Marlena, at 24 was diagnosed with a rare advanced stage of cancer. You have been reading excerpts from her online journal. Through her we have seen God provide hope and faith in the midst of tragedy. Three Scripture verses seemed to especially guide her throughout the difficult journey of hospitals, tests, operations, extensive drug treatments and long hours of tedium.
- “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) God gives us hope and patience in the midst of suffering and urges us to pray continuously.
- “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) People battling serious illness describe intense periods of loneliness but Christ promises strength.
- “My grace is sufficient for thee.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) In the midst of the up and down roller coaster ride known as cancer it’s important to know that God’s grace will always be with us.
Lesson: God gives hope, patience and grace that provide strength to endure anything.
Marlena wrote: “I decided to do what I should’ve done a long time ago and just give my illness to God. God is teaching me a lot. One thing is patience during difficult times. God has a plan for all of us, even if we don’t understand it at the time. I’ve also learned that He never abandons his children and always gives the tools we need to get through troubled times.”
Paul wrote in Romans: “We glory in tribulations knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Marlena understood we can safely give our illness to God because in the midst of our struggles we will receive perseverance which also produces character and hope. God never abandons his children and always gives the tools we need, provided by the Holy Spirit to get us through troubled times.
Lesson: God never abandons and even pours out His love through the Holy Spirit to get us through.
Marlena admitted: “God knows my feisty nature and He knows that I’m not a quitter and will fight this disease with everything I’ve got. After all, I didn’t get this far by rolling over and waiting for someone to give me a magic cure, right?”
Lesson: Never, ever quit. It’s ok to be realistic but then give it to God and keep fighting.
“You wouldn’t believe the numerous stories I heard of people who gave it to God when they were told their disease was ‘terminal’ but they are still here today. Hearing those stories provides such an encouragement, not only to me, but to others, so if you have a healing story, share it! There is nothing more nurturing than hearing a story about God’s miracles.”
Lesson: In the midst of any struggle, have the courage share your story with others.
“When you are 26 and have been given an expiration date for your ‘time left’ it makes you contemplate a lot; especially the purpose of life. Cancer challenges your beliefs in things that are intangible and unseen. People in this situation often do one of two things; they choose to curse their beliefs while denying God or they choose to cling to the one thing that will give them life, namely faith. I choose the later. I choose to live each day as it comes. I choose to laugh at my fears. I choose to make sure that I do something to help another person each day. I choose to tell Satan he’s messed with the wrong gal because nothing is impossible with God. After all wasn’t I supposed to be ‘au revoir’ a month ago?”
Lesson: You may choose your response to tragedy. Marlena chose faith.
“I wanted to ask a selfish favor and ask for you to pray for my faith. It has really wavered over this past week since I’ve not been feeling well. Obviously, when you are sick one thinks the worst and I’m desperately trying to think positive. However, Satan is using my insecurity against me. I remind myself that all things are possible with God and by His stripes I have been healed, but sometimes you just need that extra lift. Where is my ‘EASY BUTTON’?”
Lesson: You cannot make this journey alone. We all need others and we especially need God.
Her husband Jeff wrote: “A little while after Marlena took her last peaceful breath, all the pain, worrying and suffering of the last few years left her face and a smile like we haven’t seen for quite some time appeared in its place. It was a smile of pure peacefulness. At first, I thought the nurses had done this for our benefit but they had nothing to do with it. One of Marlena’s biggest fears was hurting her family and I believe that she was sending us a message letting us know that she was ok.”
Lesson: Even in the midst of tragedy God continues to provide signs of hope.
As Marlena’s pastor, I mourn her death but I was truly inspired by her faith in the midst of cancer. I believe God used Marlena to encourage hundreds, maybe even thousands of fellow sufferers through the fighting spirit we witnessed in her and the words she left behind. I pray her journal will continue to provide encouragement for you and many others.
You can read Marlena’s journal and learn more about her by clicking on her site: http://www.caringbridge.org/cb/inputSiteName.do?method=search&siteName=marlenahodges