Pain, Peace, The Winds of Change, Words of Endurance

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
The words of Jesus – Matthew 7:24

The sweeping currents of change can leave us feeling like a seasick passenger aboard a storm-tossed ship. As we, like desperate passengers, cling to the deck railing, braced for the next wave, we desperately long for solid ground. But where do we find it? Is there anything in life that is storm proof?

If the storms of life have left you white-knuckled and nauseous, hang onto the promises God has given. No storm of life can ever touch these precious treasures. They provide solid ground no matter how difficult our circumstances may be or how bruised and weary we are from the storm.

Jesus Christ is no security against storms, But He is a perfect security in storms. He has never promised you an easy passage, Only a safe landing.

Valuables that are subject to storm damage:

Personal Accomplishment

Yet when I surveyed all that my had had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 2:11


“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting.” – Proverbs 31:30


“Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” – Proverbs 23:5


“My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.” – Psalm 38:11

The Wisdom of the World

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written…”The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” – 1 Corinthians 3:18-20

Earthly Glory

“All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.” – 1 Peter 1:24

The Future

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:15

Treasures that are storm-proof:

God’s Purpose for Us

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10

God’s Acceptance

“Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” – John 6:37

God’s Treasure

Your Father has been pleased to give you…a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. – Luke 12:23-33 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever. – 1 Peter 1:24-25

God’s Love

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

God’s Wisdom and Guidance

Yet I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. – Psalm 73:23-24

Heavenly Rewards

“And if anyone gives you even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” – Matthew 10:42


“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” – 2 Corinthians 4:1

But now, this is what the Lord says –
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1-3


Anxiety, Peace, The Winds of Change, Words of Endurance

Change isn’t something we humans handle well. When we’re forced to deal with change such as the upheaval cancer can bring, most of us will recognize some indications of stress. In fact, even positive changes such as getting married, taking a vacation, or completing school can stress us out.

When we’re under stress we may eat less (or more) than usual, particularly of certain foods. We may cry more easily. We may be more than a little irritable with coworkers, family, or friends. We may not be able to sleep or we may want only to sleep. We may feel anxious or have panic attacks. We may seem to be “preoccupied” or become forgetful—the list of stress symptoms could go on and on. And the stress behind those symptoms can do a number on our emotional, physical and spiritual health.

So score yourself on the Life Change Scale and see what your current level of change-related stress is.

No wonder you’re feeling stressed! Maybe it’s time to renew your efforts to adjust to the changes happening in your life.

If you need more reasons to give yourself a break, or cut yourself some slack, note that the researchers who did this study identified a connection between unrelieved stress and physical illness. Individuals who scored 300 or more Life Change Units in a twelve-month period had a 40-50% chance of developing a major illness within two years. The more change we must deal with, the more stress we accumulate. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much you may know about human behavior. The formula applies to us all.

Christian Psychologist Gary Oliver, for example, was a devoted husband and loving father. He had a busy practice, taught at a prestigious seminary and had authored several successful counseling books. His life would be deemed a success by anyone’s standards. But after his second battle with cancer, the winds of change and the stresses that accompanied those changes led him to make some changes of his own. One of those adjustments was to redefine his view of success. Success was no longer a long list of credits or accomplishments. It became “just putting one foot in front of the other.”

So give yourself a break. If you’re dealing with cancer, whether as a patient or a caregiver, you’re dealing with a full load of change. Perhaps it’s time for some stress management; time to call in reinforcements, a helpful neighbor, or a housekeeper; time to steal away for a few days or even a few hours; time to call a friend, a pastor, or your doctor. Whatever you do to increase your ability to cope with the stress of change, do it! It will be good for you.

Life Change Scale – Which events have happened to you during the past 12 months?

HTML Tables
Event Value Life Event Happened to you? Your Score
100 Death of Spouse
73 Divorce
65 Marital Separation
63 Jail Term
63 Death of close family member
53 Personal injury or illness
50 Marriage
47 Fired from job
45 Marital reconciliation
45 Retirement
44 Change in health of family member
40 Pregnancy
39 Sex difficulties
39 Gain of new family member
39 Business readjustment
38 Change in financial state
37 Death of close friend
36 Change to different line of work
35 Change in number of arguments with spouse
31 Mortgage of loan over $10,000
30 Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
29 Change in responsibilities at work
29 Son or daughter leaving home
29 Trouble with in-laws
28 Outstanding personal achievement
26 Wife begins or stops work
26 Begin or end school
25 Change in living conditions
24 Revision of personal habits
23 Trouble with boss
20 Change in work hours or conditions
20 Change in residence
20 Change in schools
19 Change in recreation
19 Change in church activities
18 Change in social activities
17 Mortgage or loan less than $10,000
16 Change in sleeping habits
15 Change in number of family get togethers
15 Change in eating habits
13 Vacation
12 Christmas
11 Minor violations of the law

Fear, Peace, The Winds of Change, Words of Endurance

Sometimes I get the feeling that the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that’s not true. Some of the smaller countries are neutral. Robert Orben

Robert Orben knows exactly how living in a state of upheaval can make us feel. It can seem like the forces of the cosmos are arrayed against us, determined to render us incapacitated. At other times we don’t feel quite so overwhelmed. Instead, we may feel more like the Outreach of Hope staff who described the feelings they experience when faced with change as: disrupted, exhausted, apprehensive, angry, discombobulated, panicky, flustered, inconvenienced, like I’m drowning, disconnected, sick to my stomach.

These feelings are not surprising. Serious illness brings changes into our lives that are unwelcome and disruptive. And change, even when it’s positive, can overthrow order and ruin routine. It launches us out of our comfort zone and into uncharted waters. Even the most adventuresome and courageous individuals rarely handle an unplanned journey into the unknown very well.

The uncertainty we feel as a result of changes in our lives can set off an emotional chain reaction that puts our coping strategies to the test. Even so, there are steps we can take to better understand and live with our uncomfortable, unpredictable, sometimes volatile, stubbornly illogical, and occasionally overwhelming emotions.

Acknowledge Their Existence.

Denying or downplaying our emotions doesn’t make them go away. They are such a large part of who we are that to shut them off or deny them means that we deny a significant part of who we are. Suppressed emotions simply go into hibernation until they one day (when we least expect it) awaken from their slumber and demand an audience. The problem is we don’t know when they will awaken, what form they will take, or what demands they will make of us when they do.

One woman shared that when she experiences changes she shifts into a mental state of “reset.” She doesn’t deny her emotions. She acknowledges that they exist and knows their source, but she “doesn’t give them much air time.” She simply hits a mental reset button and moves on. While this may seem to be an effective way to cope with change because it creates little external emotional disruption, this woman readily admits that her coping style is costly. “Every time I hit the reset button, a part of me—my feelings, my dreams, my value as a person who has needs—dies.”

Another woman who has difficulty acknowledging her emotions has learned to schedule time in her day to give her emotions free reign. She gets on her exercise bicycle and lets her feelings go where they need to go without trying to suppress or justify them. She likens her peddling therapy to “emotional housekeeping—there’s no dirty laundry left lying on the floor to stink up the place.”

Recognize Your Emotional Sensitivity.

Just as a barometer is affected by weather changes, emotions are easily affected by exposure to changes in our environment. Most cancer treatments and medications, for example, affect our emotions. Changes in eating and sleeping habits, changes in our spiritual health and daily routine, and the stress of ongoing adjustment to new situations can have a dramatic impact on how we feel.

Sudden changes in emotional health such as increased irritability, anger, sadness, withdrawal from family and friends, inability to cope, or lethargy should first be discussed with your physician because they may be the result of current treatment or medications. Your doctor may be able to change or prescribe new medication or alter your treatment plan so that your emotional health is less affected. Even if that is impossible, there is some relief in knowing that an emotional condition is temporary and has a definite cause.

The same emotional changes mentioned above can also be the result of depression. Depression is a medical condition caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It can be brought on by severe stress, major life changes, serious or chronic illness, or certain prescription medications, although it sometimes occurs for no apparent reason. It may not provide much comfort, but health professionals believe that many cancer patients and caregivers experience clinical depression sometime during or after treatment. However, most of them do not seek help, and help is readily available. Dr. John Shuster, Medical Director of the University of Alabama Hospice, states that depression is “much like pain in the setting of cancer—there is not a good reason that an individual with cancer should have to suffer with (this) common and very distressing com-plication when effective treatments are readily available and easy to use.”

If you suspect that you or someone you love is suffering from depression, talk with your physician. Tremendous advances in treatment for depression have made it possible to significantly lessen its emotional impact and duration. Most physicians will prescribe medication that restores normal chemical balance in the brain and will also recommend counseling to help address and manage the possible causes of the depression.

Don’t Face Your Emotions Alone.

Resist the temptation to try to work through your troubling emotions on your own. By their very nature, emotions can be overwhelming and confusing, so an objective perspective is often helpful. Talk through your feelings with a wise and trusted family member, friend, counselor, or pastor who can help you sort out what you’re feeling. At other times you may just need someone who is a good listener and who and cares about what is happening in your life without trying to solve your problems, answer your difficult questions, or set you straight on your theology.

In addition, consider writing down your feelings in a journal. Simply expressing your feelings on paper often lessens their intensity. The process of expressing your feelings in writing can also help clarify the issues that trouble you. It can help you know what, if any, actions to take such as confronting someone who has wronged you, placing boundaries on a relationship, or spending more time praying about a particular issue.

Explore the Roots of Your Emotions.

Our emotions expose the condition of our heart, revealing when our heart is happy and when it is troubled. So we need to pay close attention to the messages our emotions are sending.

Martha’s (not her real name) anger was apparent from the moment she picked up the phone. She was angry with her doctor for not promptly returning her call, her husband for being insensitive to her pain, and the church for not calling for weeks, and the list didn’t stop there. If you knew Martha, she was mad at you for something. After some much-needed venting, her friend asked, “What’s behind all of your anger?” After several moments of silence, she began to explore her feelings. What she uncovered wasn’t anger at all.

Martha’s outbursts began shortly after a family gathering. Because of recent changes in her health, she wasn’t as outgoing and energetic as usual. Her family responded to her change in behavior by making several unkind and insensitive remarks. When no one rose to her defense, her feelings were hurt. She felt abandoned and utterly alone in her cancer battle, which was a battle for her life. She eventually shared her feelings honestly with each family member. She explained how much she needed them and how hurt she had been by their responses that day. As a result of exploring the roots of her emotions, Martha not only restored some fractured relationships, but her support system became much more sensitive and responsive to her situation.

Balance Your Feelings With Truth.

Emotions can scream so loud that they drown out the truth. That’s why we have to give truth its say, its moment in the limelight. We have to make a conscious effort to balance what we feel by what we know to be true.

We may even need to write out specific truths and carry them with us on note cards so that we are prepared to counter our emotions with the truth before our feelings rage out of control. Here are some examples of balancing our feelings with truth:

What We Feel

Abandoned by God – I will never leave you nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

This will never turn out right – In all things God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28

God doesn’t care anymore – Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will never forget you! Isaiah 49:15

Scripture instructs us “to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When we counter our emotions with the truth of God’s Word, we are better able to respond appropriately to our feelings, to gain a sense of balance when the world around us feels anything but balanced.

Will this take away our painful emotions? Will it solve all of our emotional problems? No. Sometimes we simply get stuck in an emotional rut and need trained help to get out. When a recurring emotion is particularly troubling and nothing we’ve tried brings relief, we may need to seek counsel from those who are trained and gifted by God to help us deal with our emotional pain (See Proverbs 15:22; 19:20; 20:18.)

Hand Your Feelings Over to God.

When the process of dealing with change causes us to have troubling emotions, we do need to admit our feelings, try to uncover their origin, respond appropriately to the messages they are sending, and balance them with the truth of God’s Word. But if those feelings still remain at the end of the day, it’s time to take our emotions to their Creator and hand them over. By doing so, we admit that we don’t understand our feelings, that we can’t always control them, and that we certainly can’t fix them. Like releasing a balloon for flight, we can take the feelings that are troubling us and literally release them to God.

We can also ask God to give us specific Scriptures that can anchor us when our emotions feel out of control. We can ask Him for discernment so we can better understand what our emotions are saying, what messages they are sending. We can ask Him for wisdom to know what, if anything, we need to do with those messages. And we can rest in the knowledge that God fully understands our human emotions because they originated with Him. What’s more, He lived on this earth and experienced every single emotion we experience. In the end, we can surrender our emotions to the only One who will take them and give us His peace in exchange.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
MATTHEW 11:28-29


Cancer, Faith, The Winds of Change, Words of Endurance

I really struggle with surrendering my plans to God. Surrender feels like weakness to me. That’s why I’ve memorized this quote by Henrietta Mears:
“The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”

After Dave’s comeback game, I figured he would continue pitching and go on to complete a satisfying Major League baseball career. I was excited about the opportunities baseball could give him to share what God had done in his life through his battle with cancer. And as far as our personal life was concerned, I thought the worst was over. I thought life would finally return to “normal,” that there would be no more major changes or surprises on the horizon.

I was wrong on both counts. My desires for Dave’s baseball career and my plans for our life as a couple and as a family weren’t selfish. In fact, they were completely normal. But they were my plans. They obviously weren’t in God’s plan.

Four days after Dave’s comeback game, the winds of change upgraded to hurricane status and stayed there long enough to sweep away any thought of rebuilding life exactly as it had been before. First, Dave’s arm broke. Then it broke again. Then the cancer returned. Then Dave needed more surgery, additional treatment, more setbacks, and finally the amputation. During that process, I not only gave up on my plans, I was beginning to seriously question God’s plans.

I eventually learned (the hard way) that drastic changes in our lives require us to identify and grieve our losses in order to maintain our emotional and spiritual health. We have to acknowledge the things that are precious to us that we have lost in the storm. Those losses may be things like our dreams for the future, our career aspirations, our innocence, and in our case, even a pitching arm.

Like other people who have come face to face with the storms of change, I had to face the reality that God might have other plans—and that I might not like them. If it comes down to a tug-of-war with God over who gets their way, God is going to win. Scripture assures me that He will: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). We have but two choices: fight God and resist His plan or surrender to God and submit to His plan. Although making that choice is easier said than done, I can truthfully say that every divine detour God gave us ended up being the very best thing that could have happened.

When Jesus faced the ultimate storm, His death on the cross, He looked God straight in the eye and spoke these all-too-human words, “My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39). This simple plea is what makes Him the perfect Savior. He understands our human nature, our resistance to change, our struggle to surrender our desires and plans to Him. In contemporary terminology, He’s “been there, done that.” Now He stands prepared to empower, encourage, and embrace us as we face the storms of life, the inevitable changes that are a part of our journey here on earth.

. . . Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
HEBREWS 4:14-16


Anger, The Winds of Change, Words of Endurance

Just when you think you see the whole picture of life clearly, the channel changes.
Argot L. Shephard

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Living with cancer or any serious illness means living with change. In the battle against cancer, just about every part of life—emotions, finances, physical condition, relationships—feels like it’s in a constant state of flux. Sometimes we know changes are coming. We may sense their faint rumblings from a distance. We may see something new break the monotony of the horizon. At other times, change roars into our lives like a raging river, sweeping us off our feet and tumbling us head over heels in its current.

During the first ten months of my battle against cancer, like so many other cancer patients, I learned a great deal about coping with change. I could anticipate some changes and took steps to prepare for them. At other times, it seemed that I, unknowingly, had been prepared for changes that I could not have anticipated. Of course, some changes took me by surprise.

On August 15, 1989, I wasn’t thinking about change. I had made my comeback. I had learned to pitch again after half of my deltoid muscle and a cancerous tumor had been removed from my pitching arm. While others had said my pitching days were over, I had proven them wrong, already winning my first Major League game since my surgery. Being back in baseball was great, and it looked like smooth sailing ahead.

Smooth sailing except for the fact that Tim Raines was at bat. I had the ball in my glove, and I rubbed it thoroughly. I was unhappy about the fact that the first hitter had hit a fly ball over the left field fence, unhappy that my control wasn’t good and that I had nicked Andres Galarraga, sending him to first base. I knew I would have to bear down to get Raines out. He’s a very tough hitter, and he represented the tying run.

I came to the set position, stared at Galarraga at first, then threw. Next to my ear I heard a loud popping noise. The sound was audible all over the field. It sounded as if someone had snapped a heavy tree branch.

It felt as if my arm had separated from my body and was sailing off toward home plate. I grabbed at it instinctively, trying to pull it back. The ball left my hand and flew high up, far past my astonished catcher, Terry Kennedy, who charged after it.

I knew nothing about the ball or about the runner who ran hesitantly around the bases as if, for once, he was truly guilty of stealing. I was grabbing my arm to keep it from flying away as I tumbled headfirst down the mound. I shouted with all the air in my lungs. Over I went, doing a complete, 360-degree tumble, then flopping forward until I came to rest on my back. My arm felt as if it had been hit with a meat axe. I have never felt such pain. I wish that no one else ever would.

In an instant Will Clark and trainer Mark Letendre were beside me. I was writhing and grunting, trying to get my breath. “Oh, gosh, it hurts, it’s killing me! It’s broke. It feels like I’ve broken my arm.” Because of the pain, I was holding my breath for long periods of time. Mark started to tell me how to breathe. “In at the nose and out of the mouth. Dave! In at the nose. Now out at the mouth. C’mon, Dave, breathe with me!” He was giving me a Lamaze refresher course.

I gasped, between breaths, “I’m all right. It just hurts.”

“Shut up, Dave, and breathe. In at the nose . . . .”

The pain gradually subsided until I could lie quietly, looking up at the circle of faces surrounding me. Above and around me, the stadium had fallen awesomely silent. You could have heard some-body eating peanuts in the upper deck.

Meanwhile, apart from the pain and the activity around me, I was thinking different thoughts. I was simply amazed by what was going on. I’d thought the book had been written on my comeback and that I could go back to a normal life. Now this. No one could have anticipated this change of plans.

I wasn’t, not even for a split second, angry. I was simply astonished. I felt a tremendous sense of thankfulness and expectancy. I was full of the certainty that God was writing yet another chapter in my life. Because I saw my life as one continuous adventure in partnership with God, I trusted that He had wonderfully good things in store for me. I knew that something more, something amazing, was being revealed even though I had no idea what it was.

On that pivotal day I never imagined the changes that would be coming my way. I thought Jan and I were done with sur-prises, with having to adjust to yet another change in plans. I imagine that at one time or another most cancer patients have felt the same way. Just when it seems that things might settle down, a new change comes our way:

  • Our treatment protocol has to be changed again.
  • Relationships with friends change, and some of them pull away.
  • Our career is threatened.
  • The future feels so uncertain.
  • Plans and dreams for the future are derailed.
  • Family members react to what is happening in a less-than-healthy way.
  • We have to see that doctor again.
  • We feel so depressed.
  • Our faith may even falter.

In the face of such changes, we sometimes long for the days or weeks when nothing new appears on the horizon. We find ourselves envying those whose lives appear to be stable, routine—the “normies” as one cancer patient calls them. But the winds of change bring blessings as well as challenges.

I, for example, never imagined that my faith in God would be as strong as it is now. I had no way of knowing that I would share my story and faith with thousands of people. I never dreamed that God would direct Jan and me to start the only national cancer ministry in the country. All I knew for sure as I fell from the pitcher’s mound that day, was that God was in control. He was doing something I couldn’t possibly understand or imagine.

Did my faith in God make it easier to deal with all of the changes brought about by cancer? Yes. But Jan and I still stumbled over each change. We still felt anxious. We still asked, “why?” We still struggled to readjust our sights in a new direction. We still made mistakes. And we learned some valuable lessons that we want to share with you in the hope that our experience will be an encouragement as you deal with the changes taking place in your life.

We can’t prevent the winds of change from blowing. But we hope this issue of The Encourager will help you as you respond to the changes that come your way. Most importantly, I pray that the stories and Scriptures in these pages will help you experience the peace that comes from knowing that you aren’t walking through these changes alone—Someone is walking beside you.

Portions of this article adapted from Comeback by Dave Dravecky with Tim Stafford ©1990. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. Dave’s story is told in Comeback and When You Can’t Come Back. If you wish to order autographed copies of these books, use the order envelope inside this issue.

We sometimes long for the days or weeks when nothing new appears on the horizon.
We find ourselves envying those whose lives appear to be stable, routine – he “normies” as one cancer patient calls them.