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How the Bible Sustains Me Through My Husband’s Battle with Cancer

Written by Kendall Carlson on

The interesting thing in thinking through “how the Word of God has sustained us” is that I probably wouldn’t previously have cited God’s Word as the top thing that has sustained my husband and I through his cancer battle. I probably would have said God’s clear presence, prayer and his people. But as I’ve been meditating on all he has done this last year and reviewing the things I’ve written down, I’ve gotten a sweet, fresh perspective on how God’s Word has been everything to us—it’s been the source of all his promises we’ve clung to, the assurance of his presence with us, the pattern for his church to care for us, the substance of many of the prayers prayed over us, and the content of the Spirit’s perfectly-timed whispers to us. Every moment of grace has been marked by his precious Word.

A Biblical Call to Hope

Soon after my husband, Bjorn, was diagnosed, the Spirit impressed Lamentations 3:21-25 on our hearts and it became a theme for us in this cancer battle. It was so fitting because it’s part of a lament and I resonate with things Jeremiah says earlier in the chapter like “my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… my endurance has perished… remember my affliction – my soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.” In the darkest moments, I felt those things.

Then, the passage takes this incredibly beautiful turn as Jeremiah says:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”

One gift of Bjorn’s extremely rare disease was in knowing that it was not an accident and that our hope was not going to come from the odds the doctors would give us. Our hope was firmly in Jesus and his goodness alone, whatever the outcome.

After the initial lymphoma diagnosis, as we waited for test results to show which type, the Lord used a thoughtful gift from a dear friend to show me his deep and detailed love. In that moment, the Spirit whispered truths from Psalm 56:8, “[You have] put my tears in Your bottle,” and Matthew 10:30,“Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Oh, how he knew I would need that assurance when, later that night, we were given an incomplete diagnosis that basically meant Bjorn would only have months to live. As I grieved hard, alone in my house that night, the Spirit again whispered to me from Psalm 139: “Even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is light with You.”

Promises for a Weary Soul

Thankfully, we found out a few days later that there was more to the initial diagnosis and that the cancer was potentially curable. But it would be an intense battle. That’s when the promises of God being our strength in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) and of Christ being the One alive in me (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:11) became a bedrock for my weary soul. I also found hope knowing that even in cancer, “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6) and that above all, “His merciful kindness is great toward us” (Psalm 117:2)! And when it became increasingly difficult to choose between being with my kids or with my sick husband in the hospital, I reminded my heart of 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxieties upon Him for He cares for you.”

An Anchor During the Battle with Cancer

The beautiful thing about the Word of God in the depth of trial is that it is concrete, tangible evidence of God’s kindness. In moments when I haven’t felt peace or heard the Spirit’s whispers or had the presence of the body of Christ, his Word is unfailing—living and active (Heb. 4:12), enduring forever (1 Pet. 1:25).

Recently,  Bjorn spiked a high fever in the midst of an already chaotic evening. By the time we were admitted to a hospital room at 2 a.m., I was spent. I’d run the emotional gamut from anger, exhaustion, fear, sadness, desperation, and I thought, “I just really need to drink in his Word before I go to bed. I’ll read that Psalm that talks about lying down and sleeping for He alone makes us dwell securely.” So, I grabbed my phone and pulled up my Bible app and guess which exact verse was the verse of the day? Psalm 4:8.

Oh, I just cried and laughed. How kind is our God! The psalm’s truths were so timely for my heart:

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer…. But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him. Be angry and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still… I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Kendall Carlson

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