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Colleen's Cancer Journey

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
September 3, 2022 1:00 am

Colleen's Cancer Journey

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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September 3, 2022 1:00 am

Like you, she had high hopes for life, but instead endured years of deep depression, fought through chronic pain and illness, and gave birth to a child with health complications.  On top of that, she heard the words, “Cancer, Stage four, Terminal.”  So, what would lead her to write a book called, In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God?  Meet Colleen Choa on the next Building Relationships with Gary Chapman.

Featured resource: In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God by Colleen Choa

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If you've felt discouraged, worn down, or are thirsting for hope, you need rest and renewal. Hi, I'm Deb Gorton, host of Becoming Well, and I want to invite you to join me at the Renew Women's Conference this September for a time of deep encouragement and challenging teaching. You'll hear from me, author Heather Holman, and so many more wise and wonderful women of faith. Learn more and sign up for Renew 2022 at moodyevents.org. God has used suffering in such powerful ways to work on my heart and my brain and my habits, and it's such a gift from Him.

I would not go back and change any of those seasons because of the fruit and the beauty that's come out of them. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Today, if you're going through a season of suffering and you want to do more than simply get through it, author Colleen Chow will share her story of hope and faith in the midst of deep struggle. Don't miss the conversation straight ahead. Colleen's book is our featured resource.

It's coming out in early October, but you can pre-order it. It's titled In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God, 31 Days of Hope, Honesty, and Encouragement for the Sufferer. There is someone you know who needs to hear the conversation.

We're going to have straight ahead as we hear Colleen's message. You can find out more about that book In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God at moodybooks.org, moodybooks.org. Gary, you have walked through some deep water with family members, friends in your church through the years. Suffering comes to all of us, doesn't it?

Well, it does, Chris. You know, it can be physical. It can be emotional. It can be broken relationships.

It can be a loss of job. I mean, you know, life is filled with difficult situations that bring a lot of pain. I think any of our listeners are going to identify with our topic today, and so I really am excited that we're able to do this with someone who has walked the journey. I want to say before we get started, we reached out to Colleen at the end of May for this conversation about the book that she has been living. And if you go to moodybooks.org and click the Moody radio microphone, you'll find out more about this resource.

It's excellent. Colleen Chow, C-H-A-O, has written extensively about finding God's goodness in the unexpected chapters of her life, including singleness, chronic illness, and now terminal cancer. She's worked as an editor and writer and English teacher. A featured resource is her book In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God, 31 Days of Hope, Honesty, and Encouragement for the Sufferer.

Again, you can find out more at moodybooks.org. Well, Colleen, welcome to Building Relationships. Thank you so much, Gary.

It's an honor and joy to be with you this morning. I'm excited for our listeners to hear your story today, so tell us about Colleen as a little girl. I mean, what were your hopes and dreams in those years? Well, I was a big dreamer, so I had a long list of dreams. And a few of those included becoming a pastor, a missionary's wife, and having kids. And I just was a big thinker, big dreamer, so I thought I would have a big influence. Even at a young age, I started desiring to do things that would influence people. But the biggest ones were being a wife and a mom. Yeah, and I think many women can identify with that. And for some, that is a reality. For others, that never really works out for them. Was there a pivotal spiritual moment early on when you knew that God was calling you to himself?

Yes. Actually, I had a simple understanding of salvation, made a simple salvation decision around four years old. But it wasn't until 11 that I came to understand what it meant to want Jesus to be Lord of my life, and the Word came alive at 11 years old.

I couldn't get enough. I was in it every day. And that's when I point to that age. That's when I started seeing my heart really change, and really experiencing the beginnings of that relationship with Christ. I think for many of us, there was that kind of first step at a very young age.

And a little later on, we understand more of what that means to let him be in control in our lives. Now, you married later than you thought you might. How would you describe your singleness? Were you content in that season?

Well, yes, singleness was both difficult and beautiful. It was rich and exciting. I did so many neat things during that time. I was involved in a lot of neat ministries and got to experience relationship with a lot of people and travel. And it was really a neat season of life, but it was also not what I really wanted. So I was learning how to make the most of it.

And in the midst of that, I had to fight for contentment. It was not at all a normal thing in the circles I ran in. I was the only single, apart from one other friend, a little younger than myself. And no one was really ahead of me to show me what it looked like. So I was in a world of couples and families, and it was disorienting. I just didn't know how to walk it. And so even as it was so fruitful and rich and exciting and I saw God working in that time, I wrestled hard with God and I was angry sometimes.

I remember screaming into my pillow. I mean, there were just times where I was falling apart because this was not my plan, this wasn't what I pictured, and I didn't have any frame of reference for how to live it. So it was both beautiful and bitter, and that is the season where I learned or started learning how to go to God with my unedited emotions and the cries of my heart and unfulfilled longings, and to just be honest with Him and take Him at His word. Even though I couldn't see what He was doing, I was learning how to bank on who He said He was in Scripture, and that started changing my heart and teaching me His love. And that's when I experienced His love for the first time in such a real, dynamic way on the daily. Well, I'm guessing there are a number of single adults who are hearing us today who can identify with what you're saying, because I think for most of us, we desire to someday be married, and we think it's not going to be when I'm 40 or 50. Talking with a lady just last week who didn't get married until she was 49, and she said, I did a lot of things, and I accomplished a lot of things, but I always wanted to be married, and of course now she is. But I like what you said about being open and honest with God about your feelings.

You're not going to hurt His feelings if you share your feelings with Him. Now, did you ever struggle with achieving and performing in order to feel more worthwhile? Absolutely. That was a struggle from way back for me, from the very beginning of my life, really, as far back as I can remember. But I think it was exacerbated during singleness because I was trying to prove why I was existing, apart from being a wife and a mom in these circles where that's all I knew.

Yes, I definitely struggled with trying to prove my worth in what I was doing and accomplishing and how I was making the most of my time. I remember just even saying things to people, just trying to justify my existence at that point. And God's so patient with me, and He was working with me through that false belief that I had to perform. And especially with Him, He just kept speaking to me through His Word and my times in His presence, just that I was absolutely accepted and precious and valuable to Him just as I was. And yet He loved me enough to not leave me where I was, right? But He was doing that.

That was on Him. That wasn't on me to have to achieve or produce. And I started learning how to be, you know, just be instead of do, do, do. But that was a long journey for me. So how did you meet Eddie, and how old were you when you met him? I was 33, and we met. My brother Jonathan invited me to join his college and career group. And I was a little older than everybody else.

I'm four years older than my husband. So I was not really... I didn't really belong in the group, but I showed up, and we all jumped into different cars to drive into Los Angeles for the day. And I ended up in my future husband's car in the back seat, and he was driving, and we chatted. And I was not open at that time. I'd gone through some hard years of different relationships and was very closed to anything new. But he was so kind and pursued conversation, and I remember walking away thinking, that man is really kind, even though I was so closed off. Now this may be an unfair question, but how long was it before in your mind you said, I really know this is the one?

No, I love that question. I feel like it was a little different for me at that stage of things, because I was so gun-shy, so scared of being hurt. So for me, I never felt like I fell in love. I felt like I grew into love slowly and eventually just made a choice to risk and to commit. So it wasn't an easy journey. It actually went pretty fast once we started dating. So it became apparent pretty clearly, pretty quickly, but it still was a scary journey for me. So all along the way, I was choosing to trust God, to listen for His input into our relationship, like, what's your heart, God?

And to have other people speak into it and tell me when I was being crazy. And say, this guy is the real deal. Stop looking for red flags.

Stop. It's always good to invite our friends to share their thoughts about the people that we're involved with. Now, Colleen, you have a son, Jeremy. Tell us about how he's changed your life and how old is he now? He is 10.

He'll turn 11 soon. And yes, I prayed for my future children. I thought I would have three to four. I started praying for them when I was a teenager. So to actually become pregnant, even though I was older, that was a miracle in itself. And then to experience labor and delivery.

These are gifts that I know a lot of women don't even get to experience. And I felt the gravity of that, the miracle of that. And then to hold my son in my arms and become a mom was just, it was miraculous.

It changes everything in my outlook, my priorities each day. And why I do some of the selfless mom things that I do and how I look at God. I started seeing God in this new light because I had this son, my only son, because I couldn't have any more children. And I started identifying with God in a new way that he had his only son who suffered and he surrendered for the good of others. And just this idea of what he went through started impacting my heart as I saw my heart overflow with love for this child.

Love that I'd never experienced before. So in so many ways, my heart and my head were shaped differently after giving birth to that sweet little guy. There's something different about having a child. Life changes in a sense, does it not? I'm responsible for this child.

Yes, yes. It's not about me and my comfort and my own existence anymore. And of course some of that changes with marriage immediately, but it's a different kind of change, right? With kids. So let me go back to the marriage a moment. Did you and your husband have struggles in the early stages of your marriage?

Oh yeah. We are both very strong-willed, very opinionated, passionate people. So yeah, it was not easy and in one sense it wasn't surprising because of who we were. But in another sense, it was really natural and easy, which I was surprised at.

So it was both. It felt so natural to be married, even though I'd been single so long. It just felt like the most natural thing in the world. And in another sense, it was like the ugly parts of my heart coming out.

So yeah, definitely we had some messy, we still do, we still have our special messes, but yeah, I'm grateful for my husband's grace. I asked that question just to see if you're human, okay? Oh, there's lots of humanists. Lots of proof here. Yeah, my experience is that all of us had struggles because we're human and we think differently, we feel differently.

Yeah. Now let's talk about the really hard part of your story, and that is the diagnosis. When did you find out?

Tell us about that. Yeah, well I found out the cancer was back a year ago, a little over a year ago, and then about maybe five, six weeks later we heard that it was terminal. So there was a little window of time in there where we didn't know. But I had a sense that it was because we knew right away it was in my lymph nodes. And the Lord has been so gracious through this whole journey over the last five years of cancer to give me kind of some insights into what's coming.

He's been really, really good that way. And so I did, I had this kind of this intuition that it was not going to be good news. How did you respond in hearing that word terminal?

Yeah, there's nothing quite like that. Not that that's a harder suffering than other sufferings, but there's nothing quite like hearing your end is near. And even though I had that intuition that it was going to be the word that I'd hear, and because of COVID and some other complications, I was alone that day at my doctor appointment. So I sat there just hearing this crazy news wash over me, and I was pretty strong and tough in the appointment.

Nothing, I probably looked really put together and poised. And even as I walked out back to my car, I felt almost like God holding me together in that moment. And then I had to tell my son, and I think that's when probably the reality came crushing in. And it was a pain I've never felt before, like no other pain I felt before.

Because I think I would just be ready to go in a heartbeat. But because this was, you know, the beginning of saying goodbye to my husband and son and huge family and, and best friends and all that. The grief was, at moments it felt unbearable, and I would go into my closet and so that I wouldn't overwhelm my son who was also grieving, and I would just curl up in the fetal position and wail to God. And my head hurt and I would lay awake at night, but still do sometimes, but in the early days and weeks, it was, it felt like someone had thrown me into the ocean without a life jacket or comms, you know, it was just this crazy otherworldly experience. Yeah.

Now early on, because you said you went through some treatments and all for five years, and you said to the, you said essentially that if it hadn't been for your husband and son, you probably would not have gone through all those treatments that you went through. Is that really your thought as you look back on it? Yeah, it really is. I just remember in singleness being so ready to go at any time.

Isn't that odd? I just, I can't wait to be with Jesus. I can't wait for the other side of things and for the joy that's waiting for us.

But that changed, you know, with these deep attachments, people that I love with all my heart to the point that sometimes I'm tempted to make them my idols, you know, because I love them so much. And to think about the fact that I would go, but then, and my suffering would be over, but then this would create grief like no other. I mean, watching my husband and son grieve is, it's like a torture to my heart because, you know, I'm wired as a compassionate person anyway. And just to think that when my son faces his hardest days of darkness and grief, I will not be there to help.

That's crazy stuff. And so that's why I was like, oh, I'm going to do everything I can for more time. And if God allows it, right, He holds my days. But if He gives me more time to coach my son through some of this, and I just feel like every day is a miracle because it's a chance to point him again to Christ and to teach him how to grieve with God in God's presence, and to connect him with people who are going to hold up his arms when I'm gone and do things that some people don't get to do in a sudden death situation. So I feel very spoiled by that, to be able to have treatment that will give me some more time. So it's, yeah, it's definitely been a driving force.

Yeah, I can see that. I was talking recently with a husband whose wife had an eight-year battle with cancer and went through all the chemo and, you know, all the results of that, as you know. And then he was diagnosed, you know, several years later.

Oh my goodness. And he just said, no, I'm not going through all of that. I'm not going to do the chemo and all of that.

I just want to live as long as I can, but I want to live without going through, you know, all of that. Yes. And I think, you know, anybody that's watched someone go through that, you can understand that decision, because it's not... My wife went through that ten years ago and, of course, she survived and is doing well, you know, but that whole year, you know, with loss of hair and, you know, all that goes on with that, it's just devastating.

It really is. I do hear what you're saying, that you've got a husband and you've got a son and you're willing to try anything that will give you, you know, a few more days or months or years and all the while praying that God will, you know, just alleviate the problem. Yeah.

Yeah. And I think our listeners who have gone through that or have family members who have gone through that are identifying with what you're saying. Now, you've written a lot about engaging with God in and through the Scriptures and experiencing him and his Word as you've walked through this. That's really been a lifeline for you, right?

It really has. It has been everything, and I always think of Deuteronomy 32, 47, where it says, you know, these words from God are not meaningless words to you, but they are your life. And that's what I've experienced. They are my life itself, especially because of these hardships which makes the word more precious and more alive. And maybe some people don't need to go through hard things for that to be true, but I'm a stubborn, hard-headed one, and I learn slowly. And so I think that suffering has pressed me into that living, active experience of God in his Word instead of reading Scripture for just head knowledge or checking off a list like, I got in the Word today. It becomes this lifeline of, if I don't stay in the Word, no one wants to be around me, and I'm not going to make it through these crazy things. And it's such a testimony to the fact that the Word is powerful, that God speaks in it, that he has designed it so that we meet him and experience him and hear from him and get to talk to him through that. So I'm just so grateful for the Word and that it is my life and not just idle words. Yeah. Well, what's been your pattern in terms of spending time with God in the Word? Is it like a morning thing with you?

Is it afternoon or evening? Tell us a little bit about what that looks like. Yeah. I have been all over the map over the years, actually. I'm more of a creative person, and I like a lot of variety. But I also like routine, so it's a strange mix. But my favorite thing is to get up before the sun gets up.

If it's cold, light a fire, pour a cup of coffee or tea, and spend that uninterrupted quiet time. But with this journey, my body is very slow and it struggles in the morning. I'm not able to get up early like I did for different seasons.

And so it kind of is when I can get to it in any given day right now. What I've kind of done in place of the early morning is I'll just turn on my audio Bible while I lay in bed before I can even move my body. I'm laying there listening. Typically, when I'm doing the audio Bible, it's through the Psalms and just praying the Psalms back to God. So as David or Asaph or any of the Psalmists say something to God, I'm saying it with them. And it's just given expression to so much of my heart.

And then later in the day, I'll get... The last seven months I've spent in the Book of Luke, just verse by verse, typing out questions to God or responses to God in a Word doc on my laptop. And I'm about to finish up that study.

And it has been so rich. And I'll use blueletterbible.org for word study or Bible Gateway for different versions. And I'll look deep into some of these things that grab my interest or captivate me. And just that verse by verse, like, God, what's this about?

What's the context for this? What was going on in that time to make this meaningful even to me today? And so that's my time to really dig deep. And some days it's only a couple of verses and some days it's more. And then sometimes in the car on the way to an appointment, I'm just praying Scripture to God and listening for His voice. And He speaks Scripture back that I've hidden in my heart. So it comes out in a lot of forms. I've danced before God. Just this dancing and singing before God in response to His Word. It moves me. So I'm an expressive type.

So it's come in all kinds of shapes and forms over the years. I hope our listeners are getting what you're saying. Because sometimes you have the idea, you know, the real spiritual people have the quiet time at four in the morning for two hours. When you're going through some things, you can't do that. I really like that idea of listening to someone reading the Scriptures, the audio, even before you get out of bed. Frankly, I had not thought of that one.

But whatever exposure. It's exposing ourselves in whatever way we can to what God has to say to us. Our guest today is Colleen Chow and we're so excited to feature her new book.

It's coming out in early October. You can find out more about it by going to moodybooks.org. It's titled, In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God, 31 Days of Hope, Honesty, and Encouragement for the Sufferer.

Again, you can go to moodybooks.org, click the Moody Radio icon right there. I want you to hear a little bit of this. This is Colleen and her son singing a song together, basically singing the Scripture back to God. Be still my soul, the Lord is on the side, through thorny ways, reach to the joyful end. Colleen, that is such a precious little glimpse, just a snapshot of you and your son.

Tell us what's going on there. Well, it's a little habit we've formed from when he was very, very young to try to hide the word in our hearts. And I need it as much as he does. Early on when he was still a baby, God just pressed upon my spirit that his journey would be hard and he would have suffering.

I had no idea. He had health issues right away, so I knew that that might be what I was sensing, that his health was pretty poor in the beginning. And so I wanted him to have the word in his heart for whatever was to come. So we did short little chanting scripture, doing little hand motions when he was a toddler. And then as he got older, we did larger and larger chunks to song. And it has been such a sweet thing to share because, you know, music bonds us anyway as people and it expresses our heart.

And then if that music is scripture, it's just so powerful and beautiful. And so that's been just such a sweet thing for me to share with him over the years and to leave behind for him because we often won't forget songs long term. Those will come back to our hearts and minds. So that's been a precious privilege. And the memories that he will have of that too will sustain him.

I hope so. Now, there were other seasons of suffering that you went through. Tell us about those and how they prepared you for this season. Yeah, definitely singleness like we've already talked about was, some have thought it dramatic to say suffering, but it felt like it at the time and a unique kind of suffering, emotional. And then as I turned 30 and in the first few years of my 30s, little irritating physical symptoms I'd had for years were kind of exploding into this chronic illness and pain. And as I met my husband and we began dating, we were also going to specialists and doctors to try to figure out what was going on. And then my son was born with a lot of complications.

And so we spent, well, we have spent the last 13, 14 years in doctor's offices and trying to track things down and shift our diets and figure out what's going on with my body, even before cancer. And that changed so much for me because I was such a go getter, ambitious, do all the things person. So that was a huge shift in my life and then cancer diagnosis after all of that. So I think what those seasons did for me was what James talks about, where, you know, that perseverance, that considering it pure joy, so that as you persevering, you're becoming mature and complete so that you don't lack anything.

I look back over my shoulder and see that to be so true. Not that I'm mature and complete, but the process that it was beginning in me in a new way was developing this muscle memory for how to go to God with disappointment, for how to grieve in Jesus's presence and find him and experience his love and his comfort and his goodness in the darkest days. It was, you know, the year after year after year of difficulties that was training me to think in eternal terms, to look at eternal realities and not to try to put my roots down here and love this world like I'm so prone to do. So all of those skills were already in motion when I was diagnosed with cancer. And I'm so grateful because I had a little reference point for suffering and some muscle memory, even though this was such a different kind of suffering. I have so far to go. Some days I think, oh my goodness, why do I still feel like I'm on square one? You know, I'm such a baby in some ways and haven't developed in some areas, but in other areas to see how God has used suffering in such powerful ways to work on my heart and my brain and my habits. And it's such a gift from him.

I would not go back and change any of those seasons because of the fruit and the beauty that's come out of them. Yeah. You know that word from Peter on count it all joy. And there's some Christians are saying, wait a minute. It's not joyful, you know. And it's not. It's not a pleasant experience. But he's talking about our perspective, isn't he? He said, you count it all joy. You see it as a part of what God is doing in your life.

Yes. Yes, it really is. And it's strange how the kingdom of God is upside down to us, right? And inside out and backwards.

But when he says something like that, it's all true. It's just we have to plow through so much hardship to see it come true. I think we want the easy button, right? I want to experience joy the easy way. But there's so much joy on the other side of the cross, like Jesus modeled for us. So much joy on the other side of that cross that we can't anticipate, we can't fathom until we get on that cross, until we take up our cross daily. And then we start seeing the reality of what Christ has promised to us. Colleen, you've written, suffering is one of the most powerful ways to know God's goodness and love in a broken world. That's kind of counterintuitive. It's like, wait, suffering is a powerful way to know God's goodness.

Why do you think that's true? I think because at least for my own experience, I am so prone to shallow dreams, and substitute loves. I'm just my heart is full of folly. And especially looking back, I'm 46 years old now. And looking back over several decades, and seeing that the dreams that I first had, I think, in rough, they were planted there by God, right in my heart, but they were just so full of joy. They were planted in my heart, but they were just so full of me, and so full of this world and comfort.

And so I would have cheated myself, I would have missed out on so much, had I just lived out those shallow dreams. And I think what suffering does is it presses us to the one thing we really, really want, we really are made for, is God Himself. And we are so quick to cheat ourselves of the experience of God, the fullness of His presence and His joy and His love and His peace and His purposes for us that are far, far greater than our little dreams. And I think suffering when something takes us by surprise, and we go, wait, what?

This isn't what I planned. And it pushes us out of that little comfort zone that we've created for ourselves, and pushes us into the arms of love and into the arms of the one who has far greater dreams for us than we have for ourselves, not in a worldly way to measure dreams or success, but in an infinitely eternal one. And I think that is why suffering captivates people because it arrests our attention.

It's painful. And it's in all the stories that we love the most, right? It's suffering that compels us to keep reading that story or watching that movie because it is compelling. And in itself, suffering is not worthwhile.

It doesn't have any value. But when God takes it and uses it in our life, it is infinitely valuable. And it shows the world the goodness of God. Because now we're out of the way, right? It's what Paul said that as death is at work in us, the life of Jesus is being portrayed. And so as we're dying to ourself and our dreams and our selfishness, people can more clearly see God in and through us because now we're getting out of the way. And I mean, He's using us. He uses our story. But now it's not all about us.

It's all about Him. And that is what the world longs for. They long to see someone find love in the worst, darkest days and not just live a comfortable life and have lots of money and perfect, successful children and in model marriage. That's ultimately, that's not what the world wants to see in Christians. And they're disillusioned by Christians who want to have everything in the world plus God. But when they see someone suffer in the presence of Jesus, it is compelling. Those are the people who have changed me and have influenced me so deeply over the years.

What you're saying is you're living out, C.S. Lewis, God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. You're saying that you can be, if you're going through suffering, you can be that megaphone that God uses to speak to others in the middle of what you're struggling with. I love that. So perfectly said, yes, that's it.

That's it. And I think we have very small voices when we are so comfortable in this world. And it doesn't have to be cancer that points, you know, helps people see Jesus in us. It can just be a suffering, a kind of a mundane day suffering that we take to God and we experience his presence. And that shows the world a different way and a different kind of God than I think we've portrayed God to be in our comfort. Colleen, I think most of us would say, you know, if the subject of death comes up, we would say, well, we all know we're going to die.

You know, theoretically and realistically, we know that. But when we have had a diagnosis that is terminal, and we're facing the reality that death is coming much earlier than I anticipated, it does give us a different framework from which to face the rest of our lives, right? It really does.

Don't you wish we could experience it before the terminal diagnosis or before the deathbed? I was just thinking yesterday, what a precious gift God has given me that every day, every single day, I think, Oh, my goodness, I have another day. It's such a gift. And I don't know how much longer I have. But look what I get to do today. And that is a phenomenal, and sometimes weighty and painful and bitter reality. But it is a beautiful gift. And I think a lot of people in history and different cultures have experienced more of that than we have in a day where we have so much good medical care and health.

And I think we're probably an exception to the historical rule here in America. You alluded to one juncture to how other people have shown love to you and God's love to you in this season. Share a little bit about that. Yeah, we have been so well loved. I have been my husband and son. We have been surrounded with encouraging messages and cards in the mail and groceries at our doorstep and people who will whisk away my son to give him fun somewhere and build joy into him in the season and people who will text my husband to check in on him.

I could go on and on. We've been given money for medical expenses and people have shifted their gatherings to our home so I could be part of it from my recliner. Just incredible, thoughtful, beautiful ways that people have loved us so well.

And I felt very spoiled and humbled by those kind of gifts. What would you encourage our listeners to do if their friends or family members are going through the kind of thing that you're going through? What would you see would be the ideal kind of things they could do or say?

I love that kind of question. I think it's hard to answer in one sense because everyone's so different. But I think from my own experience, and then talking with quite a few others who have gone through this journey, the ability for someone to be so gentle and take pressure off, and for example, to message that suffering one and just love on them without any expectation of a response and just say, I just love you.

And I can't imagine what this is like for you, but I am here praying and with you. And then another way that has been really meaningful has been people loving on my husband and son. I think what often happens is the cancer patient gets all the attention. And it makes sense, right?

On one hand, it makes sense that that would be the main focus. But I tell you what, when someone loves on my husband and my son, my heart soars. And I know it's harder typically for men to reach out to other men.

We've seen that a lot in the past years. Women just intuitively know how to enter in and empathize and nurture and all that. But for other men to reach out to a husband and care for him is really, really meaningful. And to see how he's doing and to enter into his experience is really, really significant. And to think of the children, if there are children involved.

And so that's been such a neat thing for people. When people have asked, I've said those two things. And one thing I say quickly, too, is to hold off on shooting a verse to someone who's just heard a heart diagnosis.

To just kind of learn from Job's friends. And to be willing to sit in the grief and be silent and just be present and understand that it is so overwhelming and so all-consuming, especially at the beginning. And then there will be a time to share scriptural encouragement. But when I have friends get a diagnosis now, I'm very slow to share scripture, even though that sounds so weird because I love scripture with all my heart. But it can come across trite and hurtful.

So many people have modeled well how to do this, and I have used their model to do it for others, and it's been a blessing. Yeah, I was about to ask, what are some of the things that maybe family members and friends should not say that would not be helpful? And you've mentioned one that's maybe too early in the process of giving them a sermon, as it were. Yeah, I think, too, just that not putting pressure for... One thing I've learned with others to not say, let me know what you need. Because honestly, you're so overwhelmed. You just can't think of... And you appreciate the offer, but there's just no way to balance everything and then to try to figure out how to communicate all the needs. So what we found is when people just drop things off or send things in the mail and just take initiative, it takes that burden off the patient, the cancer patient, to try to figure out what they need. My husband and I have looked at each other multiple times and said, we don't even know what we need.

We can't even figure it out right now. So just that willingness to just send something or say something and risk. Maybe it's not perfect, but it's so precious to the patient to see people love them in different ways like that. Yeah, I think that saying, let me know now if we can help you. It's a kind way of saying I'm willing to help, but they really don't expect an answer immediately. But what I hear you saying is take the initiative to do something that you think it would be meaningful to them and likely it will be.

Yeah, and something that wouldn't put more on the schedule that's so filled up with appointments and treatments and all that. And again, I've told people when I know someone loves me, I'm not easily offended. I just take it as love. So I say these things and honestly, people have not gone wrong. This isn't from personal experience of, you know, horrible experiences, but just, it's been me muffing it up over the years and learning from my own poor ways of entering in with other sufferings to just be gentle and take the pressure off, take the obligations off, take the communication off of that person in the thick of it. But again, everyone's different, right?

Yes, that's true. Well, you've taken time in the midst of all this to write this book. Tell us, what are your hopes for this book? In the hands of a fiercely tender God, what do you want readers to take away as they read about your life and your experience? You know, I hope that my experience and put them into a deeper experience of Christ's comfort and love and joy. I wrote the book gently. I tried to be really gentle and not write a big treatise on suffering. Because I'm not the expert on this, but just to share, gently share my experience and how we can enter into a deeper, increasingly beautiful experience of Christ.

It gets better and better and better the deeper we go. And so that's what I would hope would be the takeaway from that book, that someone would experience more of Christ in very real, tangible ways through the darkest days of their lives. Well, Colleen, let me thank you for, first of all, writing this book because I know I'm a writer and I know it takes effort, time, and energy to write a book. And I want to thank you for doing that. And thank you for being with us today and sharing enough about this book that I hope our listeners will get a copy.

And even if they're not going through something like this, get it, read it, and think about a friend that might could use this book as a gift. So may God continue to guide you on the journey, and I know he will. Thank you so much for this time. It has been such a joy to chat with you, and I appreciate your ministry so much. So thank you.

That's Colleen Chow. And if you want to find out more about our featured resource, go to the website moodybooks.org. You'll find out more about In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God, 31 Days of Hope, Honesty, and Encouragement for the Sufferer. Click the Moody radio icon there, moodybooks.org. And next week, if you struggle with sexual intimacy in marriage, don't miss our conversation with Dr. Julie Slattery. And remember, you can find simple ways to strengthen relationships at 5lovelanguages.com. A big thank you to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Bakke. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-02 19:03:49 / 2023-03-02 19:21:03 / 17

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