Looking back, I’ve been amazed at how easy many things have been for me. But I also realize that when something is too easy, it can make me lazy. For example, writing has always come naturally. Does that mean I don’t need to practice my craft and look for ways to improve it? No. Do I do it? Not as often as I should. Music came easily for me as a child as well. The problem was I had to practice, and I hated practicing. Now playing music does not come nearly so easily. I can no longer sing as high as I used to.

These past few weeks, I’ve been learning a hard lesson. I didn’t know it, but at the bank of my mind, I’ve had an “easy street” attitude – about many things. But it took a lesson I had to give on marriage and the shock of needing chemotherapy after a successful cancer surgery to open my eyes.

Preparing a lesson on marriage

A few weeks ago, I was asked to prepare a couple of Bible studies about marriage for my Chinese students. I had been asked to focus on what we do when we find out that the “perfect” person we marry is not perfect.

Thinking about marriage, I wrote,

It is possible to hear from God (thinking about people who strongly felt they had a word from God regarding their marriage).

But if this is something that God wanted for ME, then there is something in it God wants me to learn. What do we do with hearing from God? Do we think it is going to be easy street? Or do we stay committed and realize, if this is what God wanted for ME, then there is something here I have to learn.

An oncological interruption

Between writing those notes and teaching my class, my oncologist asked me to have a special appointment on the evening of Shavuot (Pentecost) – something that is highly unusual in Israel. The day/evening of the holiday is usually a day off. So I already knew my doctor had news to break to me. But he had already told me I didn’t need chemotherapy, so at the most, I figured it was biological or immunological therapy. I could deal with that.

However, his opening words caught me off guard. “We were surprised by your biochemical test reports.”

He explained that they had expected to find a rather common cellular mutation that is easily treated with biological therapies. However, they were surprised to discover that I had something found in only 1-2% of patients with my type of cancer – a RET mutation. Worse, they were fairly certain that it was the cause of my cancer and that I should have started chemotherapy as soon as possible after my surgery – but no one had suspected this mutation. Simply put, the RET mutation tells cells not to die but to go and hide and wait to gather, grow, and hit you when and where they want – when you least expect it.

The doctor explained everything to me. Another friend, also a physician, joined us to help me be sure I understood all that was involved, and long story short – I would be starting chemotherapy the next week!

Suddenly my heart and mind were far from the lesson I had to give the next day. My inner world was spinning. What was going on here? The surgery had been successful! I had come home within 3 days, and there were no metastases, and my lymph glands were unaffected. They had gotten it all. They had removed my left upper lobe to be certain they got it all. Now the doctors were telling me they couldn’t be 100% certain, nor could they guarantee there would be no return.

I knew what the Lord had ministered to me before my surgery, that this would not lead to physical death. But what was going on here? I still had to fight the cancer? I needed chemotherapy? I didn’t want to go through this.

A lesson on marriage, a lesson on life

The next day I had to force myself to prepare for my class that evening. How would I teach a lesson on marriage when all I could think about was the challenges before me? How?

As I reread my notes, I froze in shock, “What do we do with hearing from God? Do we think it is going to be easy street?” I burst into tears. I knew I had heard from God when I married my husband, Rich. And I knew it was the Lord ministering to me when I faced the lung surgery and had the assurance that I would not die. And how many other times had I received God’s peace about something and then been taken aback by the difficulties and challenges I had faced?

I thought it was going to be easy street!

Somewhere along the way, even though I knew it was not a Biblical attitude, I had absorbed the idea that I didn’t really need to press on to obtain the prize, that it would be smooth going, that the rough ways would be made smooth – in any and every circumstance. Talk about an out-of-context attitude!

When I began my lesson that evening, I stressed that the principles I would share were crucial for all of our life, not just in marriage. Then I explained the English expression “easy street” to my students, and the lesson began. We had a wonderful time sharing, discussing, seeking the scripture, and going deeper in understanding the mystery of marriage, and Christ and the Church.

All that to say

I’m now one week into the chemotherapy. It has not been too bad overall. But it has not been easy. I am having to learn to do something I’ve never done very well – listen to my body and take care of it. I need to treat it with respect. When my cells are tired, I need to give them rest. When I don’t feel like eating, I need to be sure they are given the right nutrition. Yup, picture me, Dvora/Debbie without an appetite! I’ve lost too much salt and was in the ER for tons of tests – 7 hours of my life spent just waiting for the doctors to decide, should this be treated or not?

It kind of makes me laugh as I write this. If these are the least of my problems – hallelujah!

When God leads us somewhere, He does have a good purpose, even when it’s hard, challenging, and sometimes just plain unpleasant. Perhaps the Berean Literal translation of 2 Corinthians 4:7–11 best sums it up.

7Now we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassingness of the power may be from God, and not from us, 8being hard pressed in every way but not being crushed, being perplexed but not despairing, 9being persecuted but not being forsaken, being struck down but not being destroyed, 10always carrying around the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus also should be manifested in our body. 11For we the living are always being delivered to death on account of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Stay tuned…