When your husband is a pastor you hear everybody’s news. You never get used to it. It just becomes part of who you are…dealing with sadness. I pray for the emotional health of my husband on a daily basis. He deals with a lot of heavy issues. Cancer is a common theme. Everybody has someone in their circle that is affected with it or by it. It’s awful. I dread the phone calls when Fred tells me that someone we know, someone we love, someone we hold dear has just been diagnosed with cancer. My heart always sinks and I get an awful feeling in my stomach. I got that feeling about two months ago. A good friend of ours about my age, a mother of three young children, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis hurt me to my core. I felt like I was at a loss. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to pray. I didn’t know the best way to respond. I know I’m not alone in this.
My friend is halfway through her chemotherapy treatments. The first eight weeks were a nightmare. Her hair is gone. Her energy is zapped. But her smile and joy still remain. I know she had/has moments of anxiety. Who wouldn’t? I know she has moments where she can’t get out of bed. She thinks about things that don’t cross our minds. This Monday I had the privilege of taking her to chemo. We waited in one room to be taken to another and then another. She had blood drawn, her port prepared, and then we settled in for her treatment. You know what I noticed?? Cancer does not know race, gender, age, economic or social status…none of it. There was a room full of all kinds of people. My friend and I talked and laughed and ate through her entire treatment. But being in the treatment room really got me to thinking about all of these people walking around with this disease. How can we best help? What is the best thing we can do? So, I asked my friend to help me write this article. She gave me some pearls of wisdom that I want to share with you.
Don’t just pray in generalities. Pray for specific things. Let your friend know what you are specifically praying for them. My friend writes these specific prayers in a journal and then watches God answer the requests.
2. Take them meals.
People going through chemo are extremely tired. Any help that you can give them would be great…a home cooked meal, take out, or a restaurant gift card.
3. Don’t talk about people you know that have died from cancer.
Seriously people, don’t do this. I know it’s hard to come up with things to say, but no one with cancer wants to be reminded of your relative that had a horrible time through treatment and then experienced a horrible death. Why does this need to be said? People tell my friend these horror stories all.the.time. Seriously, don’t do it.
4. Help with the family.
If she has young children, help her get the kiddos to school or pick them up. Help her around their house with housework. If she has caregivers (parents, siblings, spouse, etc.), encourage them, pray for them, and check on them. The only thing worse than having cancer is watching someone struggle through it. Check on the family.
5. Talk about things other than cancer.
50, 938 people a day ask how the treatments are going. I get it. People just care. I really do get it. Cancer does not have to define the person walking through it, though. There is so much more going on than this disease. Talk about her children and how school is going. Check to see if God is working in an amazing way in his life. Talk about the weather. Talk about your menu plan. Talk about this blog (Okay, that may be a stretch, but you know…). Give your friend a hug. Whisper in her ear that you are praying for a specific area of her life and then move on.
6. Send an encouraging card.
In this day and age of technology we forget about simple cards…through the post office. You know, pen to paper, address, and then a stamp. Send a card with some kind of encouragement.
7. Provide transportation to and from treatments.
Treatments can leave your friend feeling tired or unable to drive. Having someone take you to and from treatment and sitting with you through it provides a great deal of encouragement.
8. Laugh with them.
Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful (joyful, merry) heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Laugh it up. Share a funny story. Talk about funny memories. Anything to release some stress. Laughter really is the best medicine.
9. Pick a verse of scripture and pray it over your friend.
Pray for a scripture to use. Perhaps you have a favorite scripture that you use during times of stress. Use this one. Let your friend know you are praying that verse over her.
My friend has chosen Joshua 1:9 as her verse through this season, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” My friend’s name is Missy. She is brave (even though she doesn’t think she is). She is bold. And she is handling this season with all the grace and dignity I think possible, through the power of Jesus Christ. If you get a chance today, will you pray with me for my friend? Pray that she will be strong and courageous. Pray that she will not be terrified. Pray that she will not be discouraged. Pray for her husband. Pray for her children, her parents, and her sister. Pray that God will work in a mighty way in their lives. And pray that He will receive all of the glory and praise that He deserves from this situation. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
I’ll leave you with the verse of scripture I’ve chosen to pray over my friend from Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”