When Tumor Markers Rise

My wife Julia impresses me more every day. For over two years now she has valiantly and gracefully endured stage four breast cancer. When I look at Julia I am reminded of the words Abraham Lincoln said of Ulysses S. Grant in a rising tide of criticism against him: “I can’t spare this man; he fights.”

With an inspiring yet quiet calm, Julia fights. Through various biopsies and bone drips, scans and surgeries, chemotherapy and blood work, she fights. And on days like today when we learn that tumor markers are on the rise again, she fights.

But the fight is not primarily against cancer. No. The fight, as the Apostle Paul knew, is a fight of faith. Here’s how Paul, in the twilight of his earthly life, said it to his young apprentice Timothy:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:12; cf. 2 Tim. 4:7).

Julia is fighting the good fight of faith; she is striving to take hold of the eternal life to which she was called. In other words, Julia is fighting to believe the promises of God in Christ for her. Precious promises like the following:

  • “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51).
  • “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
  • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

These, among so many others, are the promises we strive to hold on to when the world, the flesh, and the devil rage against us — and, O, how they rage. The world bombards us with the idea that cancer is not consistent with an all-powerful and all-loving God (i.e., the God of the Bible). The flesh cuts us with feelings of despondency and hopelessness. The devil rips us with doubts about our standing before God and the surety of His promises. Combined, this is an army no man or woman can withstand.

But God.

This is Julia’s battle-cry. This is the phrase we keep coming back to time and time again.

For Julia, God is the One who is fighting for her against the constant attacks of the world, the flesh, and the devil. He is her refuge, fortress and strong tower. He is the strength of her heart and her portion forever. Yes, God. He is the One who is — and will — keep Julia from falling.

Even now I marvel through tears at the way she looks to Him; clings to Him; abides in Him; trusts in Him. And I think this is perhaps the main reason God gave me Julia: so I would look at her and see Christ.

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17 Responses to When Tumor Markers Rise

  1. Tom McGrath, the old Colonel who cries says:

    Pastor, sometimes I go meandering through your blog and read the posts. Today, June 20, 2013, I read this one. Some time ago I read a book by Chuck Swindall, “Flying Closer to the Flame”. I mention it because of late I have been hearing your ‘voice’ from the pulpit remind me of how there are times in our lives when we are closer and closer to the refining fire of the Holy Spirit. I believe that is happening to you. Last Sunday I was sitting in the pew and just started crying; don’t know why. Maybe the Holy Spirit is working in me too. God bless you, Julia and all of your family Pastor.

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  5. Greg Lucas says:

    So encouraged today by this post. Thank you for fighting the good fight and magnifying Christ in your trials.

  6. Mike Longley says:

    Ah but we all are dying slowly but most of us deny that or fleeing try to ignore reality. Cancer pushes our mortality brutally into our faces.
    God is yet so good as we know who upholds us daily. How does the non-Christian manage this terror of future mortality?

  7. Stacie N. says:

    Thank you for the life and truth in the words you wrote. Gos id so good. He carries us. Julia does have such an amazing and God-redirecting life. What a beautiful woman who stands with you. I am continually praying for the fight of faith that your family is battling with.

  8. Wow! This is a keeper, Mike. You have really nailed it: it’s the person of Christ and our relationship to him that we grab on to — not, even, the present life hope of healing. Thank you.

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  10. Robyn K says:

    Blessed, challenged, encouraged by you both. Love to you and thankfulness for your faithfulness.

  11. HC says:

    Dear Mike & Julia,
    May God strengthen you both on this path. I have walked that path myself too many times. I hate cancer. I love God.

  12. Colleen says:

    Thank you for reminding us of the true fight. Thank you for pointing those of us who have loved ones with cancer to the character of God. May the God of all comfort comfort you this day.

  13. Rachel says:

    This is wonderfully encouraging. Thank you for your testimony to the Lord’s grace and the truth that can transform us. May His peace be yours today.

  14. thanks, Mike…great words. we love you guys very much and continue to pray for you.

  15. sarah says:

    Excellent! May the Lord be so near to your dear Julia as she fights the good fight of faith. I’m sure it’s not easy.

  16. tricia says:

    Dearest Mike and Julia Shine on Julia, your proof positive that our joy is never related to our circumstance, Praying for you

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