The Illusion of Control

Photo: Flickr user Jamie, Creative Commons License.
A couple of days ago I was researching non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (cancer) online on the Lymphoma Association UK website. I read things I already knew such as  - the type of lymphoma I have can not be cured; it will come back again and it will be treated again; people with this type of lymphoma are very likely to live for many years (although supposed to be reassuring this statement did not fill me with much joy! I want to live a good, long life!).

Since being told I was in remission and the chemotherapy coming to an end after six cycles, life has begun to return to normal. I feel well - no longer nauseous or weak or terribly fatigued. No longer feeling out of my depth and completely out of control. No longer blogging about the most recent setback or hospitalisation. I have started to do the things I did before I was diagnosed. I have now returned to work full time. Ministry opportunities are opening up and I am travelling around the UK about once a month to either sing or to speak (and sometimes both). A book I had started writing before I was diagnosed is in it's final stages of completion and I am planning a launch event. Leadership opportunities within church are also opening up and things are moving forward. As a family we have been able to begin to plan again and to dream again for the future. We have booked a short holiday away this summer - all of this is brilliant progress!

However, in the midst of it all the illusion of control has very easily and quickly crept back in to some extent. When things are going well we find it comfortable to believe we are in complete control of our lives. We can decide and plan and act. We expect things to happen as we want them to. One of the lessons I learnt during my bout with cancer is that we are not in control. As Timothy Keller puts it in his book 'Walking With God Through Pain & Suffering':

"When Pain and suffering come upon us,
we finally see not only that
we are not in control of our lives
but that we never were."

There are times too when conversation moves to future events, such as my girl's starting school or what to do about our pension. I find the thought that 'I may not be there for this - I pray that by God's grace I will be' is not far away and often reminds me of its presence.

So a couple of days ago I found myself quite sad, beginning to let the thoughts of doubt and 'what ifs' start to cloud my thinking. So I prayed.

I was reminded that I can choose to live in God's peace, just as I did whilst going through chemotherapy. I realised I needed to accept my feelings of fear and hopelessness - not suppress them and try to ignore them or squeeze them into a corner of my mind. But once acknowledged and accepted, I needed to offer them to God. 

I have come to realise that my 'normal' is forever altered. I am indeed living life with faith and cancer. Yes I trust and pray with all my heart that God will heal me - that he will miraculously alter my DNA (he can do it - and has done it before in others). However I am in a strange place of never being able to know if I have been healed or not. Either the cancer will come back, or it won't. I will forever live in a state of hope and faith that I will be healed but I will not know this for sure until I am in eternity. 

This is my new normal. 

Allowing the illusion of control to enter my thought process will do nothing to help me. I need to continually be reminded that I live by the grace of God. That every single day is a precious gift of life and I get to choose how to live it. I hope I choose to live it well. To make a difference for the good of those who know me and the world around me. I hold this verse close to my heart:

"So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools,
but like those who are wise.
Make the most of every opportunity in these days.
Don't act thoughtlessly, but
understand what the Lord wants you to do."
Ephesians 5:15-17 (NLT)

Only God is in control. None of us know what will happen next - not really.

Some more words of wisdom from Loui Giglio in his You Version Bible App devotional 'Goliath Must Fall':

"Your life on earth is short...but God is big.
So focus on matters of eternal significance
while you are here"

I choose to trust, to accept where I am, to surrender my control to The One who is already in control and know that no matter what happens - it is well with my soul.


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