How Psalm 46 Helped Me to Face Chemotherapy
My stomach churns and clenches, my heart races and I take deep breaths, trying to stay calm. The only way to stop cancer from killing me is to go through some of the hardest treatments available. Fear assaults me each day as I get ready for round after round of chemotherapy, for scans and tests, for surgeries and blood transfusions. To live, I must almost die. It takes a great deal of courage to get ready and face the treatment that I know will cause agonising pain, that knocks my blood cells and bone marrow so hard I struggle to breathe, that makes my heart race, my hair fall out and my nails lift. The chemotherapy kills the cancer cells, but it also kills the other fast-growing cells in my body.
Each morning as I get ready for another trip to the hospital, I sit and I do the only thing that calms me. I open my Bible and I read Psalm 46.
Psalm 46 (NIV)
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46 is both God’s word to me and the prayer that I pray back to him. God’s word brings us to him and tells us about him. Psalm 46 shows us that God is our refuge, our strength, our ever-present help, and our fortress. He is above everything on the earth. He is above nations, kingdoms and nature. He knows what is happening across the earth, and he is the fortress to which we can run. Therefore, we can take heart and know that what the Psalmist wrote in verse 2 is true for us as well, that whatever happens we do not need to fear.
So, on those mornings when chemotherapy awaits me, I read Psalm 46 and I pray it back to him, ‘Lord, be my refuge and strength, help me not to be afraid, be my fortress that surrounds and protects me. I feel like the waters are roaring and foaming around me, so please help me not to drown. Be with me God. Help me to be still and know that you are God. May you be exalted in my life and in this journey I am on.’
There’s something surprising that happens on each of these days. I start with feeling afraid, but at the end, as I reflect on all that’s happened, I realise I’ve felt peace throughout the day. My fears have disappeared each morning as I bring them to God and they have been replaced with the peace that only comes from him. God has been with me through the day, leading me, guiding me, comforting me and giving me strength. The prayers I have prayed and the prayers of the hundreds of people praying for me have been answered. God’s peace has filled my heart, he’s guided my steps, he’s lead me to the people that I need to speak with, to the treatments I need to receive, and he’s given me strength to face some of the hardest days of my life. Through the agonising pain, I’ve felt his presence. Through an onslaught of side effects, I’ve known his peace. Despite not knowing what the outcome will be, he is my refuge, an ever-present help in trouble.
I drive to radiation each day and sing along to the chorus from Casting Crowns Voice of Truth. The song talks about David standing up to Goliath, and the chorus resonates with me as I continue my cancer treatment.
But the Voice of Truth tells me a different story
The Voice of Truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
And the Voice of Truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth
‘Do not be afraid’… ‘This is for My glory’… The words remind me of Psalm 46: ‘Therefore we will not fear’… ‘I will be exalted in the earth’. I ask God for strength each day and for him to be glorified through each step of my cancer journey. And I turn again and again to Psalm 46, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’.