Could your season of suffering be an opportunity to glorify God? Be encouraged that God is close to the broken-hearted as Jonathan Youssef and special guest Julie Chapman discuss what will carry us through the most trying times.
This interview is condensed and excerpted from episode 38 of Candid Conversations with Jonathan Youssef. Listen today on your favorite podcast platform or online.
"I am so humbled that God chose me to walk this path to give Him the glory during these illnesses because it's all about Him."
Jonathan: This episode is about worshiping God during difficult times. And I know that you have experienced quite a number of health issues in your life, so give us an overview of what those issues have looked like.
Julie: Absolutely. I'm here to do whatever God asks of me and to bring Him the glory. In May of 1996, I was thirty-one. The Friday before Mother's Day I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that was wrapping around my brain stem. I was the mother of two little girls, and the rug was pulled out from under me for the first time.
Then in June of 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer during a routine colonoscopy. So I had surgery. I had a temporary ostomy bag, twelve rounds of chemo, and twenty-eight days of radiation and chemo. I had an 85 percent chance of a full recovery—but God had other plans for me. About a year and a half later, a routine scan showed that the cancer had gone into both of my lungs, so I had another six rounds of chemo and surgery on one lung. To me, there's no such thing as coincidences. Everything that happens in my life I always look for God in it. And when they scheduled that surgery on Maundy Thursday, it was one of what I like to call "God winks." To me, that was a sign from God that He was watching over me.
Three weeks later I had surgery on the other lung and finished out with five rounds of chemo.
Two years later, a routine scan showed a spot in my lungs. I had a biopsy, and we were all very surprised when it turned out that it was cancer. I didn't see any of this coming, but I know God did. So I had another lung surgery. So I'm hoping that's going to be it and we're done with cancer, but only God knows.
|Jonathan: What does that feel like emotionally when it keeps coming back?|
|Julie: It's devastating. I have God with me every step of the way, but I can't lie: It's hard. There are times that I can't pray anymore; I am so drained. You're just empty. Tired. I still have my Jesus; I'm just weary. But after spending time with my husband in prayer, I usually get my feet back under me within a couple days, and we're ready to fight and head into the mission field of the chemo lounge, as I call it.|
|Jonathan: How has your relationship with the Lord evolved through all of these trials?|
|Julie: When you're looking at a life-and-death situation and when I could feel the presence of God in the hospital room, I started trying to accept any opportunity I was given to go share about the goodness of Christ, and I had never done that before. The more confidence I get through Christ, the more I can share with others and the more I can say, "Oh listen, you got diagnosed with cancer. Let me tell you about it. Don't panic. It's okay." And I realize everyone's diagnosis is very different, but in that way hopefully I can encourage someone to keep their eyes on Jesus and never look away.|
|Jonathan: What are the reactions that you get from people, whether doctors, nurses, or fellow patients, when they see your attitude toward the trial that you're going through?|
| Julie: When you open up to people—whether it's in the chemo lounge or the hospital or with the doctors and nurses—the vast majority of the time, when I have asked doctors or nurses to hold my hand and pray with me, people are amazingly receptive. I would say 90 percent of the time, once you open that door and they know you're a believer, they will respond right back to you. From that point on there's a whole different line of communication when they know you're a believer and you know they are. I can tell them my worries and concerns and how to pray and how to best help me.
|Jonathan: A lot of people who go through difficult situations tend to have songs or verses that help them through that time. Were there any songs or verses that really ministered to you through those difficult days?|
|Julie: Absolutely. Whatever songs seem to be popular at the time in Christian music, I can find a meaning in every one of them. For my brain tumor I really clung to Psalm 9:9-10 and John 3:16. Jeremiah 1:5 was big, and it still is: "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb and I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." I know that God has had this plan for me since before I was in the womb.|
|Jonathan: What would you say to someone who has just received bad news?|
| Julie: The first thing I would tell them is to get on your knees and you cry out to God. It's okay to be upset and angry and not understand. But you've got to get on your knees and cry out and pray and pray and pray some more. I've learned from all this to not be afraid to ask other people to pray for you. Surround yourself with people who love you and who will encourage you through it all because nothing happens that God's not aware of, and He's going to be right there for you.
|Jonathan: Is there anything you would want to share with people who could be facing a myriad of different circumstances and issues?|
|Julie: I would tell them to think about it this way: I am so humbled that God chose me to walk this path to give Him the glory during these illnesses because it's all about Him. It's like God looked at me, like He did Job, and said, "I'm going to give this to Julie. I know she's going to give me glory from all of it." And if there's just one person that I can lead to Christ through what I've been through, then it's all worth it.|