My mom’s three-and-a-half-year battle with ovarian cancer is over and it has been won.
No more chemotherapy, no more pain, no more wondering if she will ever get better. She has finally been set free from the body that betrayed her and brought her so much sorrow. Her tears are being wiped away by Christ and she is surely singing, dancing, experiencing the height of joy in God’s presence. I must say that when I am not thinking about how much it hurts to lose her, I am really happy for her.
Through this trial of cancer, I can say that the Lord has answered every one of my prayers for her. When she originally learned that she had cancer, it was really hard for her. She was frustrated and angry at times. I prayed from day one that the Lord would work in her life through this trial and let me and my Dad see abundant fruit. These past few days as I have been talking to her, I have seen a woman in a broken body filled with the Holy Spirit, submitted to the will of God, ready to go be with Jesus, and loving everyone around her.
The last few weeks of her life she couldn’t eat or drink anything and I prayed to the Lord that he would just let her be able to eat something. His response was that he was going to give her Heaven. I wanted her to have life (with me, on this Earth) and he wanted her to have abundant life, free from cancer and pain. His intentions for her are far superior than mine and it is a joy to entrust her into his hands.
It has also been a joy to see her in the loving hands of my dad who cared for her with the tenderness of Christ. He has lived out well the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
He has called his dying wife beautiful, waited on her hand and foot, and took her pain as his own. The Lord has taken something as awful as death and, through the example of my Dad, has shown the world his character of tenderness, commitment to truth, love, and self-sacrifice. My Dad has talked about Heaven on almost a daily basis since he became a believer. This zeal for life with Jesus has served him and our family well during this painful season. I am so thankful for him.
Another tremendous joy has been the love that I have received from my Cameroonian friends. One of my friends, with her whole 3rd grade education, was dreaming up ways to cure my Mom of cancer. She came to my house the other day happy because she thought she thought up a machine to take the cancer out of her body. Others have wept with me, they have offered to come to America with me so I wouldn’t have to go through this “alone,” and they have prayed with me. Outside of their empathy, however, has been an even deeper joy. They are saying back to me the biblical truth I have taught them with hearts full of faith.
I thought that my labors here would be almost solely for their benefit, but I was wrong. Children in faith are rising up to comfort their crying mother with the truths she has taught them. Little “Stacey junior” in our village thinks that “our” mother is dying and going to go live with God. New converts to Christ and reminding me that I can trust in God’s promise to give my mom eternal life because of what John 3:16 says. Those that we have taught about the Fall of man are not giving me prosperity theology platitudes but instead are reminding me that that just as man was made from dust, so to dust he will return because of the sin of Adam and Eve. When I look at them now, I don’t just see the difficulty of their language, or how much work it takes for me to understand their culture and speech. I don’t just see how much they still don’t know and how much I still need to teach them. I see friends and in some cases brothers and sisters who take the pain I feel upon themselves. I see them as channels of comfort from God.
Through the tears and sorrow, I can see the Lord working this grief for our good. The loss of my mom makes the earth a bleaker place which makes the glory of Heaven even more appealing. I resonate with the Psalmist in Psalm 73:25 when he says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” And in the words of Elisabeth Elliot:
“Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.”
Another way that the Lord is working in our hearts during the sorrow is that he is growing our faith. The Bible is just true. When it talks about death, it calls it dishonorable. I can’t think of anything more dishonorable than the death process. And yet, God says that this same body that could no longer eat, drink, or talk will be raised in power. “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (1 Cor 15: 42-43). I don’t believe that being a Christian makes death less awful. I believe being a Christian makes it so that the awful nature dying is simply forgotten when the dead in Christ are raised to be radiant, strong, and beautiful at the resurrection. Paul, at the end of his discussion on the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15, concludes not with a statement to take heart, but instead concludes his treatise with a call to action:
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. “
And so, after I go to be with my family for a few weeks in California, I will return home to Cameroon to develop more literacy primers and start training national Bible translators. May the Lord bless my work here and in doing so one day fill up my mom’s lap with little Cameroonian children who love Jesus.