Ray Dadswell: Living with uncertainty

A good friend and colleague shares her honest and challenging story ...

“If I could have looked into the future twelve months ago, I would not have believed the things that would happen – the way our lives have been turned upside down, what we once considered normal, changed forever.

“In June 2012 after a battery of investigations I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery and six months chemotherapy followed. Lesions in my liver and lungs have been detected since then, and I now face a further six months chemotherapy.

“Since my cancer has now spread I can never be pronounced cured, it will always be a ‘catch up’ situation, waiting for the next scan result.

“We have had dozens of hospital visits, scans and armfuls of blood taken. The NHS has been magnificent – I have experienced kindness and expert professional help at my local hospital, the Royal Marsden Hospitals in Sutton and London, and at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

“Being a long-term hospital patient is like living in two worlds – there is the normal world of home, family, work, church, with life going on for everyone else like it always has. Then there’s the other world, when you walk through the hospital doors and are at the mercy of other people’s instructions – drink this, do that, sit here, etc.

“Life is uncertain – I do not know how long I will live, but then, none of us do. ..... All of us only have today.

“I became a Christian in my mid-teens so have clocked up over 50 years in the life of faith.

“What does it mean to suddenly be faced with my own mortality, when every hospital visit brings a tidal wave of anxiety and uncertainty? It’s been a real roller-coaster for us – there are times when we feel full of faith and confidence in God’s promises, and what the Bible says about Heaven seems very real. Other times separation seems too hard to contemplate. Some of you reading this will have lost your partner, the love of your life and will be walking the vale of sadness. Many of us can’t fully understand that experience as it hasn’t happened to us yet.

“This world seems so solid, stuck to it as we are by gravity, that Paul’s words about the things that are unseen are more real than the things that are seen (2 Corinthians 4, 18) seem impossible to grasp at the moment.

“So how do we live with uncertainty? For us it has been trying to strike a balance every day. Not letting the clouds of the future spoil the sunshine of today. It’s coping with the contrast of the seesaw of our own emotions and experiences, hope and pain, elation and depression. The contrast is with the solid certainty of God’s word and his plans and promises for our future. When we trust in Jesus, this world is not our final address, God has prepared a place for us. We can’t grasp how amazing that will be and in the Scriptures we only get glimpses of the glory of that place. I have lost count of the number of funerals my husband has taken and the times I’ve sat in a crematorium or stood by a graveside and thought ‘I wonder what that person is doing now.’

“I sometimes envy Christians who are bursting with assurance and whose walk of faith never seems to be peppered with big questions. I wonder at some of the words of Scripture, ‘Don’t be anxious about anything ... Consider it pure joy ... whenever you face trials’ and many others that are so easy to read and so hard to live out. It’s a day by day, moment by moment walk and our best friend, guide and Saviour never leaves our side.

“Meanwhile, until our time here is up, we live on, suffering, serving, watching and waiting. ..... We don’t understand all that happens to us, but we echo the disciples, in the midst of puzzlement and uncertainty, saying, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life’ (John 6, 68), or to the father of the sick boy (Mark 9, 24), ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.’

“It’s hard to face uncertainty – we love to have things cut and dried, planned out, be in control, hard to live a day at a time and have our plans turned upside down. None of us know the future, but we know who holds the future, and we hang on to that when times are tough. We have a Heavenly Father who knows us through and through and who longs for our complete trust in him – walking by faith and not by sight and discovering more and more every day ‘Jesus, better by far’.”

Thank you, Mavis.

How much we appreciate everything you have written.