Tag Archives: strength

Slip-Proof Grip


-Joe Fornear

When Someone has a really strong grip on you, YOUR grip strength matters little! This picture and the verses below paint a powerful truth about Jesus’ and the Father’s hearts toward us. Jesus said both He and The Father have us in their hands. Perhaps they see us walking hand in hand with them. They’re delighted to swing us between them. They won’t let go; nor can anyone knock us out of their hands. Safe. Secure. Totally cherished.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. – John 10:27-30

We can use our imaginations to play out all manner of negative possibilities. I struggled with this during my Stage IV battle with metastatic melanoma cancer. Yet, we can also use our imaginations to focus on positive realities! This is not “mind-over-matter.” This is our mind yielding to factual realities. Go for it, in your mind’s eye, see yourself swinging between the huge and loving hands of Jesus and Your Father. They’ve got a good hold on you, no matter what you feel, and even when you’re weary or discouraged. Slip-proof!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. – Philippians 4:8  

Think about it!

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Five Signs Your Cancer Struggles Are Normal

My response to Pauline F.’s question was a no-brainer. During the 12 years since my cancer battle, name tag - normal - 7-17-15and seven years with Stronghold Ministry helping people fight cancer, it’s the question I’m asked most frequently. I too had the question during my Stage IV melanoma battle. So with Pauline’s encouragement and permission, I share her recent message and my thoughts.

I find that my emotions are up and down. I know that God is in this journey which He has me on, and I’m not alone. I know I’m in His will but I feel unprepared for this cancer journey. I just feel like I’m struggling, is this normal?

Yes, yes, to struggle is so very normal! Frankly, I think the mystique of the courageous, valiant cancer warrior does more harm than good. So I want to pull back the curtain on normalcy and describe what I’ve seen. Because if we don’t assess the hurdles correctly, we’re more likely to trip over them!

Here are five signs that your cancer struggles are normal:
1) It’s normal to be shaken and fearful when you have a life-threatening disease.
When you’re fighting cancer you hear it a lot – “Don’t worry, you’re going to beat this.” But I used to think, “I can’t even beat a common cold, so how am I going to beat cancer?” During my years as a carpenter, I fancied myself so brave and fearless, walking the tops of wobbly 3 ½” walls. So during the initial stages of my battle, I wasn’t too worried about cancer. Yet as the cancer spread and an oncologist slapped a one week expiration sticker on me, my self-confidence evaporated quickly. It’s really hard to know how you’ll respond until you’re totally out of control. Getting a death sentence is scary.

2) It’s normal to be angry when treatments aren’t working and human errors set you back.
I have no study to back this up, but I’ll bet the normal person gets angry at some business’ customer service at least once per week! The medical treatment business is no different as it’s run by humans like every other business. When you’re spending thousands on highly recommended but unsuccessful treatments; sitting for hours in doctor’s waiting rooms; or getting stuck ten times because a nurse can’t find a good vein – be assured, anger is a normal reaction.

3) It’s normal to be depressed that you’re losing such large chunks of your life to fighting cancer.
Fighting cancer can take over your life in a hurry and there’s often little you can do about it. You miss out on fun life events we often take for granted, like weddings, cookouts, graduation parties, school events and hobbies. In their place is pain, harsh side effects, and prolonged recovery times from surgeries. So for most, it’s no surprise that depression grows along with the list of difficulties. It’s normal to be screaming inside, “I want my life back!”


Joe Fornear’s book on his cancer battle, My Stronghold, is in our gift basket which is free to cancer patients – click here on the picture above to request one.

4) It’s normal to be disappointed in yourself when you’re not coping very well.
This may have been my greatest struggle. Deep down, I felt I should have been above normal. After all, I was not only a tough guy from Pittsburgh, but one who had been a crisis counselor for years as a pastor and Bible teacher. I think most people are like that – for one reason or another we believe we should be above normal, or at least not abnormal.

5) It’s normal to wonder why you have to go through all of the pain and hardship.
On occasion I hear, “So-and-so never questioned why they were going through this battle.” That’s not normal. Even if a person never voices the question, it doesn’t mean they’re not internally questioning. Whenever someone tells me, “I never ask – why me,” I’m thinking why bring it up if you’re not wondering about it? Fact is, they probably have wondered about the question, it’s just that they’ve arrived at a peaceful resolution. So it’s quite normal to wonder why – even Jesus did.

Awareness that our struggles are normal does truly help. Still, fighting cancer is far beyond our strength to bear. Thankfully, the Lord makes struggles more bearable by granting us superhuman abilities and coping mechanisms. So let’s keep seeking Him for these gifts which He gives so generously. He helps a great deal, normally!

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.

Pathway to Glory – Suffering?

Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. -Genesis 21:1-2

Is the pathway to glory paved with suffering? Sometimes.

At least it was for three key couples in Biblical history – Abraham and Sarah, Rebekah and Isaac, and Jacob and Rachel. The Lord promised their descendants would be exceedingly numerous, yet all three couples struggled for years to have any children. Jacob and Rachel waited seven long years before they had Joseph, their first child together. Abraham and Sarah waited 26 years from the time of God’s promise of Isaac until his birth.

Still, despite the heartache and disillusionment of these patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith, the Lord not only delivered earthly sons, but His own only-begotten Son also came through their bloodlines. Glory came but it took some time, and glory was ushered in along paths of pain.

During my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma, I wondered how lying on my back in a hospital bed could possibly result in any good. As a pastor, I thought my time would be better spent preaching sermons and counseling people. Yet the Lord taught me so many lessons in my weakened state – lessons like this one on His pathways to glory, which I share now in blogs, books and speaking opportunities with Stronghold Ministry.

Maybe when God wants to accomplish something, He marks it with struggle so humans know their limits and give all glory to Him. Maybe He does more through our weaknesses than through our strengths.

Do you despise the trials in your life? Maybe you shouldn’t.

Lord, when You ask us to suffer, help us catch glimpses of the glory that will inevitably follow.

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.

Fear Is a Choice

Fear’s greatest deception may be that it carries an air of inevitability – as if fear is the only appropriate response to a very troubling circumstance. Yet the phrase, “Do not fear,” appears 57 times in the Bible. The Lord is not only encouraging us not to fear, but clearly indicating we don’t have to fear. Fear is, after all, a choice. Does the Lord make it too easy? Perhaps we just make it too hard.

The Bible and history provide a long list of those who scoffed at fear in the midst of the most daunting dilemmas. You can join this list. Still have some doubts? Honestly, I still struggle with fears and insecurities. I’ve been thinking recently about root beliefs that bring me freedom from fear. The Lord wants to be our Stronghold, not fear.

1) God is on your side.

The God and King of the universe adopts those who receive Jesus’ free gift of righteousness into His royal family. (more on how here). To make this possible, He gave us His very best – Jesus. All other needs are minor and He willingly meets those needs FOR FREE. Freedom from fear is one of the “all things” that He freely guarantees in Romans 8.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? – Romans 8:31b-32

 2) God guarantees victory over any fear.

Think about it – can anything be stronger or more powerful than God or His love? No possible way! So we can be totally victorious over fear in any situation – including sickness.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. – Romans 8:35 & 37

 Please note: the ability and power to overcome fear does not come from you – it comes from Him!

 3) God is not punishing you.

Sometimes we believe that we deserve something bad to happen to us. So the Lord will certainly not deliver us or even help us – we are on our own. This would certainly be cause to fear – if it were true. We must shake all guilt and shame through the work and shed blood of Christ on the cross. If you have trusted in Him and Him alone as your personal Savior, realize He has taken away all of your sins at the cross, even sins for which you’re struggling to forgive yourself.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18 

Don’t ask for freedom from fear. Based on these passages, you already have it! So just claim your freedom now. Just thank Him now for granting it to you freely!

For a related devotional – check out “Panic Is A Choice.”

Lord, we fear NOTHING with You on our side!

Advice from a Weak One Made Strong

 

This week I am posting parts of an interview with Kalisha Frazier of UV Skinz about my book and battle with cancer. UV Skinz makes clothing and other products that protect the skin from ultraviolet rays. The interview was “live” and posted on their Facebook wall. Kalisha asked some good questions.

Q. You have been down a long road – do you have any advice to those in the midst of battling cancer?

A. Joe:  I think my best advice is to embrace your weakness. God never intended for us to handle cancer alone. When I was in the midst of the roughest times during my fight, I tried so hard to be strong. The problem was, I had become so weary, I had no natural strength left to fight. I was frustrated with myself that I couldn’t rise above the pain and sadness. I kind of beat myself up, because I thought I should be stronger. It was OK for me to admit I was weak, even though I was a big, tough guy from Pittsburgh, the Steel City. One of my favorite Bible passages is 2 Corinthians 12:9 & 10, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Q. You mention that you developed a “spiteful awe of cancer” during this experience. Can you explain how it affected your outlook on beating your disease?

A. Joe:  When I began the surgeries and treatments, I wasn’t totally committed to the battle. Stage IV melanoma is a very, very serious disease, and it is unwise to fight it in a half-hearted way. Early on, I had a type of denial, that I was going to get through this very fast, and I didn’t need to “baby” myself. After my two surgeries on the lymph nodes under my arm, I kept pushing myself. I didn’t want to miss either of my two kid’s (Jesse, son, & Amy, daughter) high school basketball games, which complicated recovery. I was running around in the rain and cold and got a staph infection which carried over to the surgery to remove one third of my stomach. I really didn’t want to be in the battle, but to fight well, I needed to surrender to the fact that I needed to get my heart into the fight. Still, in the end, I don’t claim to have beaten the disease myself. In May of 2003, my doctor told me I had days to live. The melanoma had spread to both sides of my pancreas, lung, kidney, pelvis and several other sites. He had given up on me. Only God could have stepped into turn my case around. I look at it this way, Stage IV melanoma was way bigger than me. I have no problem admitting that it kicked my butt. But God is way bigger than any disease. If He decides to keep you around, you will stay. It took a miracle for me, and I am blessed to have received one.

Q. What were your feelings when you found out that you were one of the rare cases of melanoma that did not have a “primary” source of cancer and that it had spread directly to your lymph nodes?

A. Joe:  My huge disappointment was complicated by the fact that I was misdiagnosed by my family doctor for months. He has apologized for missing my diagnosis, and I forgive him, but he said twice during appointments about the growing lump under my arm, “Whatever it is; it isn’t cancer. It is too soft to be cancer.” Frankly, I would have preferred to catch the disease as a skin lesion in Stage 1, but God had other plans. I can see now why He allowed it. But, people should know, melanoma is very, very squirrelly. Always get checked once a year and always get second opinions on any lumps on your body.

Q. What changes have you made to your lifestyle to continue to boost your immune system?

A. Joe:  I eat a whole lot better. Less food overall; and a lot less sugar. I have worked less and slept more, as I have some serious workaholic tendencies. I also work on not getting worked up about life’s frustrations as stress wears down our immunities. I have learned to cast my anxiety and frustration on the Lord My Stronghold cover-largemore. That helps; He is my Stronghold in hard times and in every day life as well.

Q. How has cancer become a gift in your life?

A. Joe:  During my battle, when someone first mentioned to me that cancer was such a gift to her, I thought that was one of the dumbest things I’d ever heard. Now though I see how the Lord has used my cancer battle in many ways. A short list:

1) I have much more compassion for weakness and for suffering than ever. We launched Stronghold Ministry because of this. We help cancer patients through their battle.

2) I learned so much about the Lord and grew closer to Him. I now share this knowledge of Him with everyone I can, and certainly with cancer patients and caretakers.

3) I learned how fragile life is, and respect my own health more.

4) I have reconnected with old friends from college and high school. They were instrumental in encouraging me and inspiring me to hang on. I also reconnected so much deeper with my seven siblings and my mother as they were a huge support to me.

5) My wife, Terri, was such an angelic gift to me. We definitely have been changed by the whole experience, and the battle has helped our marriage. We appreciate each other more for sure.

Q. The day you found out you were cured…what was that moment like?

A. Joe:  At first I didn’t believe it. We had taken the PET scan images home after the test and
concluded the cancer had spread even more. We misread the scans obviously. Then when the radiologist’s report was read that I was NED (no evidence of disease), it was surreal. Eventually the news sunk in and we got very happy. My doctor was so cautious though, and said, “Now you have nine months to live.” But I proclaimed myself cured and told him all chemo would cease immediately. He talked me out of that, and I finished the remaining three rounds. I had several false alarms in the last seven and a half years where the doctors said the cancer has come back or probably come back. Five years is the official medical threshold when they consider you cured. It took about that much time to feel cured. But almost every day along the way, I thanked God for His kindness to me.

Kalisha: I invited Joe here to be apart of our LIVE FB interview so that you, the fans of UV Skinz, could hear the inspirational story of Joe Fornear. Raising awareness about skin cancer and finding the strength to fight it is all about the exchange of personal struggles and triumphs. The more we talk about it the more people will hear.

Strong Quiet Confidence

In quietness and confidence (trust) is your strength – Isaiah 30:15.

I’m adopting Isaiah 30:15 for a resolution this new year. I want to be quiet before the Lord and confidently trust in the Lord on a daily basis. This is the path to strength. Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, “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.” I can work really hard, but if I’m not working wisely, my strength will be sapped.

If I practice quietness and confidence consistently, I will not:

  • Fret over things I cannot control.
  • Fume when people block my goals. Do I really think puny people are “bigger” than God, or that anyone can block HIS goals?
  • Fixate on figuring out my problems. How’s that been working out for me?

If I practice quietness and confidence consistently, I will:

  • Be proactive only after quiet discernment. Compulsion acts for action’s sake. In a crisis or in everyday life, wisdom pauses before the Lord to consider the most beneficial action. “Acknowledge Him in all your ways…”
  • Be patient trusting answers will come when I need them. What if roadblocks are designed to trigger heartfelt talks with the Lord? Sometimes I bounce off roadblocks to go in another direction; sometimes I try to bust through roadblocks. Neither method is wise with a personal God. The reason quietness leads to strength is then I can “hear” Him, not in an audible way, but in the form of wisdom and guidance, which He promises in James 1:5-8. He cares about the details of my life.
  • Be persevering even in the face of great setbacks, because I know setbacks are part of His grand plan. Someday I will understand all of the twists and turns of my life, though it may be in heaven. Psalm 46:10 reads, “Be still (or cease striving) and know that I am God.” This verse continues, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” So I want to trust His overall plans. A huge part of His exaltation is His awesome goodness. He is, after all, good; and He is good all of the time.

Amen?