Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trusting and Healing

Last week while on vacation I met a survivor of stage IV bone cancer. Against all odds, she is surviving and is in remission. She told me God healed her. After hearing some of her story, I have no other reasonable explanation for why she is still living other than God truly did heal her.

After she shared her story with me, I told her a little about myself and how I'm living with thyroid cancer. She looked at me for a second and then said, "If you trust in God, He WILL heal you and keep you on this earth." I didn't know how to respond. Anyone who knows me knows I believe in the power of prayer and in the healing power of God. But this lady looked at me and suggested to me that I am not cancer-free because I am not trusting in God. Maybe that's not what she really meant to say, but it's what she did say. The only thing I could get out of my mouth was, "I do trust in God." I was so rattled and angry that I couldn't say what I was really thinking.

I'm thankful that God has healed her, but cancer did not take up residence in my body because I don't trust in God. It's not hanging out in my neck because I haven't been trusting in God. On the contrary, the ONLY way I am able to move forward with life is BECAUSE OF my faith in God. He has sustained me and will sustain me. This I know to be true.

I also know that, as much as I wish I could say I do, I don't trust in God 100% of the time. I wish I did, but does anybody?! Does anyone live without doubt and worry and fear all of the time? I know I don't. I know it's easy to forget to trust in God when lumps pop up in my neck or when a scan is coming up. But I don't think that's the reason I have cancer.

I might be cancer-free in this lifetime. That is my hope and prayer, and I know God hears that prayer. But just because I haven't been healed on my timeline doesn't mean God isn't just or merciful or full of grace. He is all of those things all the time.

I don't really know what my point is here, but this lady shook me up so much that I just needed to write about it. I think I'm writing now because I needed to respond, and since I'll never see this lady again, I responded to you.


Kaci said...

Hi Joanna! I stop by and read your blog because: 1. You're fun! 2. You're an excellent writer. 3. I think that most of what you have to say can be said about (most) other chronic, you'll always have to deal with it, diseases. :o) Anyhoo-- I am always shocked by people who say things like this to me as well. I've learned to respond by saying that my trusting God is allowing me to live- just maybe not in the physical sense of living (without disease). It amazes me how you can put into words how many people feel. :o) Thanks for sharing!!

Joanna Isbill said...

Kaci, thank you SO MUCH for commenting. I seriously needed somebody else with a similar but also trusted perspective to say, "I understand!" because I was starting to feel like my reaction to this lady was over dramatic. I love how you respond in situations like this. I'm going to remember it (hopefully!) and use it. Thank you thank you thank you.

openid said...

Hey Joanna,
My name is Liz and I have been reading your blog for sometime now. I am sorry to learn that you met a woman during your vacation that hinted to you about trusting in God for a speedy recovery. I am sorry that you have to deal with someone who is capable of making such a suggestion and just assuming things about you. Trust yourself, if you are made in the image of God then you trust him as well.
That said, since your blog is a great resource for someone going through cancer I wanted to reach out to you to see if you were interested in a new online social support network (that I am the community manager of!) called I Had Cancer. It is a new and free social support network focused on connecting people based on experiences with cancer so that they can easily communicate with one another and share information. I would love to tell you more if you are interested, so please let me know! Because I was so struck by your writing I would love to send you an early-access pass with extra invites for others you may know going through this journey.

Either way, thank you so much for your writing. Take care and best regards.
If anyone would like information on I Had Cancer please email me.

Thykidzmom said...

I've been faced with something similar as well and I'm never sure how to respond. My very Catholic grandmother tells me I don't have enough faith and to keep praying. I know she means well, but its so hard. Especially after watching my daughter battle thyroid cancer for six years and 5 surgeries--I'm a little angry with God sometimes although I'm trying to focus less on the anger and more about living with the disease. I realize people mean well, but come on.
Hugs to you.


Rachel said...


I don't think she meant you don't believe in God - I think she probably just wanted to plug prayer and encourage you to pray, not knowing one way or the other your stand on God. I personally don't like when people preach even though I know they almost always mean to help and to make themselves feel more in control. And no, God does not single people out who don't pray or who don't pray hard enough.

Have you ever read a book called When Bad Things Happen to Good People? Really good; it's this one rabbi's take on God and on when bad things happen even though he beleives in God. He lost a young son to a hideous disease which inspired him to write this book and it made so much sense to me. He's a rabbi but it's not preaching any one religion. I hope this doesn't offend anyone, but personally, I don't think you even have to beleive in God to have your life saved. Though I am happy for those who find strength and comfort through rough times through faith. Whatever it takes to make you strong and happy and keep you on track as a good person. Will you come visit my site sometime? We're friends on Twitter - or I guess you call it friends when it's Facebook. On Twitter are we Twits? LOL. Rachel

Joanna Isbill said...

@Liz--Thanks so much for commenting and for letting me know about your online community. I'd love to check it out, but I'm not sure it's applicable for me personally because I can't say that I HAD cancer; it's still a very present tense thing for me. But I would still love to learn more about your goals and visions with

Joanna Isbill said...

@Stephanie, thanks so much for sharing. For me, my faith in God is what sustains me as I'm living with this disease. And I don't think my lack of faith is the reason I'm not cancer-free yet. Sometimes, people just really don't know what to say. I know that I've probably said the wrong thing before, but if cancer has taught me one thing, it's to THINK about what I am saying to someone who is dealing with something huge and hard like cancer.

Joanna Isbill said...

Rachel, thanks so much for connecting with me here. I have heard of that book! It's sitting on my bookshelf, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Maybe because I don't have a hard time understanding why bad things happen to good people. I mean, I do have a hard time understanding it, but it's not hard for me to accept it. We live in a fallen world, a less than perfect world. And because of that, bad things happen.

When you say you don't have to believe in God to have your life saved, are you talking physical life or spiritual life? I personally believe that the only way to save your soul is through belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ. I don't think being a "good" person is enough, because really, who gets to define good? Any human standard of good is going to fall short of God's standard every time. And that's why I believe we need Jesus to save our souls.

I'm checking out your site now! Glad to connect with you!

Lucy said...

I can certainly see why you became upset at that lady. As a reader of cancer blogs I know it's not true. I followed quite a few who were good christians who's lives were cut short by cancer through no lack of faith or prayer on their part. Like the other people you mention in your blog who make stupid comments about your cancer.

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