Cancer is never fair, but it seems especially cruel when it strikes a child. Two-year-old David was taken by his mother Deborah to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where they met with Dr. John Truman, a specialist in treating children with cancer and various blood diseases. Dr. Truman’s leukemia prognosis was devastating: “David has a 50-50 chance of survival.”
Countless clinic visits followed, filled with blood tests, scans, shots, and intravenous drugs. Through it all, David never cried in the waiting room or on the way to the doctor’s office. Although his new friends at the clinic needed to stick him with needles and administer painful treatments, David hustled in ahead of his mother with a smile, excited by the celebrity-level welcome he always received from the nursing staff.
When he was three, David endured a spinal tap—an excruciating procedure at any age. It was explained to him that because he was sick, Dr. Truman had to help him get better. “If it hurts, remember it’s because he loves you,” his mom told David. The procedure was horrendous. It took three nurses to hold David still while he yelled and sobbed and struggled. When it was almost over, the tiny boy, soaked in sweat and tears, looked up at the doctor and gasped, “Thank you, Dr. Tooman, for my hurting.”
It takes the faith of a child and the courage of a lion to face trials. Whether they come by our own hand or circumstances allowed by God beyond our control, it’s easy to flinch at the pain and rarely turn around and say, “Thank you, Lord, for allowing me pain.” However, the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter both said it is by these trials we find our true character (Rom. 4, James 1). Our trust in God is tested when we experience the pressure of stress, anxiety, and chaos. James 1:3 reminds us, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (NLT).
You are likely facing a trial now that you’d rather avoid. If you are not currently facing a trial, I am sure you have faced one in the past or you will face one in the future. Life is full of circumstances where our stamina is tested and our faith is stretched. It’s in these trials when it’s human nature to bury ourselves in anxiety, worry, and depression, wondering how and if we will ever get through what we’re facing.
It can feel like God is either nowhere to be found or standing over us like a schoolteacher waiting to see if we will make it through the test. It can be confusing as to why we feel uneasy in our soul if God is a God of peace, grace, and love.
There is no shortage of situations in this world that threaten to overwhelm us. Sometimes people are caught up in anxiety over their circumstances: deadlines, marital problems, financial difficulties, employment (or often lack thereof), responsibilities, the unknown, failure, making mistakes, abusive relationships, and guilt and shame for what was said or done long ago.
Others worry over plans and desires: social status, measuring up, doing something meaningful or ambitious, and receiving praise or notoriety. Still others are lost in a season of depression: feelings of despondency, dread, or deep pain caused by loss, a broken promise, or a toxic relationship.
It begs the question: “God, is this a test?” This is a natural question of those of us who are trying to figure out why God would allow us to feel anxiety, worry, or depression.
I hate tests. I always have. In high school, I was so terrified of tests that I arranged a time to take them apart from the rest of the class. Often, I would be issued the test and then go to the principal’s office to take it. I would sit by myself without anyone there to make me tense—or conversely, so I would not distract others with my bouncing leg or tapping pencil. I still disdain tests to this day and I am not just talking about fill-in-the-bubble or essay exam sort of tests. I don’t like it when I feel like I’m being evaluated.
Yet, it only makes sense that God can test us. There is no reason why our Creator can’t have the right to look into my mind, which He created, or my heart, which He also created, and perceive the angst inside of me. I don’t have to be afraid of God testing my heart; rather, I can welcome the chance to be intimately known by Him.