Waiting on God and Acknowledging His Goodness in Tough Times

It’s been a long time since I’ve mentioned my wife Nanci’s health issues, and her battle with cancer. I share about it now because some of you have health issues, and most of you have spouses, children, parents, other family and/or friends who are facing them and all kinds of other challenges. I hope this will encourage you and give you some perspective.

Eighteen months ago Nanci was diagnosed with colon cancer. Since then, she has had two surgeries, chemo and radiation, then a break, then more chemo. The side effects mounted with each infusion. Muscle and bone pain were her constant companion for many months. The chemicals caused not only extreme fatigue but also depression. The recovery has been slow and difficult, but until recently it seemed to be going well, with several tests indicating no detectable cancer.

Now we have moved back into uncertainty. This Thursday, September 5 Nanci’s surgeon will be checking on something “suspicious” that appeared on her latest MRI at the original tumor site. It could be the recurrence of cancer, or not.  We pray it is benign. Two spots on her lung are also matters of concern. We pray those too are harmless. But as is often the case, WE DON’T KNOW, and since they cannot be easily removed, the doctors believe we need to wait and watch.

When we get good news, it rightly prompts us to say things like “God is good.” But when we get bad news, or are thrown into uncertainty (with high stakes and low control), GOD IS STILL GOOD all the time. He is good when the cancer is gone, but He is also good when the cancer comes back. Consider these passages:

  • The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth. (Exodus 34:6)
  • Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:34)
  • And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” (Ezra 3:11)
  • Good and upright is the Lord. (Psalm 25:8)
  • Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)
  • The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:9)

Nanci recently said some great things in a letter to encourage our pastor friend who is fighting cancer:

The cancer battle has been tough. However, my time with The Ancient of Days (one of my favorite names for God) has been epic! He has met me in ways I never knew were possible. He does provide strength—absolutely!

Every single time I came to Him, His grace, mercy and steadfast love poured into my soul. A major lesson I have learned is God’s use of “waiting” in our lives. God is always working, and sending this time of waiting to me has been the greatest mercy—other than my salvation—He has performed in my life.  

Through the reading of great books, as well as THE BOOK, God has impressed upon me a profound sense of His character and His attributes. I’ve studied and written lessons on the attributes of God in the past, but His sweet Holy Spirit has done a spiritual “infusion” of His character through this time of waiting on Him.

I have experienced His sovereignty, mercy, and steadfast love in tangible ways as I have been in this deep cave. He let me tell Him my fears and confess my lack of peace at what was happening and what might happen.

I now trust Him at a level I never knew I could. And He understands that I don’t need to be happy with everything, but that I can depend on the fact that everything that comes into my life He intends for my good.

As I am in “God’s waiting room” once again, I am taking advantage of some great reading material. Andrew Murray’s book Waiting on God was incredibly meaningful to me last year. This time I am going through it taking special note of the words I had underlined. The passage below has found its way back on our refrigerator door:

Learn to worship God as the God who does wonders, who wishes to prove in you that He can do something supernatural and divine.

Bow before Him; wait upon Him, until your soul realizes that you are in the hands of a divine and almighty worker.

Consent not to know what and how He will work; expect it to be something altogether godlike.

He is teaching you to leave all in His hands, and to wait on Him alone. —Andrew Murray

Nanci concluded by saying this:

The “supernatural and divine” may not turn out to be what we thought we wanted, but I am convinced that it will be what we will embrace in God’s grace!

And she added this verse: “You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!” (Psalm 40:5).

I hope Nanci’s words have encouraged you. Here are some words from God that are helping us while we wait to find out what’s going on:

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:13-14)

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (Lamentations 3:25)

Therefore, the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed [happy] are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18)

For more on suffering, see Randy’s book If God Is Good, as well as the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness and book The Goodness of God (a specially focused condensation of If God Is Good, which also includes additional material).

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries