Category Archives: battling cancer

Power Napping

– By Joe Fornear

I hear it often when talking with people fighting cancer. “I don’t know how people do this without the Lord.” Indeed. In actuality, nothing in life was intended by our Maker to be “do-it-yourself.” We were designed for deep, constant connection with Him. So as you work your plans to fight cancer or navigate any crisis, are you taking full advantage of a relationship with Him? (clisleep - 9-25-13ck here on starting a relationship with Him).

Wise King Solomon knew a little about developing and carrying out a plan. He built one of history’s most successful and prosperous kingdoms. Yet in Psalm 127, we sense his frustration about his journeys into independent living.

Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” – Psalm 127:1-2

Solomon advises us to look to the Lord in three of the most vulnerable aspects of our lives – building our household, guarding our lives, and finding provision. Well, he has my attention! When I’m in a jam, my first inclination is to double down on self-effort, thinking I’m doubling my chances of success as well.

What about you as a patient or caretaker? Do you lay awake all night plotting your next step if the current treatment plan doesn’t pan out? Do you scour the internet at all hours to find the latest new trial? Are you constantly and frantically spinning over your financial situation? Solomon has a word of advice for us – relax!

Now, Solomon is not recommending we be lazy or irresponsible, and no one is suggesting your situation is not incredibly challenging. Still, we’re so limited and powerless over so many things. And there is much freedom in admitting our limits. Then, we can be encouraged, because there is One who “gives to His beloved even in his sleep!” Talk about a power nap!

So don’t wear yourself out or drive yourself crazy, “For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” -Isaiah 41:13

Lord, help us relax in Your constant help, protection and provision.

Does God Ever Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

– By Joe Fornear

I hear it often, “God never gives us more than we can handle,” but is it true? The answer may surprise you.chain with life preserver as a link

I just celebrated my ten-year-anniversary of being cancer-free. Praise the Lord for that! Today, my Stage IV “terminal” battle seems so far away, yet I cannot shake the overwhelming sense of powerlessness that often enveloped me in those days.

Paul shared this feeling of powerlessness, but he discovered the perfect mindset to overcome as well:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;  indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

God allowed Paul, and He allows us, to be in way over our heads, so we might find new levels of dependence on Him. Only then will His power and life be released in and through us. When His power is displayed in this way, we are transformed. As a result, we know Him better, and others can find Him through us – despite our weakened state. As God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you; My power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8). Paul responded back, “I therefore rejoice in my weaknesses for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So yes, God does give us more than we can handle, but only so we can handle much more eternally significant matters – through Him!

  • So don’t be surprised at the intensity of your battle – He’s strengthening your faith in Him for eternal purposes!
  • So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t handle things – you’re not supposed to in your own strength!
  • So don’t pretend to be strong and in control when you’re not; embrace your weakness!

Father, help us really “get” how and why You work Your power into our lives.

Breaking Well

– By Joe Fornear

The storyline of one TV show is not so different from that of hundreds of people who are diagnosed daily. A 50-year-old father and husband is informed his cancer is Breaking Well - 7-31-13inoperable, so he launches a plan to secure his family’s financial future. What is unusual – this high school chemistry teacher uses his expertise to cook and sell a very potent brand of methamphetamine. To preserve and expand his growing nest egg, he plunges deeper into violence, and gradually embraces a drug kingpin’s lifestyle. Thus, the name of the show, Breaking Bad.

Fighting cancer has a way of breaking people. The battle changes us, leaving us above all things – different. The only question is – which direction will we break?

  • Will we allow faith or fear to reign over our lives?
  • Will we allow pain to drive us to the Lord or to drift us away from Him?
  • Will we treat people better or end up bitter?
  • Are we open to leverage our experience to help others or will we leave the battlefield asap?

In his considerable sufferings, which included stonings, beatings and physical illness (Galatians 4:13), Paul the apostle learned to break well.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Paul saw past the tyranny of the short-term demands of his pressing needs; excruciating pain; and the deliberate cruelty of others. He saw unseen but lasting realities of a loving God who has our backs; an incredible glory to be revealed; and an unfaltering hope that ultimately the entire universe will break well. In the meantime, we can trust Him in the confusion of our battles, and we too can break well.

Father, our battles are fierce, so we need Your grace and strength to respond well – we thank You for being here for us.

Hug a Caretaker Today

The Single Most Destructive Attitude We Can Have – Part 3 – Resenting Caretaking

– By Joe Fornear

The type of resentment which might be most difficult to admit is resenting caretaking. Let’s face it, the futility and helplessness of simply observing someone facing a major crisis can be overwhelming. But frustration is compounded when a caretaker invests massive amounts of time, finances, energy and emotion.Dealing w Feelings

Job’s wife was not the first or last caretaker to crack under the strain. In hopes of ending the string of tragedies visited upon her family, she snapped at her sick husband: “Do you still hold to your integrity, curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Clearly, bitterness had crept in — she even resents the fact that he was coping well!

I can’t blame Mrs. Job though. Caretakers often journey through suffering under a different set of rules than patients. Consider three contrasts:

  • Patients have no problem “making it all about me,” while caretakers feel guilty even considering their feelings, so they usually just suppress them.
  • Patients loudly proclaim that they “want their life back,” as I did during my battle, and most onlookers totally understand. Yet such statements from a caretaker will usually be considered self-centered.
  • Common courtesy is to ask people how they are doing, but if you’re a caretaker, you will first be asked about the patient. Your well-being is either an afterthought or overlooked altogether.

So how does a caretaker handle an impossible load? The answer must be to tap into the supernatural. Human love has its limits. Divine love does not. He wants to give us His love to flow through us to others. Just ask and keep asking — moment by moment.

To help unravel the feelings and frustrations of caretaking, we offer a free new resource written by a caretaker for caretakers, patients and really everyone with feelings. My wife, Terri, recently published a book called Dealing with Feelings, A Journal of God’s Promises. This book will help you separate the lies from the truth about God. Lies can creep in during hard times. It is a tool to get to the root of your emotions to resolve them Biblically. As Jesus said in John 8:32 & 36, “The truth will set you free… and if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

So send us your address and we’ll send you Dealing With Feelings for free. If you insist on paying something, just make a donation to Stronghold Ministry. And hug a caretaker today!

Father, Your Son endured the ultimate suffering for our sin, and You watched – You understand this pain. Give us Your supernatural enablement to watch and graciously help when our loved ones suffer.

Don’t Release the Kraken… on Yourself!

The Single Most Destructive Attitude We Can Have – Part 2 – Resenting People

– By Joe Fornear

It’s true – “To err is human,” and to be wounded by humans is equally unavoidable. I’ve never met a forgiving - 5-20-2013cancer patient who hasn’t endured a thoughtless comment, gross incompetence, or the neglect of friend or family. It’s easy to develop resentment, especially when you’ve never been more reliant on others’ support. So how do you handle the emotional scars of your battle?

Consider Job’s situation. I wonder which aspect of his living nightmare was most painful. Was it losing all ten of his children, his livestock and his servants in a single day? Was it the tormenting boils that covered his skin from head to toe? Or was it the counsel of “friends,” who insisted the calamities were God’s payback for his sin?

Interestingly, before God restores Job’s health, family and fortunes, He asks him to pray for the well-being of his friends, releasing them from the scars they inflicted. After all, the Lord did not want Job’s nightmare to continue. Whether real or imagined, revenge only breeds more pain. So don’t release the Kraken… on yourself! As the Lord clearly warns:

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. – Ephesians 4:26

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. – Hebrews 12:15

So how do we get free of resentment? Keep in mind the second half of the old adage, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” As with all matters of righteousness, we are powerless to produce forgiveness. Yet at our invitation, the Lord can extend His grace in us and through us toward others. So turn to Him for the power to forgive.

Next time we’ll discuss the resentments that can spring up while taking care of others. For more on how to forgive – check out my Bible study on Forgiveness.

Father, grant us the grace to forgive others, just as You have forgiven us in Christ.

Letting Go

I remember the fall, watching the tree in my backyard drop its leaves.

I love the lessons of that time of year.tree by the seasons

I love nature doing what is natural.

I love watching winter do its job.

I don’t love this same “act” in my own life.

This act of letting go… of things I love.

The season of winter.

I’m not always sure why I have to do that.

It’s the season which magnifies how really out of control I am.

The Lord adds His quiet voice to this process of letting go – He has taken the fear out of it for me.

He adds, “Let go to Me, Terri.”

That thing I’m clinging to… isn’t really gone, it’s put into the hands of the One Who gives His life to it

in a way that keeps it safe from my worship and control.

My control that doesn’t have the ability to let it grow bigger than my own imaginations.

He then takes it and His fingerprints are all over it

He rewards what only faith can create – a smile on His face and my release,

which sets me free to see His reality in my little world.

Spring is in blossom!!

Father in heaven, as much as I can, I let go of the people, things, and ideas that I think I can manage better than You. Thank You for sending Jesus to love me and help me let go to Your abundant love.

Give Your Burdens the Axe

If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.
– Ecclesiastes 10:10
axe - iStock_000002481667-cropped

As a favored son of King David, Solomon probably didn’t spend much time chopping wood. Yet as the wisest man who ever lived, he certainly grasped the concept of working smarter not harder. The sharper one’s axe, the more effective each swing will be. In my younger years, as a carpenter and remodeling contractor, I bulled my way through construction projects. Yet as the physical wear and tear increased, I grew to appreciate the wisdom of using sharpened  tools. At the end of the day, I accomplished more and had energy to spare.

What is true with cutting firewood and building houses is true of fighting cancer or handling any trial in life. At first during my own cancer battle, I tried to gut it out, blasting through pain and ignoring my body’s signals to ease up. The result was infections, exasperated doctors who were only trying to help me, and unnecessary setbacks in my treatment plan.

The Lord’s wisdom eventually broke through to me. Anger, denial and control had been dulling my coping skills, forcing me to fight so much harder. As my battle and the stakes intensified, the sharp tools of surrender and patience allowed me to cope so much better. Relying on my own human strength was not working out so well, so learning to draw on His supernatural strength became a necessity.
To sharpen your coping skills, we recommend our book, In His Grip, Meditations with the Great Physician.

Lord, help us be wise about how we fight; give us Your supernatural skills to cope with our battles.

Lighten Your Load in 2013

I’ve got a bad habit that I’d like to break in 2013. When I return home from grocery shopping or errands, I try to carry too many items fromiStock_000000478647 - woman multi-tasking the car to the house. I’ll stack things, squeeze them under arms, and grab as many grocery bag handles as possible – just to save a minute or two.

This habit has proven costly. Recently my cell phone squirted out of a pile, flew through the air and landed squarely on the pavement. The screen was hopelessly shattered. I need to let the lesson sink in – there are limits to how many items one can carry.

What is true for physical limits “carries” over to spiritual and emotional limits. We can only haul so many burdens before control squirts out of our hands. Nerves shatter. Tempers are lost. We stumble under the weight.

As usual, the solution is simple, yet profound. There is a loving, very capable God Who can carry ALL of our burdens.

“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”  – 1 Peter 5:7

Our imaginations, insecurities, and internal and external voices may seek exceptions. I struggled with eliminating exceptions during my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma. Yet there is no circumstance the Lord cannot handle. It truly is easier than we think – when we let Him carry the load.

Lord, give us eyes to see how much bigger You are than our problems.

Did Jesus Cry on Christmas?

“The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”
– Away in a Manger

How soothing and serene. What would Christmas be like without the beautiful song, Away
Xmas-hands-baby-feet-heart-edit.jpg in a Manger? Yet the lyrics include an interesting take on Jesus’ emotions and tears. The songwriter seems to suggest that because He was the little Lord Jesus that He did not cry when startled by the cows. I’m going out on a limb here to say that Jesus probably cried as an infant. He certainly shed real tears in His adult life, so why would crying as a baby be a problem?

Jesus wept.John 11:35

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.
Hebrews 5:7

I point this out because crying is sometimes equated with being weak or negative. This is probably even more true at this time of year when there is pressure to be merry and happy. Yet a good cry can be cleansing to the soul. A release of built-up and harmful emotions can be a positive step toward serenity.

Now I realize that some of you are probably wondering how to stop crying. I struggled with excessive tears and self-pity during my cancer battle. Keep in mind the holidays are notorious for drawing out some blues in many of us. All I can suggest is to not focus on trying to make ourselves happy. Focus on the One Who not only shed tears for us, but shed His blood for us as well. He is always “large and in charge.”  I believe Jesus cried on Christmas and He is not judging our tears.

Lord, help us release our emotion to You as we know You hear the cries of our hearts.

The Right Touch

All the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all – Luke 6:19.  And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them – Mark 10:13.

During His life-transforming days on earth, Jesus’ touch came in at least two different forms. I experienced both during my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma.

The first type of touch is His miraculous healing of physical sickness. All who know Him as Savior will eventually receive this ultimate healing touch of their physical bodies in eternity. In regards to earthly healing, I don’t pretend to know why Jesus grants it to some and not to all.

Yet one thing is clear from Luke 6:19 (see above) – touching Him was crucial in receiving His healing. Perhaps there were some in those crowds who were unwilling to reach out to Him. James said that some continued to make this mistake after Jesus departed, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). So like the crowds in Jesus’ day, be passionate to reach out for His healing touch.

The second type of touch was for His blessing. In Mark 10:13 (see above), parents brought their children to Jesus to be loved on and anointed for their life’s journeys. This type of touch is available to all, no matter what challenges we face. Keep in mind that it is important how we approach Him. He deals with us on the basis of His grace, not because we deserve it. This prevents us from feeling entitled to His touch, or on the opposite extreme, from feeling totally unworthy of His touch.

His touch is a game-changer. He grants supernatural power, strength and endurance enabling us to overcome impossible circumstances. So whatever your need today, press in for your special touch.

Lord, we reach out to You now for Your healing, supernatural touch.

Skip the Guilt Trip

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.Genesis 45:4-5

One of the heaviest loads to carry on our journeys is blame. Joseph was first thrown in a pit and then sold into slavery by his ten brothers! One might understand if he struggled with bitterness and blamed his brothers for the bad turns in his life.

But surprisingly, Joseph found the freedom of forgiveness which enabled him to thrive in “the land of his affliction.” He saw the mighty hand of God trumping his brother’s evil schemes to bring about the ultimate good of all.

Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. -Genesis 45:4-5

Joseph wanted his brothers to travel lightly as well. When he sent them back to Canaan to retrieve their father Israel, he insisted the trip be blame-free.

So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the journey.” -Genesis 45:24

So as we journey with God through suffering, we lighten our load when we avoid blaming ourselves or others. Jesus Christ carried the load of guilt to the cross, taking blame and punishment on Himself – once for all time! “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). God intended blame to die at Calvary, so let’s allow our guilt trips to stop at the cross too.

Lord, teach us how to see Your mighty hand at work and be free of the blame game.

The Key to Handling Setbacks

Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah. Then I said, “It is my grief, (when my negative thoughts take over) that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. – Psalm 77:7-14 (parenthesis added)

“Dear God: What have you done for me lately?” Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever wavered and wondered if God had changed and wasn’t so good after all? If so, you’re in good company.

Asaph was a fellow musician and Psalm writer who lived and suffered alongside King David. There were times when he and David struggled with God’s apparent abandonment. Even Jesus wondered about God’s aloofness and cried out to His Father on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”

In 2003 during my intense battle with Stage IV cancer, there were times I felt abandoned by God to my pain and doubts. But successfully battling cancer requires a good long-term memory.

Asaph’s spirits lifted when he began to recount God’s past wonders on his and Israel’s behalf. He needed to view his current struggles in light of God’s history of compassion and deliverance. Then he could encourage himself that God was indeed up to something good… again.

The Lord often steps in just when circumstances seem most hopeless. Yet He always shows up in ways that are for our ultimate good or for the ultimate good of others.

So for starters let’s recall –

  • His numerous and undeserved blessings.
  • The goodness of many people surrounding us.
  • The material things He’s given.
  • HIS joy and peace which He freely gives.
  • The cross where He sacrificially died for us sinners!

Lord, fill us with reminders of Your awesome deeds and with gratitude for Your history of blessings.

Navigating A Perfect Storm

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10

Nothing rocks your boat like a cancer diagnosis or a life-threatening crisis. You find yourself in the midst of a perfect storm.

In the movie, The Perfect Storm, even when the front of the ship was being battered, the skipper played by George Clooney, kept the boat moving forward right into the teeth of the storm.

I think there is a lesson here for us in our navigation of life’s storms. We should face our storms head on. When we turn sideways or retreat, we are liable to get swamped by waves of burdens, worries and fears.

How do we face our storms head on?

1)   Don’t suppress fears and doubts.
If we have fears and doubts, we should acknowledge them and deal with them. Suppressing doesn’t really work anyway, does it? We can push thoughts down into our subconscious, but there they remain unresolved.

 2)   Find and grab onto a promise of God.
There is not one human struggle that is not addressed by a promise of God in the Bible. First and foremost, He promises His presence and His strength no matter what storms we face:

 Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

3)   Don’t mistake being positive with being strong.
Being positive can be a form of denial when we pretend we are strong when we are not. It is okay to be weak! Jesus said, “You can do nothing apart from Me” (John 15:5). And Paul added, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Don’t journey out into the deep alone. The strength necessary to fight a life-threatening crisis comes from God.

4)   Share with someone who can support you.
During my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma, I found great relief when I accepted my own limitations. From time to time I would let down my guard and let people help me. I wish I had been more open with others – it would have been an easier journey.

Lord, teach us how to boldly face and navigate the crises in our lives – with You.

Storm-Proofing Secret

“Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.”   –Matthew 8:26.

And He (Jesus) said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” -Mark 14:29-31

When we wake up each day, we don’t know if the Lord will calm the stormy seas in our lives, or somehow enable us to  walk above it all.

One thing we know – He’ll be there – either providing a miraculous removal or giving us supernatural “weathering” abilities.

In one passage above, Jesus was sleeping during a storm and in the other Peter began to sink after walking on the water. In both cases, there was needless anxiety and fear on the part of His followers. Though we may realize how truly out of control we are, we must remember – He never is.

Peter’s mistake was he focused on the wind and waves and took his eyes off of Jesus. The secret is to keep our eyes fixed on Him! Lock on Him, like a guided missile, refusing to be detoured by any doubt.

Lord, You’re our Rock and our Stronghold whether You deliver us or simply enable us to overcome. Grant us “big faith” to trust You either way.

A Builder’s Toughest Customer

“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” -Isaiah 66:1-2

Three thousand years ago, God revealed His furniture couldn’t fit in any house we might build Him. His favorite chair, His throne, was and is as large as heaven. Earth, we are told, is but a footstool to prop up His legs – not that He’s ever weary.

At the time, no one could truly appreciate the sheer scale of His claim. Now with the aide of super-powerful telescopes, astronomers estimate His throne is decorated with some three thousand million billion stars, that’s 3,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars – all uniquely named by Him (Isaiah 40:25–26).

With such jaw-dropping immensity and powers, one might wonder if the Lord is approachable. Yet He provides a way. He reveals His fondness for those who are awed and humbled by Him and His Words. Our best path is to not wedge Him into our little dream house with the white picket fence on Easy Street, but to bow before Him and listen to His Words.

Perhaps you have tendencies like me and like Peter, who constantly commanded the Son of God on the best way to proceed. During my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma, I thought God was wasting precious time with seemingly pointless distractions and setbacks. I needed to grow in yielding my “wisdom” to His, bowing before Him to seek His Words and comfort.

Perhaps with all of His ability and goodness, the house He has in mind is far better than any I could ever conceive! After all, who would have thought anyone could make such a large chair?

Lord, please grant us the humility to consider Your judgment to be as awesome as Your creation.