Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Is God Sovereign When...

...your dad discovers he has cancer?

The obvious answer, is, "yes." But does that mean it's less of a shock? No.

When Ryan and I were discussing whether or not to move overseas, a big reason to stay stateside was our parents. We both lived pretty far from our grandparents growing up, and wanted our children to be able to see and know their grandparents well. We've both been blessed with amazing parents, and wanted to pass that blessing on to our children! So living right in between our parents in Huntsville, Alabama seemed the perfect fit...

But when the job opportunity in China came up, we decided to take it. Our parents were all in good health, and what better time than now, when we only have one child and she's really young? Plus, in a variety of ways, God in His sovereignty fit things together. We knew we were to come.

Then a month after we moved, we got the news. My dad has bladder cancer. Quickly followed surgery to remove it, realization that they couldn't get it all, the start of chemo (though it won't cure this kind of cancer, it can give a few more years), and the plan to remove the bladder when those 5 months of misery are up. My dad had always seemed invincible to me, but now we were talking about the chances of survival and using the term "years." Not decades. Not life 'til 90+ since he was so healthy... years.

Now, I know we're blessed. Many get the news about cancer and speak in terms of "months" or even "weeks." And, I know that God can beat the odds, that He can heal, that all of our lives are in His hands anyway, that it's only in His sustaining power that we have our next breath. But... it's still hard.

And as the realization hit, I thought to myself "we could have been three hours away." We could have driven down and been there, instead of trying to arrange times to skype when we're both awake with a 13-hour time difference.

But... is God sovereign? Yes. I know that this is part of His plan, and He is growing us through it. We're learning to trust Him more. We're getting more of a longing for heaven, where there will be no more cancer and no more miles between loved ones, where all the tears will be wiped away...

Because there has been a lot of tears lately. There have been more mornings where I cry for seemingly no reason, and though there could be a lot of little reasons (life in a different country is not easy!)... but to me they're not reasons to cry. Yet the tears come... there's a heaviness.

Yet my dad inspires me. His words always ring with hope and trust in the Lord. My earliest memories involve my dad telling me "Since you believe in Jesus, what's the worst thing that can happen to you? You can die and go to heaven." And as he'd remind us with a twinkle in his eye, "that's actually a good thing!" And as a result of sharing with my neighbor about my dad, I was able to tell her what he always told me, and share some of the hope that we have, that this life is not all there is.

It does change things. When we decided to come, we told ourselves we'd stay for 3 years (with visits home at least once/year) and then evaluate. Now, we're talking about evaluating after a year, and going home even earlier if things get worse fast, which of course we're praying won't happen.

But we also are grateful for the fact that we had time with our parents - weeks at a time - because we moved over here. We'd never have had that time off of work if we hadn't been moving across the world... so those memories and pictures are worth so much more now.

We appreciate your prayers for my dad too. He's facing this, even the unpleasantness of chemo (which started yesterday), with good spirits and steadfast faith. He's strong and healthy, so we're not too worried about recovery. But cancer is no respector of persons.

Yet God is sovereign. We know this could only have come by His allowing it to, and His purposes and ways are higher than our own. It's not a fatalistic outlook... it gives hope. This world is not all there is, and He knows what He's doing.

So we pray that His peace, that passes all understanding, will guard our hearts during this time.


  1. I am so sorry to hear about your dad, Anna! I will be praying for him...and you.

  2. Your words ring true to my heart..l love you

  3. This is Helen-
    Perhaps God chose this way to take him home to teach you: Have faith even when this is happening and you are so far away and you can't do anything about it.
    God's ways are different form our ways. In this sorrowful time, I suggest you read the book of the Bible called Job.

  4. Anna, I feel so sorrowful about what hit your dad and the family, actually I had similar stories which hit both my relative and teacher very recently, so my heart is with you at this moment, it's much harder given you are new here in China and your life hasn't quite got on the track yet. What I can do is probably visit you occasionally with my wife if you don't mind, she loves kids very much and cooking as well, hopefully we could bring with some cheer up spirit. __Daniel Ji