Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Cancer and Contentment, Part 4

Leslie Basham: When Scott Melby was suffering from a rare form of cancer, he came to this joyful conclusion . . .

Scott Melby: When you reach a point where Jesus is all you have, you realize that Jesus is all you need.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 23, 2015.

What is your biggest point of suffering today? It may seem impossible, but we want to encourage you to praise God in the middle of the pain, and find Him in new ways.

Scott and Karen Melby have experienced a richness with the Lord as Scott's been in a long battle with an aggressive form of cancer. We've been hearing their story all week, and it's been such a practical encouragement to keep our eyes on Jesus when things seem impossible.

Scott is a member of the Revive Our Hearts Advisory Board, and Nancy sat down with him and Karen to discuss some of what they've been learning in the middle of this painful time.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: One of the things I was so glad you did was to update the Care Pages website so people would know what was going on and how to pray. It's so neat to have that kind of resource available today, so you're not having to send emails to fifty different people, but you can do one post.

You not only shared an update on, "Here's what's happening with Scott . . ." but you also would frequently share what God's been teaching you through this, Karen. I watched you not only receiving ministry from people, but giving ministry out to others—when you so needed it yourself.

Did you find that was life-giving to you, for you to be thinking about somebody other than yourself?

Karen Melby: It was very life-giving. In fact, one of the things that God really impressed upon me, that I learned through this journey was, like anything in life, we need to be shining the spotlight on Jesus.

I didn't come to that right away. It took a little time. I had to work through some of the other things that I had to learn about, and from, the Lord, first. I had to learn to trust Him fully; I had to recognize His faithfulness and to have to perspective on everything. But when I think I got past all of that, I did really see how it's so much more freeing, too, when you can truly and clearly get a better picture that this isn't really about me. This isn't really even about Scott. This could completely be something that we don't even know.

It could be about that one nurse. It could be about the doctor or the staff.  It could be about our children or our grandchildren. If you remember when you were a child, you used to play the "bigger and better" game. People would bring something bigger and better and you would run with it.

I think sometimes in life people do that with their conversations, and they do that with their own troubles. You share your trouble, and somebody has one that's bigger. I call that the "bigger and better" game. The problem with that is, it can become the "bigger and bitter" game. I really saw how interesting it was when I might very briefly share what my husband was going through. 

Nancy: While talking with another family. 

Karen: Talking with another family, somebody who was on the floor, maybe a neighbor and their family members, or just other people in the hospital—people in general. As it would come up about my husband having cancer and struggling through leukemia. I recognized the best thing I could do was just carefully explain it—simply—and then talk about Jesus. Just let people know examples of how God was good to us, how the Lord had sustained us, how God answers prayer, and really shine the spotlight on Him.

I realized it would keep me from bitterness, and also hopefully would change the tide of conversation to help other people to be encouraged and to not become bitter, but that they would become better through it. We realized that there were those in the hospital that needed encouragement.

All throughout life, as we share our story, there are people who need to be encouraged. There are many who need salvation, so we pray for that. We pray that in some way God will use this story to bring other people to know Him as their Savior.

Nancy: You've really carried a burden, for example, for the nurses and doctors who have walked with you through this. You asked a group of us the other night to pray for a particular doctor, from a different faith, but you've struck up a relationship with him. You've been through a long walk together.

It sounds like he was seeing something in you that was different, that was attractive to him, that maybe he wasn't seeing in other patients. You've had him over to your home for dinner. He's stayed pretty connected, more than you think would normally be the case in a professional relationship like that.

Scott: Karen's done an amazing job of reaching out to others in the hospital. In fact, there have been many times when I would be lying in bed, and she would be sitting, having a conversation with a nurse or an aide who had come in on their break, just to talk to Karen because she was someone who cared about them.

I think so often, especially on a cancer ward, everyone is so inwardly focused. Also, that's kind of the nature of when you're sick for a long time or you have a loved one who's sick for a long time. It's easy to become self-centered and self-absorbed. Yet, one of the things that Karen has been very purposeful about on this whole journey is reaching out to others and being concerned for others. There's been a real ministry on the cancer floor because of that.

Another aspect of people coming around us and helping us through this and supplying meals and prayers and support and everything . . . I've put it under the category of the beauty of the Christian community, or the beauty of the community.

When we go through hard times, I think one of the things that the enemy tries to do is shut us off from community. It's easy to think, Poor me, or I don't want to share too much of this, or I don't want people knowing all my stuff. That's pretty vulnerable, to talk about that.

But I want to encourage listeners, when they're going through a hard time, to resist that temptation to shut down and to become inwardly focused. When we share burdens with others in an appropriate way and an appropriate manner, that allows the beauty of the body of Christ to just rise up.

We have been ministered to in countless ways by countless people in our journey. I think it started because Karen was willing to write the difficult stuff in the care pages. That vulnerability invites vulnerability. The body of Christ really responded in an incredible way in our journey.

Nancy: As we were with a group of friends talking about this, one of you said, "Suffering is our calling."

Scott: Our whole married life we have said, "Lord, we will do anything that You want us to do." Nancy, one of the things that you've said at True Woman many times is to raise the flag of surrender and say, "Lord, the answer is 'yes.' Now the question is, 'What do You want us to do?'"

God has given us some amazing opportunities in our twenty-eight years of marriage—numerous overseas trips, numerous ministries in town that He has afforded us the opportunity to participate in. We felt led to do a start-up church about ten years ago.

As we approached this cancer journey, it was very clear that this is what God wanted us to do right now, to walk this road of cancer, to walk this road of suffering. We do feel that this is what we're called to for this period of life. We want to go through this time of suffering with the same attitude of gratefulness to God, dependency on God, trust in God that we would do in any other circumstance.

Like in any calling, you want to do it to the best of your ability and you want to fulfill that calling in a way that brings honor and glory to the Lord. That's our desire in our cancer journey, through this time of suffering, that the way we would act and react would bring honor and glory to Him.

Nancy: Here's something else you said (I'm not sure which one of you), "This has been one of the darkest and one of the richest times in our lives." Dark and rich—how do those go together?

Karen: As you're saying that, I'm picturing the sky over Lake Michigan not too long ago. 

Nancy: We've all seen this. 

Karen: It was very, very dark, as a storm was rolling in, and it was not only dark, but the winds were kicking up and it was dangerous. Right next to it was the most beautiful white cloud that was kind of getting pushed away by this dark cloud. It was rolling, and it made this absolutely beautiful roll in the sky. Some of you listening might remember seeing it, just as it was. It was the most beautiful sky. At the same time it was very dark and scary, because we knew a bad storm was coming and we had better get in quick. That might not be the best picture, but in my mind our experience is somewhat like that. We all took pictures of the sky because it was so wonderful, majestic—it was rich! It was something we hadn't seen before.

Scott: The same thing is true with the journey of pain, with the journey of suffering. It's something you've never done before, and so God can take you to new depths if you allow Him to. There are aspects of Scripture that have just come alive like never before in our lives. There is a closeness and a sweetness in our walk with the Lord that we've never felt before because of this opportunity of suffering that He's giving us to totally depend on Him.

When you reach a point that Jesus is all you have, you realize that Jesus is all you need. There's an incredible sweetness there! We have gone through some very difficult things in our marriage, and only by the grace of God are we married today, and yet I would say because of this cancer journey, we are at a whole new level relationally with each other that is sweeter and richer than ever before.

Not only is our walk with Christ sweeter and richer, not only is our time in the Word sweeter and richer, but also our relationship with each other. I don't think we would have been at these levels with the Lord if it hadn't been for this time of going through the crucible, of going through the refining fire with Him. He's refining us into His likeness.

It's not what we would call for if we could, it's not the way we would do it. We all want to just have great quiet times and let the Lord change me through great quiet times, but it's often through the crucible of the hard times and the suffering that you really grow in your walk with the Lord and your love for the Lord.

Nancy: You actually said last night that you wouldn't trade it for anything.

Scott: I truly wouldn't, as excruciating as it's been, as difficult on so many levels—it's hard to feel sidelined as a man who has a career. You feel like you're sidelined for two years of life. It's sad at times to know that I can't do things with my teenage son that other dads are doing with their sons. I couldn't take my son on college recruitment trips because I wasn't able to because of my illness. But that's not what we're going to focus on, what we couldn't do. We're focusing on what we can do.

Nancy: Scott, you have just recently passed the hundred-day mark after your second transplant, and that's a significant marker. Up until that point you were really, really sick—really struggling. Only God knows what the future holds for any of us, but you've now been told, once again, that you're in remission. I was really touched the other night to hear you share that God has given you a different spin on remission. Explain that.

Scott: A little backstory . . . I think I was suspicious of the word "remission," because I was told I was in remission before, and then my cancer came back. Honestly, to me, that became a dirty word. Remission was almost like, "We don't see anything, but . . ." In my head I was thinking, But it's there. It's creeping around the corner. It's just hiding behind a bush and pretty soon it's going to rear its head. So I really didn't like the word "remission."

Then Karen and I realized, through the help of another cancer patient who was going through cancer for the fifth time, that if you just take that word and put a little spin on it . . . Instead of being in remission, we now think of it as we have been "re-missioned."

Nancy: "Re-missioned."

Scott: "Re-missioned." Now God has us on a new mission. I have been given a new shot at life, so how am I going to live that life? What is that mission going to be going forward?

It almost takes it back to the original story of when we talked with our kids initially. We said, "Let's not talk about the why. Let's talk about the what and the how. What can we learn from this and how can we glorify God?" That's the way we look at remission now: "What does God want us to do? How can we bring glory to Him? What can we learn now? How can we be used by God as we go off and find (now that we have been re-missioned) what that mission is? How can we take all of this pain, all of what we learned, and use it in a way that will bring honor and glory to Him?

I said earlier that when you go into a second transplant, the good thing is you know what's coming, and the bad thing is you know what's coming. Going into the second transplant, we really took some time and thought about and prayed about two things that really helped me. 

One was, I sat down and wrote at the top of a piece of paper, "I believe." Then I listed all the things that I believe: that God is good, that He has a plan for me, that it's for His glory and my good, that God is totally in control, that God knows everything I'm going through. I just wrote down all these rock-solid foundational truths in my life that I believe—because I knew what was ahead.

I wanted to have something that I could look back on and remind myself, "This is true, Scott, you wrote this. You believe this."

I just want to encourage anyone, if you happen to be in a phase of life where you see the storm coming, where you know you're about to enter a very difficult challenging time—whether it be suffering physically, or relationships. I wrote down a list of goals, and it really helped me to be able to continually look back at those goals during the hard times and to remind myself: "This is the attitude I want to have, this is what I want to do."

Nancy: Can you share some of those goals with us?

Scott: Well, I remember the first one being, I want to practice the presence of the Lord. I want to remind myself repeatedly that God is here, that I'm in His presence. Whether it's three in the morning and I've got a chemo dripping into my arm and I'm in intense pain, that God is here. He's present.

Another one was, I wanted to go through this being as selfless as possible. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier. When you're a patient, especially for a long time, it's easy to become inwardly focused. So I remember in that goal I was writing, I wanted to be sensitive to Karen, as my wife, who was watching me go through this.

I knew that was painful for her, and it was hard for my children. So I was asking the Lord to help me to have the right perspective. I was still commanded to love my wife, and I still wanted to love my wife, so I asked the Lord, "How can I love my wife? Teach me, Lord, to love my wife in new ways through this current situation. Help me, Lord, to know how to parent my children during this time."

Another thing, I wanted to practice the attitude of gratitude that we've talked about before—just keeping gratitude a key priority and expressing gratitude and thanks at every turn. I even wrote on there that I wanted to stay positive and hopeful about God's healing, and trusting God for healing and thanking Him for that. I had a key verse from 1 Thessalonians 5 about always being joyful, keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, "for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ."

Again, I've always prayed, "God, what's Your will? What's Your will?" Here's a verse that says it's God's will that you always be joyful, that you keep on praying, no matter what happens you'll always be thankful. Now, obviously, I wasn't joyful and thankful for cancer, but I could be thankful for what God was doing through the cancer. I could be thankful for how God was helping us through the cancer.

There was another goal of just praying for a sensitive heart—to have the ability to hear from Him through the pain and to not miss any of the lessons as He conforms me into His likeness. So the list went on. But I want to encourage someone in the value of, if you do see a storm coming, write down how you hope to react during that time so that when you're in the midst of it you can keep reminding yourself, "Oh yeah, that was my goal. Have I done that this week? Have I been thankful today? Have I been grateful today?" And then, that list of "I believes," that was so great for me to continue to go back to during the rough times.

Karen: People have asked me, "What have been the most helpful ways that I could walk alongside somebody else who's going through a period of suffering? " I thought that was a great question, and as I thought about all the different ways that people have helped us and the things that have really meant so much, I thought to myself, Those are people who love the Lord. I just had to believe that they were asking the Lord, "What can I do to help Scott and Karen?" And when it comes first out of a heart that is asking Jesus, "How can I help Scott and Karen and their family?" Who knows better than the Lord Himself how to help us?

That came to be true many times over, where I just knew that when someone showed up with just the perfect thing at the right time, and helped us, I knew this is because these are people who are walking with the Lord themselves. So, my first answer is, "Ask the Lord how you can help that person, and He'll give you ideas."

People often served out of their own love languages (you know, the Gary Chapman love languages). We just found that to be so refreshing, and I think that that's wonderful. Whatever you're good at: if you're a good cook, if you're good at acts of service, if you're good with your words and you appreciate the value of encouraging words . . . Notes and cards, things like that, were so meaningful to us.

Scott: I was amazed through our journey by texting. I was so encouraged so many times by friends who would just send a short text: "Praying for you." The ones that would ask me a million questions about my health were difficult for me to respond to, but when a friend would text, "Just got done praying this verse for you. Please don't reply." I so appreciated that.

I could pick that up when I was able to read it, could pick it up at any time. It wasn't like a phone call I had to take when the doctor is sitting in the room or something. So we can really use the power of text in so many ways, to bring encouragement and to bring the Word of God to people.

Nancy: I'm thinking again, Scott, of being others-centered rather than self-absorbed. A couple of times when we had things going on in this ministry, you were there languishing in a hospital room, but you sent a text to me or to our ministry saying, "I know you have a board meeting coming up. I'm praying for you guys; wish I could be there." And we were just astonished at the way that you guys, in the midst of a very consuming ordeal, how many times you were thinking about other people and ministering to them.

There's a sweetness in that. Really, in a way, some of the blessing you've reaped from others investing in your life is the fruit of the ways that you have given, served, and blessed others. You guys have an amazing gift of hospitality and encouragement. You're givers. That's not new—you have been.

Now, not only have you continued to serve others where you can, but you reap what you sow. You have, I think, reaped people coming and blessing your lives, some of which is certainly the fruit of your own investment in other people's lives. So again, just the reminder that how we live and the seeds we sow and the choices we make and the foundations we lay when the sun is shining is all going to have bearing on what happens when the storm clouds come through.

Scott: Absolutely.

Nancy: And to come back to just what you've reminded us of over and over again. It all goes back to, "Who is God?" The fact that He is, that He is here; He is present; He's a very present help in time of trouble; He is good; He is faithful. You have counseled your hearts with those basic truths about who God is.

You're finding, as a result, that His grace really is sufficient!

Scott: Amen.

Nancy: I'd like to pray. I'd like to pray for you, and I'd like us to join our hearts together in praying, perhaps, for a listener who's going through a really hard time, and is tuned in to hear this podcast or this broadcast today and has received encouragement but they feel like they're going under and they need God's grace. 

So let's pray together. Lord, how I thank You for this precious couple and the dear friends that they have been to me and this ministry over so many years. Thank You for the encouragement, the help, the friendship I've received from them. I just love them so much. I love their family.

I thank You for letting me have a seat to see their journey in this season. How it has ministered to me. How You have blessed and strengthened my own faith because of watching Scott and Karen go through this fiery trial. Thank you, Lord, that we have seen in their lives the fulfillment of your promise in Job 23:10: "When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

I was just telling Karen last night, "Karen, you look so amazing!" There's a radiance to her. There's a beauty to this couple. There is gold that has been—and is being—formed in their lives because they've been willing to open their hands to receive what You have for them for this season.

What is being formed is gold, which is formed under intense pressure and heat through prolonged periods of time. That's how gold is formed. This affliction has been a fire that has purified their faith.

Father, Your Word says in 1 Peter 4:1, "The one who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." I don't know what all that means, but I know there is something sanctifying and purifying about the fire of affliction. I've watched You do that in Scott and Karen's lives.

We give You glory; we thank You. We pray, Lord, for their continued health of body, soul, and spirit. Would you sanctify them, body, soul and spirit? Would You continue to minister grace to them and to strengthen them, sustain them, support them, sanctify them by Your grace?

As they walk through these next days, who knows what all that will hold? But you hold them, and You hold the future. So I pray You would satisfy them deeply with your steadfast love.

And then, Lord, we join our hearts together in praying for a listener who is going through a fiery trial, some great deep affliction. Maybe they listened to this program today thinking, I just cannot take one more day of this! There's discouragement, there's anxiety, there's fear, perhaps anger or resentment about Your choices and the way You've scripted their lives.

They've been given a word of hope today, and I pray that you would extend the helping healing hand of Jesus into that hurting heart, into that dark situation. Where there are those dark storms clouds, I pray that You would show them this could also be the richest time of their life, and that in the midst of the pain they will encounter Christ.

We know that joy is not the absence of pain, but it's the presence of Christ in the midst of the pain. So please, Lord, encourage someone's heart. Strengthen them; give them hope; give them peace; turn their heart from themselves and the obsessed focus with their own suffering and help them to see it as part of a bigger picture—a beautiful picture—that You are painting for Your glory, for their good, for the advancement of Your kingdom.

And, Lord, show us all how to be more sensitive and compassionate and tenderhearted in ministering to the needs, the pain and the hurt of those around us. Bring to mind someone in each of our lives who could use a word of encouragement or a meal or a prayer or someone to sit by their side . . . providing babysitting for their kids . . . something for someone who is going through an ordeal, who is going through suffering.

Show us how we can reach out and be the helping hands of Jesus, to bring peace and joy into their heart. So, Lord, for all of this, we give You glory, we honor You. That's been Scott and Karen's goal throughout—that the spotlight would be put on Jesus. They have done that so beautifully. Help us to do the same. Even through this program, I pray that Christ would be exalted, that Your people would be encouraged, and that Your kingdom would be advanced. We pray it in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss, praying with her friends, Scott and Karen Melby. They've been sharing insights with us they've learned since Scott was diagnosed in 2013 with an aggressive form of cancer. This conversation has been helping all of us focus upward on the Lord during suffering. It's helped us to focus outward toward others while we are suffering.

Nancy has also helped us see how we can be helping others going through similar situations. We're able to bring you practical conversations and teaching based on God's Word thanks to listeners who believe in this ministry and keep it going. Scott and Karen Melby believe in Revive Our Hearts and give of themselves so you can hear it each weekday. How might the Lord want you to give so others can hear Revive Our Hearts?

When you donate any amount this month, we'll say thanks by sending you the 2016 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The theme is "Cry Out." As you flip pages month by month, you'll read a new quote on the topic of crying out to the Lord in prayer. Ask for the Cry Out calendar when you support the ministry with your gift. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today we heard how helping others with practical needs can be such a huge help. On Monday, Nancy will show you that preparing food and showing hospitality is a big act of worship God can use. Please be back next time for Revive Our Hearts. 

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

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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.