” I have decided to claim the abundant life that God faithfully provides for me each day.
Lisa Brown is a speaker, pastor’s wife, volunteer, mom, grandma, and writer.
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2018.