Christian Living
Christ Is Near in Our Desperation (Candid Ep. 193)
Apr 3, 2024
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How would you handle a prognosis of just two years to live? In our most harrowing of circumstances, we can be tempted to look for the easy path instead of trusting God to carry us through. Join Jonathan and special guest Sarah Pattison as they discuss the tragedy of a terminal diagnosis and the goodness of God to bring true peace when we trust Him.

This conversation is condensed and adapted from episode 193 of Candid Conversations with Jonathan Youssef. Listen today on your favorite podcast platform or online to hear Sarah's full episode.

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When you have a thousand people saying that they are praying for you, I can't help but believe that things are happening there.

Jonathan: As much as you probably wouldn't want to go back to those days [of just keeping your head above water with your small business and raising two little girls], those days were sort of etching into your own mind and experience God's provision and care.

Sarah: Yes, the only thing we can bring to the Lord is our desperation. I believe He gave me those opportunities early on as a formative training ground for what was to come. We had no idea what was around the corner, but it would have been a lot more difficult if we hadn't walked through what we did back then and seen what God did, who He is.

Jonathan: So, you started having some medical conditions. What was that like?

Sarah: Terrible. I eventually found out I have this super-aggressive cancer that's really uncommon.

My husband and I left my initial diagnosis appointment, and we sat in the car and cried. And I said, "Hey, let's just say out loud right now all the things that we're afraid of. I'm afraid I'm going to die. I'm afraid you're going to have to raise three girls by yourself. I'm afraid of looking ugly. I'm afraid of losing all my hair. I'm afraid people won't know how to talk to me, that it'll be awkward everywhere I go." And then we had to start making phone calls to our loved ones. That was the beginning of our journey in August of 2020. My cancer story started out normal and turned out very not normal.

I was basically misdiagnosed and learned I had inflammatory breast cancer, which means you have cancer of the lymph nodes and the dermal layer of the skin. You also have it in your lymphatic fluid. That's why it's so aggressive; the lymphatic fluid actually washes your whole body.

Jonathan: Talk me through those emotions and feelings just in that process.

Sarah: When we confirmed what kind of cancer I had, that was the first time I remember thinking, "Oh, I think this might kill me." Shortly after, a friend from the past encouraged me to get to MD Anderson in Houston. It's arguably the best cancer institution in the world. There are other good ones, but MD Anderson has an inflammatory breast cancer clinic, so all they see is inflammatory breast cancer from sunup to sundown. The doctor there said, "You need to live in Houston for three months and let me treat you."

We had this new direction, but it felt like climbing a mountain. "How am I going to move to Houston for three months? I run a small business. How do I afford this?" It was the rollercoaster ride again: Is God going to provide?

Well, the Lord provided in miraculous financial ways, and then people just blew us away. I secured an apartment close to the hospital and had my parents there for two weeks. Then one friend per week came to live with me to help me. It was sweet with each one of those friends to have that more intimate one-on-one time for a week.

Jonathan: Can we spend a minute and talk about the serving body of Christ? Because it sounds like in those moments of hardship, that's where things were real.

Sarah: God really used people to provide and serve and equip us for what we had to do. Friends set up a meal train for us, and in two days we had meals for six months every other day. I looked down that list of people bringing us meals, and it was people we knew 20 years ago in service and ministry, people in our church, our neighbors. And I think it was a picture of community in the most beautiful way. God puts you where you are, and your job is to love the people who are right there with you.

Even when we were raising money, I could see who donated, and I'd think, "I don't know this person. I have no idea who this person is." Over and over, I saw this. People were signing up to bring meals who were friends of a friend. I've also gotten a lot of checks in the mail from people who would say, "You don't know me, but my friend sent me your blog, and it has really ministered to me. I want to be a part of this journey."

When you have a thousand people saying that they are praying for you, I can't help but believe that things are happening there. That means a lot in terms of community and the body of Christ. Prayer is no small thing, and I think the beautiful thing about prayer is you can be doing that, and nobody ever needs to know, but you're still contributing in a really powerful way.

The Lord does provide. There's supernatural means, but then there's also natural means that He uses for provision. Interestingly, seeing the overwhelming support felt like the supernatural and natural were coming together. The Lord gave us what we needed when we needed it.

Jonathan: What does the path ahead look like for you? What are the things that the Lord is speaking to you?

Sarah: One of my takeaways from this journey has been that I think we're always wanting to get to the next place. We all live in this perpetual place of wanting to get to the next thing and feeling like we're going to have peace when we get there. And it doesn't actually bring peace when we do. I think that's because we look at circumstances to bring peace.

We say we rest in God, but we just want Him to change our circumstances. I believe He can, but even if He doesn't, today is a day—like Jeremiah talking to the exiles in Babylon—to plant your gardens, build your houses, better the city because you're going to be here. This place of transition is actually where God wants you to dig in for a minute. . . . God creates opportunity after opportunity for me to be dependent on Him, like John Bailey's prayer says, "Lord, let me not try to find an alternate route around what You have put before me."

Another huge takeaway for me, especially lately, is the need for trust and hope. It's almost so fragile or tender—the hope part of it—that it's hard to even say out loud because I am so cautious of getting people's or my own hopes tied to circumstance. Even though I trust God and I know He's able, I just don't know if He will. And that's the part that's hard. I believe it, but to say it out loud to a 14-year-old who asks, "How is it good for my little sister to not have a mommy?" And I don't know.

That's the trust side. And it feels almost unbelievable if you don't know the Lord and you haven't had years of experience with Him. That's why I think one of my encouragements would be: start now. You really don't want to be in a boat, taking in water, looking up and saying, "What do I do now?" You want to know where the oars are in the lifeboat before you get to that point. Nobody gets through life unscathed. And just like a human relationship, [our trust in God] is built.

This conversation is condensed and adapted from episode 193 of Candid Conversations with Jonathan Youssef.