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Two Books That Helped Me Through A Cancer Relapse

Just a short post today on two books that I was very thankful for as I went through a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma relapse earlier this year.

God on Mute by Pete Grieg

Going through cancer for the second time has brought new thoughts to my mind in comparison to being a twenty-something student who had lymphoma 10 years ago. One of the thoughts I wrestled with often was the feeling of being alone in my darkest moments, particularly in isolation at the hospital. I thought more about death and considered my mortality and how it would affect my young family.

Before I had even come across ‘God on Mute’, God had put the Easter story firmly in my heart as I stepped into the unknown of new treatment. As I was having an autologous stem cell transplant, I came to think of the high dose chemotherapy as my Garden of Gethsemane. Going through that experience in my mind, I felt like I was being cut off from those around me, fearful and alone as no one could walk this path of suffering with me – or so I thought (thank you Jesus that you entered into my suffering). But the glorious day when my stem cells would be given back to me to ‘rescue’ my bone marrow was like a new birth. Resurrection Sunday was coming! I didn’t realise until the book was in my hands that it was separated into four sections: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. Thank you Lord, for preparing my heart for this work! Also, thank you to Hannah and Olly for hand-delivering a copy to my door – oh, how I needed it in this season.

As the subtitle of the book suggests, it addresses unanswered prayer. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has experienced this, nor wrestled with so many questions in the face of suffering and distress. I read this book as I was having chemotherapy. It became a talking point for me and one of the nurses, who turned out to be a Christian too! But it was a source of comfort, like a friend who was vocalising how I was feeling in my darkest hour. Pete Grieg’s wife had a brain tumour and he shares openly about his prayer life during that experience. Both me and my husband resonated with this book as it was written from the eyes of a husband upon his wife as they engaged in the biggest battle of their life so far. They also had two young children and were of a similar age as my husband and I at the time. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who is wrestling with God in times of trial and tribulation, who struggle with unanswered prayer or for those who long to better comfort those they know who are distressed.

Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortland

Our tendency is to feel intuitively that the more difficult life gets, the more alone we are. As we sink further into pain, we sink further into felt isolation. The Bible corrects us. Our pain never outstrips what he himself shares in. We are never alone. That sorrow that feels so isolating, so unique, was endured by him in the past and is now shouldered by him in the present.

Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly

If having cancer again had left me in any doubt of God’s love and goodness toward me, then Dane Ortland’s book ‘Gentle and Lowly’ was the balm that my heart needed. It was a book that helped me to begin to heal and focus on my Saviour and His heart for sinners and sufferers – for which I am both. Before I had any idea that the cancer had returned, I prayed that I would know the Father’s heart. Suffering was not the way I had expected to know Him more. But every step of the way, God was revealing more of His heart for me and for others.

This was another book that was put into my hands (thanks Tim!). It is written in a way that shows us the compassion of God and it brings to our attention how gentle He is. In no way does it ever compromise on His judgement – it is biblical and balanced. Yet, Ortland shows us the love of Jesus for us, even in our sin and struggle. It is a book I will be returning to time and again.

You might know that Christ died and rose again on your behalf to rinse you clean of all your sin; but do you know his deepest heart for you? Do you live with an awareness not only of his atoning work for your sinfulness but also of his longing heart amid your sinfulness?

Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly