The doctor simply said, “Michele, it’s not good.”
In that moment, at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2010, Michele Cushatt’s life changed forever. She went from being, as she described herself, a “confident, somewhat assured Christian woman” to “being absolutely undone.”
There is something about the word “cancer” that can turn what we thought was cement under our feet into sand.
Suffering is like that. It’s a difficult topic to even discuss. There’s no way to put a positive spin on pain. It’s called “suffering” for a reason, after all.
What makes it even harder to grapple with for us in the United States is we tend to live our lives with an expectation of comfort and of blessing. So when pain comes, we often wonder why God seemingly has abandoned us.
But the vast majority of Christians around the globe consider suffering a reality of living in a broken world. They don’t look at suffering as punishment from God. They see His presence as an unbelievable, miraculous gift in the midst of their pain.
We Westerners have trusted too much in our comfort, I think. I agree with Michele that we’ve become like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son.
The older brother didn’t see the deeper truth at work when his younger brother came back home repentant and broken. Instead, he asked, “Where’s my fattened calf? Where’s my celebration?”
By the end of that story, we realize the older brother had followed the rules of his father’s house, but he had drifted from his father’s heart.
The heart of God isn’t primarily about our comfort or about us simply obeying a checklist of rules. The heart of the Father is for us to understand His love for us and the relationship with Him He’s offering.
To say it another way, our reward for our faith in Him isn’t a comfortable, pain-free life. Our reward is Him.
Michele discovered that on that cold November day when the doctor called to tell her she had a form of cancer generally connected with smokers, even though she’d never smoked a day in her life. She had also experienced that truth years before when her first husband walked out on her and their newborn son six days before Christmas.
Your suffering may be related to a medical diagnosis like Michele’s, or it could be something else entirely. Whatever the case, the most important question isn’t the “what?” it’s the “Who?”
That’s because, ultimately, trauma and pain can come in virtually any form. And the human recourses we take, from doctors, to lawyers, to the financial costs can be just as varied. But the ultimate answer, through it all, is Christ.
After five years of battling cancer, Michele says, “I’m really trying to learn to be in that place where to live is Christ, to die is gain, which sounds very cliché and very easy to say. It is not. I want to become someone who can literally live in that tension, in that place, and know God is there.”
If you or someone you know is in a dark place, I encourage you to join us on our program over the next couple of days with our guest Michele Cushatt. Her story is all about seeing the Lord in the midst of difficult places and not allowing our circumstances to dictate our relationship with Him.
Michelle has spoken at the popular Women of Faith conferences, and she’s currently cohosting the “This is Your Life” podcast. She’s also an accomplished writer and blogger.