Being a nature lover, I stood in my garden enjoying the tranquil beauty all around me; the rich foliage of brightly colored flowers and the many varieties of roses in full bloom. It seemed as if a divine hand had painted each petal with love and precision.
I heard the birds of different hues, shapes, and sizes flitting from tree to tree, chirping merrily. I gazed upon the vast expanse of the clear blue sky dotted with clouds here and there. Truly our Creator had spared no effort in creating such magnificent beauty and splendor.
A few days later any peace I had known was shattered, and my world came crashing down. Over the past four months I had experienced severe heartburn and difficulty swallowing, and had lost 30 pounds. I heard the doctor say that my symptoms were caused by stage 3 esophageal cancer. In shock, I calmly accepted my fate; my life was in God’s hand.
My tumor was so large that it obstructed food from getting to my stomach. Surgery would involve removing one third of the esophagus, two thirds of the stomach, and any affected lymph nodes.
The plan seemed simple: three cycles of chemotherapy, followed by surgery, then three more cycles of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy was aggressive. The side effects left me weak and helpless. They robbed me of my appetite, left painful sores in my mouth, caused me to lose my hair, and left me nauseous and vomiting, and with blurry vision. I couldn’t pray or remember a single Bible text. I felt as if the devil were shaking my wasted body like a rag doll; but I would not let him shake my faith in Jesus.
I went in for surgery knowing that my family and the entire church were praying for me. Just before the anesthetic took effect I prayed, “Lord, if I make it through this, it will be a miracle. If not, Lord, remember me when You come in the clouds of glory. Please take care of my family.”
The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled to a recovery unit. The hands of the Great Physician were on me, and the surgery was a success. Every test, X-ray, and vital-sign reading came back normal. Nine days after surgery I was discharged and eagerly anticipated being home with my family.
A few weeks later I started my second round of chemotherapy. The hair on my eyebrows and eyelashes fell off; my once-full beard became patches of whiskers; my eyes were sunken and my cheeks hollow. I was a walking skeleton. I was told to eat, but once again my mouth developed sores, and I couldn’t eat or drink even if I wanted to. I didn’t have the energy even to pick up a spoon. I felt myself wasting away.
My wife tirelessly did everything she could to keep me comfortable, but I felt as if I were dying a slow, painful death. My family helped me to sit outside to get some sun and fresh air. I tried to connect with God through nature by looking at all the beautiful flowers, but my mind was incapable of grasping much of reality. The gulf between God and me seemed to widen. I felt terrible isolation.
My faith was tested to its limit, but the Lord delivered me.
My body felt shattered and wasted. My tortured mind screamed for release. At that time even death would have seemed welcome. My confused mind tried to find answers in the chain of events that led to my predicament. Through my pain and suffering I tried to seek the Lord, but heaven seemed silent. Throughout my life, through many trials, I always felt God’s hand guiding and protecting me, but now my heart was breaking. My God, whom I loved and trusted, seemed to have forsaken me. Day after day, night after night, I felt myself falling into an abyss. My cry of anguish was “Where are You, Lord?”
Just when everything seemed lost, I got down on wobbly knees and with tears streaming down my face, managed to say just three words: “Jesus, help me.”
A strange feeling of peace came over me. The fog lifted, my mind was clearer, and as the days passed my vision improved. I was able to pray and read from God’s Holy Word. The icy-cold fingers of death seemed to let go. By the grace of God, I had cheated death.
My faith was tested to its limit, but the Lord delivered me. Throughout this storm of life my faith was tossed like a boat in rough seas, but my anchor was grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.
After my terrible ordeal I never again questioned my heavenly Father, for I knew what He would say, if asked, “Lord, where were You when I needed you most?”
He would gently reply: “When you felt as though heaven was silent, that was when I was closest to you.”
I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but I did not walk alone. Jesus held my hand. He promised: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). I praise God for snatching me from the jaws of death, for giving me a new lease on life, and for restoring me to my wonderful family.
I shoveled snow last winter. I’m now ready to mow the lawn and tend my rose garden. I walked my daughter down the aisle and rejoiced that God in His goodness decided to spare my life.
As long as God lends me breath I will praise Him and enjoy my second chance at life with my wife, our children, and our grandchildren. His grace is sufficient. With a grateful heart I offer my praise: “You are good, Lord. You are kind and merciful. All praise, glory, and honor belong to You, O Lord.”
Ned Naggyah wrote this when he lived in Pointe Claire, Quebec, Canada. Unfortunately, cancer claimed his life a few years after this was written.