My Faith Journey – Strengthening My “Faith Muscles”
by: Dennise Parker
Once I share my testimony, one might say that 2017 (upon hearing the beginning of my story) was not a good year for me. However, I beg to differ and say that it was the best year of my life. That year, I experienced God’s blessings and goodness more than any other time that I can remember. You probably don’t know much about me, but I am very energetic. I love spending time with family and friends, traveling, walking and exercising. While in no way am I the body builder type, I have always been a proponent of taking care of my body and exercising to become and remain physically fit. My trainer would say to me, (and I am paraphrasing) athletes can do what they do because it begins in mind; to strengthen your muscles, you have to dig deep and work hard. While that was all good and it helped me to strengthen my muscles and get through the exercise class, in 2017, I had to dig deeper than just being physically fit. I had to begin to exercise differently to strengthen my “faith muscles” in a way I never knew possible, with God as my trainer.
That year around January, I began to experience some back pain and fatigue. I thought I was just getting older and had to work harder and maybe that I had pulled a muscle. I stopped exercising to give my body a chance to heal, but the pain in my back continued to get worse. It would ease up on some days, but most days it was pretty bad. My doctor continued to run different tests, and we tried different types of physical therapy, but, nothing worked. In April, my doctor and I decided an MRI was necessary since the pain continued to get worse and there weren’t many “good” days as it related to my back. On May 1, 2017, the results of the MRI came in, and I found out, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Lung Cancer. How about that? I mentioned earlier that I have always been a proponent of taking care of my body, I exercised, I didn’t smoke or drink, but somehow I had been diagnosed with Metastatic Lung Cancer. Metastatic cancer means that cancer originates in one part of the body (my lung) and moves to other parts of the body (my back), which explained the severe pain I was experiencing.
After being in disbelief and crying for a period of time, I began to pray. Of course, your life flashes before your eyes, and once you hear the word “cancer” you believe it is only a matter of days, however, I knew I had to begin digging deep to strengthen my “faith muscles” if I was going to beat this. I continued to pray, asking God for the strength to endure whatever His plan was for me; I prayed that His Will be done in my life; and I prayed for healing, amongst many other prayers. However, I knew I had to lean and depend on God more than I ever had. I began to not only read but to study the Bible more than ever. I have always been quick to share with anyone who would listen, the goodness of God. Well, I was about to experience His Goodness and Blessings in a way that I never knew, and it could only come about by me strengthening my "faith muscles."
Do you know that with any type of muscle, if you don’t strengthen it, the muscle will atrophy? The same is true about your “faith muscles”; if you don’t strengthen them, they will atrophy. I had to get to work. I don’t ever remember asking God – Why Me; because I know He has a plan for me, and that while he chose me to deal with this sickness, He said – do not be afraid or terrified because of them (in my case, cancer), for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).
My Oncologist told me that I would have some really bad days and believe me she wasn’t wrong about the physical body, however, I continued to Lift my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help; my help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth (Psalm 121). Each day, I continued to dig deep and grow stronger. While I was as sick as I thought humanly possible, every morning I woke up, I had devotion; I prayed to God, read my Bible and listened to Gospel Music. I still had cancer, but my outlook on life was getting better and better and I continued to grow stronger and stronger. My “faith muscles” were strengthening as God continued to do a work in me. I learned to depend on His promises, because he cannot lie. God promised, “This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, in order that the Son of God may be glorified through it (John 11:4).
I learned firsthand that He can make a way out of no way; and that I was to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving to let my prayers be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Which brings me to why 2017 has been the best year of my life; I learned to accept God’s will, I was blessed with a peace about my life, that I would never have experienced otherwise; I pray different; my relationships are stronger and better; I care and love more; all in a way that I know is pleasing to God. I thank God for allowing me to have people in my life who would not let me have a pity party, but helped me to strengthen my walk with Him, because they also knew it was the only way I would be able to please Him.
Today, after many rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, I am not cancer free, but I am doing great, thanks be to God. I am able to take a chemo-pill instead of chemotherapy, which continues to shrink the tumor in my lung and I am in no way dealing with the pain I suffered early on in my back. More important, my faith muscles are so much stronger than when I began this journey, and I know they can do nothing but continue to strengthen, because I know God is in control and I am going to continue to dig deep and give Him the glory.
Thank you for allowing me to share my journey.