Chemotherapy during COVID is not just scary, it is lonely. I walked into the oncology office for my first infusion and I was flat-out terrified. I needed my husband beside me, but that was forbidden. The unknown of what was ahead loomed dark. Adding insult to injury, the waiting room was excessively decorated with the worst kind of Halloween tacky. The glittery sign on the door to the treatment area read “Come in, my pretties.” It felt confrontational, as if someone were enjoying my pain.
As I sat waiting for my name to be called, I closed my eyes and cried out to God for comfort. I needed to feel the Presence I knew in my heart and soul was there but at that moment felt distant. In my weakness, God answered quickly. The words to Psalm 23 ran through my head but stopped on “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Really, God? On that day, my table literally included Taxol and Herceptin, poisons for the cancer. God reassured me that indeed He personally had prepared that table and He was with me.
Days later, I spent some additional time in Psalm 23 with some study tools at hand. I learned that the Hebrew word used here for table was most often the king’s feast table or the table of sacrifice and worship in the tabernacle. Both were lavish and detailed in their preparation.
We surely know the Enemy, but what about these enemies? The Hebrew word is used of adversaries but also of narrow places, oppression, affliction, and vexation. Those words describe situations that involve actions against us but can also include our emotional reactions to those circumstances.
Consider the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These attributes of our sanctification also involve behavior as well as emotions. Suppose we think of our daily enemies as the opposite of these qualities that God has promised to be working into our sanctification?
Whether it is as big as cancer and the fear it brings or as small as the irritability that comes at the end of a long day, these are the tactics of the Enemy who will use what is at hand for his sinful purposes. Satan wants us to doubt the sovereignty and the goodness of God when faced with illness and death. He wants us to question the validity of our redemption when we respond yet again with harshness instead of gentleness. But just as God prepared the table of our salvation at the cross, He daily prepares a table before us in the presence of these enemies of our sanctification.
Meditating, trying to grasp the fullness of what God was showing me, I realized there were many things on my table alongside the cancer poison. A caring and skilled nurse who makes it all as easy as possible. A husband who walks each step of this with me, who assures me that bald will be beautiful, and who would take the treatment for me if he could. A daughter who cares for me not just out of love for her mom but also using her many skills as an Occupational Therapist. A brother who saw the need and took my dad to live with him for 3 months. (Many of you prayed for that.) A friend who texts me almost daily with the verse she prayed for me that morning. Another friend who writes her scripture prayers for me and mails them to me. An old friend who has already walked this journey leaves a bag of her favorite chemo comforts on my front porch. Phone calls and cards from friends and family to assure me of their love and remind me of God’s truths. Even a song lyric that asserts that Jesus is “the blessing buried in the broken pieces.” Knowing me intimately and knowing all that I need, God prepared each of these things on my table for me in the presence of fear, doubt, and loneliness.
My cup overflows. Cancer is surely no picnic, but it is starting to feel like a banquet.
Here you can read perspectives on life, ministry and God's Word from a variety of PCC's female leaders.