Clinging to Christ When Your Child has Cancer

By Danielle Munoz
PC: Unsplash
I rested in the glow of the Christmas tree with my newborn son, my heart close to bursting. A week ago he arrived, adding even more delight to the Advent season. Yet even in that joy I couldn’t shake the growing unease over my daughter. 


As my baby boy strongly kicked and cooed, she appeared to be slowly deteriorating before my eyes. First, a bloody nose. Random bleeding gums. Then bruises—one, two, three, and several more popping up in unusual places. 


These can’t be from her usual clumsiness, can they?


Despite these warning signs, she remained the ever-bubbly, bright, outgoing toddler, quieting my doubts.


But at one point, as I spotted another concerning bruise, a word rushed into my mind seemingly out of nowhere—leukemia. I knew next to nothing about its symptoms, but God in his grace was preparing me. 


Days later, when the church nursery said she uncharacteristically laid down too tired to play and a low fever creeped up, we knew a doctor visit was due. 


By his providence, the Lord prompted me to not wait until the scheduled appointment. 


I called our insurance’s 24/7 helpline. At first the nurse seemed to think it was a typical flu, but when I brought up the bruises again, she paused before saying, “You need to take her to the doctor now, like within the next hour.”


My heart dropped. This is happening. This could really be leukemia. 


I hurriedly called my husband to come home from work to take her. I nearly wept as they prepared to leave and my little girl brought over my sneakers said, “Mama, here are your shoes. Let’s go.” 


But I couldn’t, since I had to stay and watch our son. Like I had done thousands of times before, but never to this heavy degree, I had to prayerfully hand her to the care of our Heavenly Father.


It was close to midnight when the phone rang, but my trembling fingers hesitated to pick it up. I looked down at my baby in the darkness of the late hour, holding onto the last moment of ignorance. I knew in a split second news from the emergency room would rock my world, for better or worse. 
After hitting “accept,” my husband’s voice on the other side of the line confirmed my greatest fear—our two-year-old daughter had cancer.
Little can prepare one for such a shock, the sole exception being the sufficient Word of our Lord. 
For there, James reminds us: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, ESV)
Even as tears soaked my face that long night, this was one passage that soothed my soul. With it, God assures us that his sovereign, loving hand uses every trial—no matter what shape or size—to make us “perfect and complete” like his Son.
How? Trials constantly place us outside our comfort zone. And what a soul-stretching blessing that is, because it’s outside our comfort zone where real Christ-likeness can grow. It’s where faith is proven real, going depths previously unexplored—painfully but beautifully filling with Jesus until “lacking nothing.”


In the weeks that followed that call, God sharpened our belief like never before, as we floated between the split worlds of hospital and home, held our child in her most fragile moments, and fully entrusted her every breath to him. 
Each gritty moment of surgical procedures, pricks, chemo infusions, and force-fed medicines weaved tighter together our theology, pointing us again and again to Christ’s daily, hourly, minutely faithfulness. Though appointments and exhaustion filled our days, we began to see our definitions of joy and goodness grow stronger and inseparable from God. 
Remember that curious part of James’s verse: “count it all joy."
His wording suggests that joy is an intentional act—not sourced from our uncontrollable circumstances but from actively trusting our unchanging Savior in them. 


This is where blessing is found. Suffering implores us to seek the everlasting beauty and power of our Savior. The character of Christ and the hope of Christ are forged in us through our suffering for Christ, and for that reason we can rejoice. 
I will say that “counting it joy” is not always natural or pretty, or a “hallelujah” moment. During weeks of watching my daughter listless on the couch while other kids played outside, I couldn’t help but ask “why, Lord?” with raw angst, only to remember that this is not the end of the story. That by his mercy our story will be redeemed, all because the Father allowed his own beloved Son to suffer for us. 
We could ask the same question “Why, Lord?” with awe over the gospel. The answer to that is because He loves us. And that is also the answer to why the trial is happening—because he loves us. It’s what’s best for us and his Kingdom, though we may not understand it in full now. 
We hope in Christ, not wishfully, but with certainty that he will someday make all things new—when he will wipe away every tear and pediatric oncology floors won’t exist. 
Without Christ, our trials in this broken world would appear as dead ends. Worthless. Hopeless. But with Christ, with the Spirit training and emboldening us, there is eternal hope in them. There is eternal life beginning to be realized, as this momentary affliction prepares us for coming glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). 
After a summer home-bound due to tough chemo, we are rejoicing in God’s faithfulness as our daughter enters the final 2-year treatment phase that is much milder. Lord-willing, we can’t wait to testify to her about God’s goodness in this season of her life when she is old enough to understand. 


Danielle Munoz is a wife, mommy of two, and blogger for Christian women that loves discovering how freedom and truth beautifully come together in Jesus. Her online ministry, Free Indeed, aims to give women hope from God’s Word that refreshes their hearts to serve Christ faithfully.


Comments

Unknown said…
Tears!!!! That faith courage and strenghth can only come from our God. God is so good.
12 years ago we too were called to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with our toddler daughter. You eloquently captured the precious truths of our amazing God’s character that continue to comfort, to encourage, to equip, and to bring us joy as we learn to wait on Him through a season of medical uncertainty again. I praise Him with you again today. He alone is faithful!
Stu said…
Reminds me a lot of your story Senora! Great to know our God is faithful!!!

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