It's the night before my first chemo treatment and I can't sleep. I've got a familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach - one I've never been very fond of.
You know the feeling... you've been having a blast all day at an amusement park with friends, riding the rides and laughing as everything whizzes by you in a blur. Then, somehow, your friends talk you into going on the biggest, scariest-looking roller coaster in the whole park. Against your better judgment, you strap in and silently pray for your life as the ride begins to move... slowly at first. You hear chains clank beneath you as the coaster is pulled up what can only be the tallest metal hill known to mankind, all the while more and more atmosphere is separating you from the precious ground below. Your palms sweat and you find yourself praying again, this time that the engineers really did know what they were doing when they put this crazy contraption together. The long, slow haul up is bad enough, but it's not the worst part. The worst part is that lingering moment at the top of the hill. That moment when you're staring straight down the dreaded first drop wondering just how bad it's going to be. It's that moment you're no longer under the control of anything but gravity, which is about to kick in... and fast. This is one scary moment!
I think it's the anticipation that gets me so anxious every time. It's a taunting moment when you're just lingering there at the top thinking how bad this is going to be and knowing there's no way out of it now. All you can do is wait for your stomach to drop out and your heart to race as you begin to experience gravity in all its glory. Now, I consider myself a bit of a roller coaster fan... but no matter how great the ride is, I've (obviously) never been a fan of that first drop. I much more enjoy the twists, turns, and loops afterwards. The problem is, you can't get through any of those if you don't commit to that first drop!
That's where I find myself tonight - at the top of my first big hill. I'm locked into this crazy ride of chemotherapy... wishing I could get out of it, but knowing it's inevitable. How sick am I going to feel? How much pain will I be in? How bad will the exhaustion be? There are butterflies in my stomach and I'm doing everything I can to keep myself distracted from obsessing over how bad this ride might be. The more the anxiety builds in me, the more I'm reminded of Philippians 4:6 - "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God."
Sometimes I wish there was an exclusion clause in passages like that. Wouldn't it be nice if Paul had said something more like, "Do not be anxious about anything... except, of course, when you face marital problems, rebellious children, job loss, and chemotherapy!" That would make more sense (at least to me). There are certain things in life that just naturally make us anxious. It's a normal response in difficult situations. Yet, this verse is not a mere suggestion. It is a command - DO NOT be anxious for ANYTHING! That's a tall order if you ask me! Instead of getting overwhelmed and upset, when anxiety wells up within us, we are instructed to go to our knees. We are to bring all of those emotions, fears, doubts, and questions to God. Don't worry, he can handle it. Philippians 4:7 proves it. When we cast our anxiety on God, he promises something wonderful - "and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus." What an amazing promise!
When we make the choice to let go of our anxiety and cling to Jesus, he can do something miraculous in our hearts. He can replace our anxiety with peace in the craziest of circumstances.... and not just any peace - a peace that makes no human sense! That is, by far, one of my favorite promises of Scripture (and, boy, am I clinging to it tonight). I can't explain it. It's a supernatural thing. All I know is, whether I feel it or not in this moment, God is right here with me on this ride and he is going to see me through it... however rough it may be. Tonight, I'm praying for his peace that transcends all understanding - because that's the only kind of peace that's worth having in this type of situation.