I was far from perfect in the storm of my husband’s cancer diagnosis. I was weak. I envied every couple I saw. Hand-holding love birds rubbed salt in my wounds.
Why can’t I have that, Lord? Why can’t I hold the hand of the man I love without measuring the moments remaining? Why can’t I just assume we’ll grow old and gray together and not have this prognosis cloud hanging over our heads?
Waves of mourning came at unexpected times. One in particular caught me off guard. After Matt was released from in-patient rehabilitation, he had a week or so of rest before he started eight weeks of low dose chemo and radiation and then 18 months of high dose chemo. For five days a month, Matt took the high dose chemo in pill form. Each day he grew weaker and more nauseous. All he had the energy for was to lie on the couch and doze off to the television. But our family’s world kept spinning—school, homework, diapers, baseball practice, baths, and bedtime stories. Matt rarely had the stamina to attend our son Reid’s baseball practices while he was on chemo. Obviously, I never wanted to put pressure on him to go. I knew he’d almost give anything to be there instead of on the sofa.
I remember breathlessly juggling a not-yet-1-year-old, 7-year-old, and 4-year-old (and all his baseball paraphernalia) to practice one evening. Reid ran off to join his team and I plopped on the grass to entertain the youngest. I glanced around at the other families—the dads supplementing the coach’s efforts and the moms looking on from their lawn chairs. Sorrow tightened around my chest, squeezing tears just to the surface. I mourned Matt’s absence and imagined he may never have the opportunity to coach his son in Little League. Were the parents looking at me, wondering where my husband was? Where Reid’s father was? Were they filling in the blanks for me? Making assumptions?
Did they pity me?
The “new normal” took some adjusting. Everything felt backward. Matt was frail and lacked the strength to anchor our crazy family. I halfway jest that Matt is a better mother than I am! He has such a stabilizing effect on us. I can get a little lost in the weeds while he’s able to swoop in with a bird’s eye view to make each of us feel heard and loved. Without his clarifying perspective, I struggled to get my feet underneath me. And then I happened upon this verse:
The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure. (Isa. 33:5–6)
I wept when I read the italicized words. I was “reeling and staggering” (Ps. 107:27). My heart longed for something firm beneath me. I yearned for stability. Here I found comfort: my stability is ultimately found in the Lord. To cry out to him in the midst of the storm is to find he alone can sustain me.
And he did.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven. (Ps. 107:30)
Yes, we want the storm to be still. Quiet waters are a welcome sight after the whipping of the wind and waves. But the calm isn’t enough. We need a safe place to drop anchor—a shelter, a place to catch our breath.
Only Safe Haven
As Jesus led the disciples through the storm and to the other side, so he leads us through the storm to a “desired haven.” Whether we know it or not, our hearts pine for something in particular. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says the Lord has put eternity into our hearts. There’s a longing in every limited being for the limitless—for Something outside ourselves. This Something, or Someone, designed us that way, and he is the only fulfillment of our soul’s desire.
He is the object of our desire, and he is our safe haven, our harbor. In order for harbors to be efficient, they must have two characteristics: depth and protection. The water must be deep enough to allow large ships to drop anchor, and it must be sheltered by prominent land features on several sides from stormy weather. These elements can be found naturally or are constructed artificially by dredging and building seawalls and jettys.
When I looked for my desired haven in the midst of our storm, I thought what I wanted was Matt’s healing and the restoration of the “old normal.” While those things are good to desire and even petition the Lord for, the healing of one disease can be eclipsed by another dismal diagnosis. The “old normal” is an infinitely fragile state. The only reliable haven is to be found in Christ, to be hidden in him so that when he—who is my life—appears, I will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4).
The storm reminds me this isn’t all there is. There is a glory coming we have yet to see fully. There is a healing of our souls that goes beyond any physical healing on earth. It’s already begun, but it’s not all here yet. So we wait with eager expectation. We weather the storms with him on earth as the wind and waves whet our appetite for the coming glory. Our voices lift from the rain-beaten vessel, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”
Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from Lauren Chandler’s new book, Steadfast Love: The Response of God to the Cries of Our Heart (B&H, 2015).