When you hear the words, “inner core” what do you think of? The hot lava of a volcano? The toxic core of a nuclear reactor? To me, my “inner core” is that deep strength that gets me through all that life can bring. And when you hear the words, “you have cancer” you need all the strength you can get. My doctor’s words, “you have melanoma and we’ll be removing part of your ear,” rocked my world, made me forever marked as a cancer survivor, and then made me determined to practice what I preach.

I think it’s easy to feel abandoned by God in the midst of a diagnosis of cancer.   How could this possibly be God’s will?  I teach the Bible and I know that it says we live in a broken world where the rain falls on the just and unjust alike, but that doesn’t mean I can’t feel abandoned.   For me, that Core is my inner most being.  The place that God invaded with life when I trusted in Jesus’ forgiving love (John 7:37-39). Jesus is the Giver of the unfailing strength to get us through a diagnosis and beyond. I kept thinking, God knows how many hairs are on my head, he knows what’s happening to me now.  Our inner core is our soul and when we place our belief in Jesus Christ and make him our Lord and Savior an amazing thing happens. Strength seeps into our core and we see that we are not the sum of the circumstances happening around us; instead, we are strong in His hands.

I have a friend who’s taught me a great deal in her survivorship. One of her favorite sayings is, “be gentle on your feelings and hard on your mind.” Feelings can take us over when we are frightened of a disease, feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired, and worried about our future. I am an emotional guy.   I often tell myself, “Don’t let your emotions drive”.  My friend would set a timer for a “pity party” – she would experience the doubt, the pain, the entire experience; then acknowledge the feelings, and finally own them. Then when the timer went off she would place the fear-filled feelings aside and move forward in her journey. Fortunately our soul isn’t mere feelings. Instead, our soul is a belief in a God who can pull us up and out of ourselves and teach us that cancer can destroy our body but it can’t have us – it can’t become our inner core.

Recently I presented this topic at HOPE Cancer Connection’s survivorship program, A Time To Heal. The curriculum discusses many “shovels” to dig your way to your Inner Core and discover what feeds your soul. It may be the beauty of nature, the sound of a favorite hymn, a poem, or if you’re like me, a favorite verse from the Bible. My favorite verse reminds me that my God will sustain me in adversity: A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish, (Isaiah 42:3) We need to dig to the greatest strength of all and remember that our Inner Core is capitalized – when we believe in Him, He will see us through.

Pastor Dave Barber, River Valley Church, Oshkosh