My first thought was to start this out around the time I was a pimple-faced kid and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Then I thought, no, how about during the time in my life when I shoved him in a corner and kinda forgot about him for awhile? A long while. But I finally settled upon the year in my life when I faced my storm. Or more specifically, my storm that combined with my dad, my mom, my sisters’ storms—for me it was a storm that sucked me into it quicker than I thought possible, and with basically no warning.
The story I am about to tell you touches multiple facets. It will speak openly about my faith. It will speak openly about my lack of faith. It will speak openly about my pain, and the pain of those around me.
So let’s get started by jumping right in.
First, some facts for those of you who have not been along for the entire ride. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4a squamous carcinoma (in his case throat cancer). What followed was a series of thirty-five radiation treatments, seven chemo treatments, somewhere around 5,500 miles driven, numerous doctor visits, a life of living a “normal life” to one that ended in feeding tubes because it was to difficult to eat or drink. In short, this was a disruption to our “comfortable” way of life, and to a point, my life felt like this:
Then I saw this picture and thought–this was me–this was my life.
As you read above, my life changed when dad was diagnosed with cancer. The biggest thing I had to deal with obviously was my dad’s health, but I also worried about him…you know, worried like I didn’t know I could. Thoughts ranged from, “Is he going to die?” to “What will happen to mom?” to “Why now?” to “Why him?”
Why? Why? Why? I was basically stuck in a why mode.
And, to top it off, I was also worried about mom and dad’s financial health, mom’s emotional and physical health, my little sister, my other sister, to x…to y…to z… Then you add in the stress of family life, work life, and spiritual life—well, life for me seemed to stop for a minute. You know when you go through something like this, life is spinning around faster and faster until your reach a point where it truly feels like it stops—that point of realization—that point where your emotions slam you. Your emotions crush you. And for a moment, nothing else mattered except the burden you feel. Now take that times a thousand, add some tears, and you have life stopping for a moment.
As I look back at this now, I realize that I was relying on “me”…leaning on no one…trusting few. Including God.
I started to question. I started to slip. I started to not understand. I started to pretend. I started to pull inside myself. So as the days turned into weeks that turned into months, I started to question more… Things that I never thought of before crept into my daily thoughts. “Where are you God!?!” I demanded. “If you are here, what do I need to do? What should I be doing?” “How can this be happening? Then came the why questions again. Why is this happening? Why now? Why to dad? Why to mom? Why to us…life has been so hard already…we have lost so many friends and family lately.
We can’t handle another death…I…can’t…handle…another…death!
All these emotions led to the feeling of the coffee cup—slowly sagging, slowly failing.
Then I finally hit that point—that point when you drop down to your knees and pray. That point when you finally admit that you cannot do it alone. That you admit you need help. That you do need to trust someone. That you need to stop pretending. For me that was right after I lost another friend to cancer—right in the middle of dad’s cancer treatments.
My prayer was simple. I cannot remember the exact words, but I said, “Here you go Lord. You know my problems. You know my pain. You know my needs. I cannot do this alone any more. I am putting 100% of my trust in you. I cannot begin to understand why all of this is happening, but I can put my trust in you. So, Lord, here ya go. Help me. Please…”
And I really don’t know how to explain it, but life started to feel different. It was as if I switched cups—and now my cup was a little taller. As I look back, God had been talking to me all along. He had been walking with me all along. He was carrying me most of the time—all of the time—I just choose not to listen or pay attention.
As I look back I can see he was part of my Bible study group. He was there with my friends when they sat and listened to my struggles. He was there when people showed up in my life who were in need of help, and I became that friend who listened. There were times God carried me during the darkest part of my doubts and struggles…through the darkest parts of my storm. He led me, gently, back out of my storm.
So, I am listening now—I am paying attention—and I see that God is everywhere. He speaks to us in so many ways. There are times when he is working harder in my life and those are the times that I can feel his presence more–the “God moments” if you will.
So with all this said, is my life perfect? No.
Is dad’s cancer gone? Only time will tell.
Is this my final storm? Probably not.
Do I continue to struggle? Absolutely.
Do I see differently now? Yes.
Do I pray more? Absolutely.
Does God know these things? Yes.
Is he there? Yes.
So with that I end with this—Pray always.
Pray always… Such a short verse…but worth repeating—daily, hourly, every minute (1 Thess. 5:17) .
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus
-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
God helped me through this storm. He taught me so much. He used me along the way.
Michael Johnson is on a spiritual journey and his faith walk is a constant work in progress. But, in a nutshell, he is a Christ-follower, husband, father, cancer survivor, songwriter wannabe, and a coffee enthusiast. He currently lives in the heartland–without a dog (insert sad face here), but with a wonderful wife and two amazing girls. Michael is the owner of an independent coffee shop. He has a deep desire to help people grow closer to Christ and by doing so grow closer himself. He loves to have honest dialog about faith, God, and religion in hopes that it will help sharpen all involved in the conversation (or even those not involved but sitting close by). In the end, he knows he is just a man, and it is God who sustains him. Follow him on Twitter at @mjohnson_kc.