A cancer survivor’s perspective: the difference between faith and trust

My best friend from college, Kelly, is a two-time cancer survivor.  Breast cancer first struck her at the young age of 31.  Kelly was a mom of two small boys and a new missionary in Africa when she discovered a lump.  The diagnosis changed the course of her family’s lives, as they had to leave their overseas post and move back to the United States for Kelly’s treatment.

The dreaded disease returned fourteen years later.  This time, Kelly faced a much more aggressive treatment regimen, including a mastectomy and chemotherapy.  The side effects of chemo decimated her, both physically and emotionally.

In God’s mercy, she eventually recovered and has now been cancer-free for eight years.  Nevertheless, she understandably still battles anxiety when it’s time for her periodic checkups.  She knows there’s always a chance the doctor could deliver bad news.

The time for her routine tests came up a few days ago.  As my dear friend wrestled with fear, she leaned on the One who has been the source of her strength throughout her life: Jesus.   I admire Kelly’s relationship with God.  Over our 34-year friendship, I have seen her live out her faith authentically.

That means it’s been messy sometimes!  She’s learned there isn’t always a black-and-white answer for every question.  She’s wrestled with long-standing beliefs at times.  And, she’s felt the weight of darkness trying to destroy her in body and spirit.

Yet she has never abandoned her trust in God’s ultimate goodness and love.   Last week, I was privileged to receive an email from Kelly granting me an intimate look into her spiritual journey.  She shared fresh insights about the difference between having faith in God and actually trusting Him.

With Kelly’s permission, here are some of the principles:

Trust is a different animal from faith/belief.

Faith is knowing God can do anything beyond what we ask or imagine, but trust is letting go of our ideas of how things should turn out and leaving all the outcomes in His loving hands.

All we can really trust God for is His love–we cannot trust him for guaranteed safety, a long life, or whether our loved ones will become saved.  He chooses or allows the circumstances we must endure.

To trust is to know that no matter what happens, His love  will be the constant.  God’s love is omnipresent.  That is, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, it cannot not diminish His love.

Kelly went on to share, “As I was driving to my ‘anxious’ appointment yesterday, all I could tell myself was that I knew I was loved by God—that I could trust His love—no matter what happened.  My trust did not depend on whether my scans turned out okay.  

When I was in the dressing room preparing for the test, the music playing over the intercom happened to be from a Christian radio station: ‘your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.’  It was a perfect whisper in my ear and a confirmation of what He had been speaking to me.”

 I’m happy to report that Kelly’s tests came back clear, but I’m sure there were others that day who did not receive good news.

Another close friend of mine often says, “none of us escapes suffering in this world.”  He then follows with the statement,”but each of us has the choice of how to react to it.”

Perhaps you are currently in the midst of circumstances that are testing your faith.  My prayer is that you will choose to trust in God’s love for you—no matter the outcome.

 

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Me with my dear friend, Kelly (right)

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“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

“One Thing Remains”

Kristian Stanfill

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing… Remains, yes
One thing Remains.

[Chorus x3:]
Your love never fails, it never gives up
It never runs out on me

Because,
On and on and on and on it goes
Before, it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains
So, one thing remains.

[Chorus x3:]
Your love never fails, it never gives up
It never runs out on me

[Bridge:]
In death, In life, I’m confident and
Covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can
Separate my heart from Your great love…

 

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