Between trips to the local waterpark, family vacations, rec baseball, swimming lessons, and visiting the local library, our young kids have had a fabulous summer. It has been especially fun for our son who celebrated his fifth birthday, learned how to ride a bike, and can now swim without a life jacket. When we left for the black hills, he exclaimed from the back of the minivan, “Now this is the way to travel!” My husband and I have felt such joy as we watched our kids over the summer. We couldn’t have imagined these moments nearly four years ago.
As September arrives, my heart gets a bit more anxious. September is childhood cancer awareness month and the month we personally became very aware of childhood cancer. On September 11, 2018, we faced our own personal ground zero when our baby boy was diagnosed with Leukemia. Now, four years later, there isn’t a night that goes by I don’t crawl into bed thinking about the families at the children’s hospital in the fight of their lives–the fight for their child’s life.
Childhood cancer, although called rare, is the number one cause of death by disease affecting children in America. A few statistics: 17,000 children are diagnosed each year. Survival rates are anywhere from 1% to 90% depending on the cancer and are calculated at five years in remission. Two out of every three survivors will develop a chronic health condition due to toxicity of treatments which might include a secondary cancer. Sixty percent experience a life-threatening complication in adulthood.
As we approach the anniversary of our son’s diagnosis, I tend to scrutinize each experience more closely. Every unexpected bruise, cry from a bad dream, or onset of a fever brings back a fear tucked away in the back of my mind: relapse. I try to keep it there, hoping to hold back the “crazy” I fear might spill out onto others and paralyze my motherhood. I still have unanswered questions and uncertainty about his future.
How do we live and move forward in life when our questions aren’t answered or we find ourselves in a season of uncertainty?
I’ve been encouraged by the book of Habakkuk this summer thanks to Revive our Hearts Podcast, a women’s ministry led by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Habakkuk is a short book in the Bible where a prophet has questions for God. He seems fearful of what the future might bring and the destruction facing his people. He starts out saying “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry out to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save. Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?”(Hab 1:2-3b).
Have you ever questioned God, his purpose in the pain you’ve experienced, or the season of waiting you are in? What happens when the disease is progressing and the future looks uncertain? What gives when we see the evidence of sin all around us in politics, our culture, and even our own hearts?
God gives Habakkuk a line of instruction, “The righteous will live by faith” (Hab 2:4b).
This gentle command reaches directly into my heart during this season and gives me courage to take the next steps. He didn’t say we’d live by our own wisdom, our own provision, our fighting and complaining, or by having all the answers. In fact, I find great comfort that by the end of this short book, nothing about Habakkuk’s circumstances have really changed and his questions haven’t really been answered. Rather, he submits to God and finds shelter in the shadow of the Almighty.
Imagine the strength Habakkuk and God’s people need to live by faith! The courage to believe in God’s promises, the comfort to face the next uncertain moment with joy, and the conviction to accept God’s will for our lives as his best. The good news is we don’t need to have faith all on our own.
Rather, I think Habakkuk shares how the righteous can live by faith in the very last words of the book. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab 3:18-19).
I cannot explain away the hardship any of us experience. But I can tell you from the trenches that God shows us the depth of his character during the most uncertain times of our lives where we realize our dependence on him for our very next breath.
I cannot predict how the childhood cancer stats will play out for our family. I can however follow Habakkuk’s lead to take joy in the God of my salvation. As God’s people, we can live by faith for the day when God promises “the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).
Imagine the eternal blessings that abound beyond this life as “the righteous live by faith.”