Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Cancer and Contentment, Part 1

Leslie Basham: Towards the end of last summer, Jenny Melby and her mom, Karen, came to the Revive Our Hearts studio for an interview. Jenny had just crossed Lake Michigan on a paddleboard. Maybe you remember the conversation.

Karen Melby: So I knelt on the squishy life jacket, hung over the back door of the fiberglass boat with my rain coat on. As the rain was coming sideways on me, I was miserable. But I’m looking at my daughter, and I’m thinking, I’m on the boat. She’s out there working hard.

Leslie: Well, not long after that interview, Karen’s husband, Scott Melby told her about some physical symptoms he was having. He was about to embark on a very different kind of journey, one that would test Karen’s faith yet again.

Karen: Scott had not been feeling well. He was actually not feeling well the weekend of that paddleboard experience. But we had suspected that he had picked something up on a recent trip to Africa.

Scott Melby: So I went in to the doctor. He drew blood, and then I took off to run some errands. Next thing I know Karen’s phoning me saying, “The doctor’s been frantically trying to get a hold of you. You’ve got to get to the E.R. right away.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts for Tuesday, October 20, 2015.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I would imagine that as you woke up and began your day today, you could find plenty of things to complain about. Too often my days begin that way. And sad to say, I often do complain about those things. But I also know this. No matter how many difficult things may be going on in our world, you and I can choose to recognize how many reasons there are to be grateful.

When you start to focus on things you’re thankful for, it just has a way of transforming your outlook, your attitude, and the whole environment around you.

Leslie: Scott and Karen Melby have been learning this while walking through a dark valley, as Scott has undergone treatments for an agressive form of leukemia for just under three years.

Scott serves on the advisory board for Revive Our Hearts, and Nancy, when you heard what God has been doing in his heart, you couldn't wait for listeners to hear from him.

Nancy: I’ve watched Scott as He’s walked through this journey, and I’ve been so encouraged as the Lord has taught him new things about trust and gratitude through this difficult path.

Our team visited Scott and his wife, Karen, in their home in Grand Rapids because at that point Scott still wasn’t able to get out of his house. As you listen to this conversation, I pray that you’ll get some important perspective on whatever challenges you may be facing today. Let’s listen.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Our team visited Scott and Karen last year to record the amazing story of gratitude you'll heart today. Tomorrow we'll hear a message Karen gave last year while Scott was undergoing a blood transfusion. And on Thursday and Friday, you'll the latest update in a coversation Nancy recorded with this couple this summer.

Let's start at the beginning. When Scott rushed to the hospital, the doctor’s didn’t have a diagnosis. They just knew something was very serious.

Scott: So we were in the hospital about a week while they were running tests from every department imaginable. Little by little all the reports came back clear except for oncology. It was at the end of the week that the oncologist came in late one night and gave us the news that we had an aggressive form of leukemia.

I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia which was a very aggressive form of leukemia. The doctor said without treatment I would have eight to twelve months to live. He said that the only true treatment was to try to kill the leukemia within my body and immediately go to a bone marrow transplant.

We were extremely sad, but we weren’t in despair. We were rocked, but we weren’t taken off of the base that God has given us. So it was a sweet time. What I mean is it was really a unique time of prayer and going before the Lord. We pulled the kids in and told them the diagnosis.

And then we said, “But you know you guys, mom and I have always said from the very beginning of our marriage that whenever we come before the Lord, the answer is always ‘Yes, Lord.’ And then the question is, ‘Now what do You want us to do?’ And so when God said, ‘Go work on a mission in Chile,’ we gladly went. And when God said, ‘Go help start that church,’ we gladly did it. And when God said, ‘Help with this ministry,’ we gladly did it. So this was just another commandment from the Lord of saying, ‘Okay, now I want you to walk through cancer.’ And we had to say, ‘Yes, Lord, we’ll do that.’”

Karen: Scott was able to say “Yes, Lord.” It took me a couple of weeks to come to that place. But I was willing to follow my husband and say, “Yes, I trust You, Lord.” But I don’t know that I was willing to accept it as quickly as Scott was. That took me a little bit of time to come into agreement with the Lord on that issue.

But I was willing to follow and to accept Scott’s willingness to bring glory to the Lord. I certainly wanted to bring glory to the Lord in all things that we have ever gone through. But to be so accepting and say, “Yes, Lord, You could possibly be taking my husband from me”? I wasn’t to that place on day one.

Scott: So we prayed and said, “God, we need some hope. We trust You.” Again, we went through the Scriptures, “Because of this verse and because of this verse and because of this verse we trust You. But God we need some hope, and we need some joy.”

And with that we went to bed. The next morning, seven-thirty, lights come on in the room. In walks this doctor who said, “Good morning. I’m Dr. Brinker. I’m your new oncologist, and I’ve got a plan to help you.” And he just gave us this great confidence and this great sense that someone else is going to help us here.

Then a little later in the afternoon, a couple that had called us previously said, “Hey, we want to come and meet with you.” When you’re in that stage, you really don’t want to be with people. But we said, “Okay, why don’t you come in the afternoon.”

So in walks this couple that we’ve known briefly, this healthy, sharp, vibrant young couple about our age. The man sat down and said, “I have a story to tell you. Five years ago I had a bone marrow transplant, and I’m here to give you hope. I’m here to tell you that there’s hope on the other side of the transplant.”

So later in the day another gentleman unexpectedly walked in who was part of our small group. He said, “Yes, I heard about the cancer and the transplant. By the way, my mom had that four years ago, and she’s doing great. She’s an eighty-two-year-old woman. She’s strong and vibrant.” Again, more hope, more joy that we needed.

Then ten-thirty that night a young man that I had discipled years ago walked in the door. He first started out being my personal trainer, and he since has gone on to be a pediatrician. He said, “God told me to come today. And just like in the olden days when I used to help you train and prepare you to get ready to work out, God’s told me to help prepare you for this. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to be your mental coach to get you ready, to get you through this chemotherapy and get you through this tough time.”

In less than twenty-four hours, God just filled us with hope and a sense of, “I’ve got this. Everything’s under control. Don’t worry.” That was just a huge boost for kicking off the whole arduous process of starting twenty-one rounds of chemo and all that goes along with the horrors of chemo treatment.

Karen: About two weeks after Scott was first admitted to the hospital, the father of a friend of our daughter’s had just passed away from cancer. Kirsten and I felt like we needed to go to the memorial service. It was really at that service that I had a little conversation with the Lord. It was at that point in time that I was able to accept this.

I was able to accept cancer because, ironically, God had to take me to a memorial service to get my attention to face my fear and for Him to speak to me and say, “Karen, I am with you. We are going to journey this together. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. I am here.”

God changed my heart during that service. And from that moment on, I was able to see that yes, this is all part of a journey that God has called us to. Whether it be likened to a mission trip or anything in life God hands us, we are to say “Yes, Lord.”

That’s been one of Nancy’s mantras, if anybody’s been to a True Woman event, that’s something that you learn to say is “Yes, Lord.”

Scott: I am so thankful for the background that the Lord has given us where we both come from Christian families and were raised with solid biblical teaching and have had some amazing Bible teachers in our adult life, like Nancy Leigh, who have really taught the Word and helped us grow deeper in our faith.

It’s only explainable because of that well of knowledge of Scripture that we had that we could draw from in this time of crisis. Lately, I’ve been in Philippians 4. I was reading a book about the contented life and the verse of Paul saying, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.”

I’ve always read that verse and thought that had to do with finances because he talks about whether it’s in scarcity or in abundance. But God really convicted me and said, “Will you allow Me to teach you how to be content when you’re not sure how long this is going to be, when you as a man can do nothing but sit around and allow your wife to serve you every day because you do not have the energy to do anything else?”

That’s been a great journey that the Lord has had me on of learning to be content and asking Him to help me learn to be content. Because the last part of that section is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And only through the power of the resurrected Christ can I learn to be content in what most people would view to be a despairing situation. I’m so grateful for Scripture that continues to teach and continues to minister to my heart day after day.

The ministry of Revive Our Hearts has impacted three generations of my family. I would feel a little squeamish when I would sit in the car and listen to Nancy knowing that it was geared to women, yet it was so applicable to me. Ninety percent of it is just applicable to the person, not necessarily to the gender. I just so appreciate Nancy’s unashamed preaching of the Word of its truth and of her personal stories. She shares her personal struggles, and she’s real.

It’s not always roses, and it’s not always easy. Whether it’s a cancer diagnosis or a difficult family situation. God is there, and God is gracious. Nancy has been just great at shining the light on Scripture and keeping the Lord and Scripture the main focus of her ministry.

Karen: Now the ministry of Revive Our Hearts is a real blessing to our family. Personally knowing Nancy's own heart and that she just loves the Lord and wants to serve Him from the time she was a little girl. I had the privilege of knowing her father before he passed away. I was young at the time. But just knowing where she comes from and knowing the heart of her parents to serve the Lord.

I respect that immensely in her that she has taken up that charge to follow the Lord and to teach God’s Word, to make sure truth is spoken over the airwaves. Her books, her writing is amazing. Scott listened to her book, Choosing Gratitude, probably six times while he was in the hospital.

Scott: I think that was one of the Lord’s promptings. I had read Choosing Gratitude before. I had read it twice. When I was first in the hospital, I was at a state physically where I couldn’t read. All I could do was listen. And I thought, If I could learn to be grateful, if I could learn to be thankful in this situation, I could learn to be thankful in any situation.

So I said, “Karen, could you get me the recorded CDs?” And so she did. I would just play those over and over and over again. And I think Karen’s right, I probably listened to it about six times.

Choosing Gratitude Audio Book Reader: When we choose the pathway of worshiping and giving thanks especially in the midst of difficult circumstances, there is a fragrance, a radiance that issues forth out of our lives to bless the Lord and others.

Scott: It really helped me put into focus all that was going on in the hospital at the time. I could focus on the positive things, and I could focus on thanking the Lord for every aspect of it. And even though you are in intense pain and you’ve got tubes and needles and things all over, I could thank the Lord for that. I could thank Him for the medicine that’s going into my body.

Rather than focusing on the destructive side of chemo, I could thank the Lord that we had availability to have chemo to help try to stem this cancer in my body. So a huge help early on was listening to Nancy’s book over and over again.

Leslie: The audio book Choosing Gratitude was a big help to Scott Melby. So was the piano CD by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. He received the CD Be Still while in the hospital.

Scott: That was extremely helpful for me in the hospital. Again, when I couldn’t read, what I would do as the lights would go out at night, I would put that in my CD player. I remember waking up throughout the night and just hitting replay, replay, replay. It so ministered to my heart.

I mean, the music is not only beautiful, but you can’t help but hear that music and have the words come to mind. Probably the one that was most impactful was “Take My Life and Let It Be.” Just, “Lord, whatever You have here is fine with me. Whether it’s a cure and we have ten more years, or we have ten more days. Just take my life and use it for You however long my life is going to be.”

The other interesting thing was, when you are in that situation you have nurses and techs and blood draws coming in all night long, and they would all comment on the music. “This room is so peaceful and calm compared to everything else on the cancer floor.” It was almost as if the Holy Spirit filled the room when that was playing.

Leslie: By letting the Lord teach them worship and gratitude while suffering so much, Scott and Karen Melby were able to take their eyes off their own problems. The Lord made them sensitive to the needs of others in the hospital.

Karen: Sometimes I would show up to his room mid-morning to start my day, and there would be sitting a couple of nurses or his nurse for the day, and they would sit down. Nurses are generally just on the run. But they took the time, and they would sit down because they were pulling everything that they could out of Scott. But really I believe it’s because he took interest in them. He was asking them about what’s going on in their lives and in their marriage and in their heart.

It made me proud to be his wife during the most difficult thing he’s ever been through. His body was broken, but Christ was spilling out, and it was attractive to those who were watching and those who were taking care of him. That was our prayer. That was really our prayer that the Lord Jesus would be glorified and that He would be seen and that others would be drawn to Him.

Scott: We truly did pray that God would be honored and glorified and that people would be drawn close to Him through this. Another way that the Lord allowed that to happen was at first Karen was overwhelmed with people calling and texting and emailing. So she hopped on that website “Care Pages.” She would begin to write daily updates. Then she would always include a spiritual application of, “Here’s what God has taught us.”

It’s been humbling, just humbling to see how God has used those “Care Pages.” There are over 1700 people that follow that now, and we get comments all the time of people saying, “I use that for my devotional,” or “I share that with my small group,” or “I share that around the dinner table with my family.” All we’re doing is just telling the story of what God has taught us. It’s not rocket science. It’s just when God teaches us something, we just share it with people on “Care Pages.”

That’s been a way that Karen’s been able to minister to just thousands of people. We get feedback every day from folks that talk about the impact of just sharing our story and sharing how God has helped us through these tough times. God is so good and so gracious, and His Word is true and His promises are true.  

Leslie: Scott and Karen Melby needed God’s strength while Scott was in the hospital. But he also continued to lean on that strength day by day while confined to his home.

Scott: Now I really need to rely on the Lord in a little different way. There’s still the physical ailments. That’s where I really try to focus on Scripture. I focus on Philippians 4, “Whatsoever things are good and true and right, think on these things.”

On the flip side, I can’t work. My immune system is totally wiped out, which is interesting. When they give you the chemo before the bone marrow transplant, they bring you about as close to the edge as possible. So one of the things that does is that it totally wipes out your immune system.

I have zero immunity, so I’m kind of isolated in the house right now with very limited contact with people. We’re very careful because if I was to catch a flu or even a common cold, my body doesn’t have anything to fight that, and it would be an immediate trip back to the hospital.

So it’s an isolating time. But what it’s done is allow us to spend some amazing time in Scripture, in the Word, and reading a lot of other spiritual books—guys like Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God and some great books by Jerry Bridges on trusting God.

I’m a business man that’s on the go all the time, and Karen’s busy with the family and her board work and raising the kids. This has given us a very sweet respite from all of that and has really taken our relationship to a whole new level and a real sweetness as we every day spend time in the Word separately and then are able to sit and have long periods of time where we just share what the Lord’s doing in our lives. I’m so grateful for that.

So even though it’s difficult for a type A personality to be flat on the back for what will be almost twelve months, I’m just praying that the Lord would use this time to prepare me. And the other prayer we have had from the very beginning is, “Lord help us not to miss any lesson that You have for us in this. We want to learn everything that You want to teach us through this entire process.”

We still pray that today that we won’t miss today’s lesson and, “What’s this week’s lesson that You want to teach us, Lord?”

Leslie: That’s Scott Melby with a question we can all be asking in whatever tough situations we are facing. Nancy, I know watching Scott and Karen lean on the Lord through this experience has encouraged you.

Nancy: I’ve been so blessed to walk through this journey with Scott and Karen and to see them receiving God’s providences in their lives and responding to Him with faith and gratitude.

I know this program today finds listeners in all different kinds of situations. You may be facing circumstances in your life that are really difficult. I want to encourage you to ask the Lord for grace to approach this day with an attitude of gratitude.

The whole world looks different when we see it through eyes of praise. And when you focus on thanking Him even though your eyes may be filled with tears, it will make a huge difference in how you see your circumstances.

Father, I want to lift up those listening to this story today whose lives are so difficult right now, who are facing tough circumstances, painful relationships, maybe health issues, financial challenges, prodigal children, broken marriages, fear of the unknown, just so many circumstances, maybe somebody who has just receive a notice that they’ve been terminated from their job. Lord, so many different situations, but You are the same God.

As You have walked my friends Scott and Karen through their journey over these last months, as You have made Yourself known to them, so I want to ask You to make Yourself known to that struggling listener who’s been hearing this program today and who so desperately needs an infusion of Your grace.

I pray, Lord, that You’d give them the courage, the faith, the humility to say, “Lord, even though I don’t understand what You’re doing, I choose to give You thanks no matter what.” Thank You, Lord, as we offer up this sacrifice of thanksgiving You enter into our lives in a special way and make Yourself known. And the circumstances may not change, but our hearts will change as we just say, “Yes, Lord, I receive what You have brought into my life.”

So Lord, we pray that much thanksgiving would rise up from our hearts to Your throne this day as we say, “Thank You, Lord. You are good and all that You do is good.” I pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Maybe you know someone who is struggling today and would be encouraged by Scott and Karen's story. You can send them a link to today's program online. The address is ReviveOurHearts.com. Or, you can get a copy of this series on CD. It's called, "Cancer and Contentment," and it's also available at ReviveOurHearts.com. 

You know, we're able to bring you practical programs like this one thanks to listeners who support the ministry financially. When you make a donation of any size, we'd like to send you the brand new 2016 Revive Our Hearts Wall Calendar. The theme is Cry Out! Each month, you'll read quotes on prayer like this one from Nancy featured on the page for February, "If prayer is birthed out of desperation, then anything that makes us desperate for God is a blessing."

Each month, you'll display a meaningful quote on prayer through this calendar. We'll send one to you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. We'll send one calendar per household for your donation when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, tomorrow, Karen Melby will be back to tell us more about what she’s learned through Scott’s illness. She remembers clearly what Scott said to his sister:

Karen: Thanks for saving my life.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.