Three years ago today

Colleen Elisabeth Chao is an editor and author. She enjoys dark-dark chocolate, side-splitting laughter, and half-read books piled bedside. She makes her home near Boise, Idaho, with her husband Eddie, their son Jeremy, and Willow the dog. 




Three years ago today

Three years ago today

Three years ago today

Three years ago today, my phone rang with terrible news. My doctor’s office called to inform me they finally had the results of my three-and-a-half months of medical testing. When they wouldn’t disclose the results over the phone, I knew exactly what they were. 

This past week I revisited my journals surrounding that phone call and the diagnosis that followed several hours later. In Scripture, God often calls his people to remember where they have come from and how good he has been to them. And so, today I’m inviting you to look with me over my shoulder and marvel at God’s breathtaking kindness. Here is how he loved on me in the days just before and after my cancer diagnosis……

Friday, November 3, 2017

Good morning, Abba. This morning I’m thankful for a better night’s sleep—and so much peace from yesterday afternoon till about an hour ago. That was a beautiful gift from You, and I thank You for it. 

Dear child of Mine, I was so happy to give you that sleep and peace. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through fire you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 

I see you right now: your head tight and pounding, your neck and shoulders scrunched up, your breathing shallow. This wait has been grueling, and while I’ve protected you with My peace and joy from much of its toll, I’ve still made you walk through an enormously long and complicated waiting process. I know it’s been anguishing, especially as it all comes to a head this week. 

I can hear you too, beloved: wondering how you could move from this level of exhaustion (these past three months of a new demanding job have been intense) and weariness into a cancer diagnosis. I hear your anxious thoughts, “What will we do financially with such awful insurance?” and “How can I juggle all that I’m already responsible for and then add cancer treatment?” 

I hear those thoughts, dear Colleen, and I care about them. I care to change your thoughts from anxiety to peace and trust and surrender and hope and joy. 

I also know how big this is for you. You’re feeling the scope and enormity of these past ten years of chronic illness and insomnia and wondering how I could drop you in the middle of something so potentially awful. Right when you were feeling well for the first time in a decade. I know you are tasting the freedom and joy of dynamic community and you finally have bandwidth for all these incredible relationships, and you feel like this could be isolating again, overwhelming, 100 steps backward. I know this feels insurmountable to you, even when you are so willing to trust Me and surrender to My will.

I am glad to be with you and treat your weakness tenderly. I am beside you at this very moment. Above you, overshadowing you with My wings. I am behind and before you, and NOTHING can touch you apart from My good and kind and loving will. 

I can do something about this, dear heart. I have everything you need to wait through another day as you wonder, “Cancer or not?”

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thank You, Abba, for giving me a supernatural anticipation of Your goodness, no matter what my biopsy results. It was almost a wave of excitement yesterday, the culmination of long waiting and arduous weeks of medical fiascos, to know with such certainty that “this lump is a gift” (as You told me many weeks ago). I believe that more than ever, and now with pending results—any moment receiving a phone call—I know You are going to unfold goodness to me as I have yet not known.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

“This lump is a gift,” You said a few months ago. And then yesterday we finally heard the diagnosis: ductal carcinoma, invasive. Cancer.

And You stretched out Your hands with that gift, and said again, “I am with you. Don’t fear. I have redeemed you and called you by name—you are Mine. As you pass through these waters, I am with you, and through these rivers, I will not let them overwhelm you. As you walk through this fire, it will not burn you; the flame won’t consume you.”

And Jeremy, in all his tender-heartedness and teary eyes last night, asked Eddie to read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. And after Eddie finished, Jeremy said, “There are four of us in our family.” 

Four in the furnace. Four in this family. 

This morning he said, “Sorry that you’re having cancer.” And I smiled and thanked him and told him I’m not fearful because You’re with me. He said, “And He’s teaching me in this too. What you told me last night—to strengthen me.” Lord, I know You will not waste this in his life. 

And as I begin to read text after text from people who love me and who care—I know You’re not wasting this in anyone’s life. You use suffering so wisely. So tenderly. So powerfully. 

Thank You for the two skies You painted for me yesterday: the first on my way to meet Eddie to drive to the doctor’s office—those dark, angry, jagged clouds in the shape of arms and hands (almost angels wings) reaching down from heaven, out of a beautiful blue, puffy-clouded sky. And then the second sky on our way home after the news: it was picture-perfect, like pink, foamy waves on fire. One sky said, “I know what this is for you. I am angry at sin and the toll it has taken on you. And I don’t willingly afflict you with this. I am distressed in your distress.” And the other sky said, “I am making all things beautiful. I will make a thousand beautiful things out of this (even more than a thousand), and I am with you. And I will be your peace.”

November 13, 2017

My beloved daughter, dear heart, Colleen—I am weeping with you. I know you were expecting Me to say something else, but I am distressed with you in your distress. I am not unfeeling, but just as I wept over Lazarus’ death and his sisters’ anguish, so I weep with you and feel with you and am WITH you. 

I do not willingly afflict you, grieve you, but I wield this suffering out of the depths of My love for you and for those your life touches. I have EVERYTHING you need for this. I will not rob or cheat you, but will out-give everything you give, and you will look back and say, “I would not have missed that season of suffering for the world.” 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And three years later, still in the midst of ongoing health complications and medical testing—I’m looking back and saying just that. These have been grueling but glorious years. I’m so grateful God doesn’t let us walk AROUND the hard stuff but walks with us THROUGH it. 

In this whitewater year of 2020, when the unrelenting rapids tempt us to harden our hearts or fret or despair, may we be quick to remember God’s immeasurable goodness and to say, “Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me” (Psalm 66:16). 

How has God been kind to you in the past—or even just recently? Consider sharing his kindness to you with a friend or family member today.