Though we usually hear Psalm 23 only at funerals, I'd like to suggest that it's a great song and prayer for every day of the week, especially when one is coping with a disease like melanoma. From the New Living Translation:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
The world of melanoma is certainly a dark valley and a place where we need God's comfort and protection. We need that joy of a feast in the very presence of our enemy. We need to know and understand that God's goodness and unfailing love is with us when all we may see is IVs, needles, and test results that aren't what we hoped or expected. We need to be able to find blessings amid despair. Can we begin to fathom that we are always in God's presence? Melanoma will come and go; God will always be there, with us and for us.
Saying those words, "Don't be afraid. Don't panic. Don't get so overwhelmed that you can't see straight or function." Do we really think and believe God knows what He's talking about?
It's one thing to tell Peter not to be afraid to get out of a boat and walk on water. Piece of cake! It's quite another thing to tell us that a beast has entered our life in rip-roaring fashion, will turn our worlds upside down, will drain us and seek to deplete every shred of hope we desperately need to cling to, and through everything seen and unseen...we are, US, ME, we are to NOT BE AFRAID!
Is Jesus crazy? Fear, dread, terror, panic, are natural responses and seem reasonable, don't they? If you've had "melanoma" attached to your life, you have felt that fear. You've asked the "why?" questions. You've had your heart torn out of its chest and stomped on, you've had that moment when you thought your life was over. You've cried the tears, and the tears still come. At the oddest times, no matter how far along the journey you are.
Yet, the further along the journey you get, the more you understand that Jesus knows what he's talking about when he cautions us not to fear. Fear can be paralyzing. Fear can cloud our ears, judgement. We tend to lose clarity and perspective when fear is overwhelming. Fear is another enemy and it works against us, just like any enemy. It's the perfect general for melanoma.
This is about the beginning of my story.
As you read, please listen for the fear that permeates though is not acknowledged. When my first piece of advice to people with new diagnoses is not to panic and to calm down, it's because I'm proof of what happens when fear is allowed to rule the day. Fear was behind all those prayers...not faith. Fear was behind my stubbornness and teen rebellion not just a dislike of medical procedures and determination to prove my Mama wrong. Fear.
Though my constant companions, they were not my friends. They convinced me to hide my darkening, changing mole. They convinced me God would eventually get rid of that mole. They lied. I believed a lie. Worse, I lived into a lie.
And yet....yet God has proved faithful even when I was beyond fearful. God has walked with me through every valley I've been in and he has carried me to the mountaintop. Though my enemies tried their best, God insisted that they see me feast.
I am God's Temple and because I am a Temple for his Holy Spirit I am always in His presence. Sure, melanoma is also at the table. Fear still wants to raise his ugly head. And Panic, well Panic is still an enemy I contend with...until God reminds me that He has this rod and staff...for ME!
I may have a tough time dealing with Panic but Panic is no match for God.
Seems like Jesus may just have known what he's talking about after all when he tells us Not to be afraid.
God's rod and staff have YOUR name on them too.
Do not be afraid. The Lord is your Shepherd.
You have ALL you need.
And I am grateful!