“I’m so sorry, but your daughter has cancer.”
She was only four years old. The tumor was found on a Wednesday afternoon, and by Friday morning she was being wheeled back for surgery.
It was so sudden, traumatic, and terrifying. We kissed our daughter, pleaded with the nurses to not leave her side, and then watched as her bed was pushed through the swinging doors of the pediatric surgery hall.
As the doors swung closed behind her, my knees buckled, and I crumpled against my husband.
I hated those doors.
They represented my lack of control, my fear for her wellbeing, and my inability to fix the problem of her cancer. How could God separate me from my baby? Why would He put her, and us, through this?
A few months later, Christmas rolled around. The lights, the wreaths, the trees—all seemed so frivolous compared to what we were walking through. Out of necessity, we toned down our Christmas activities that year.
We simplified traditions, and lowered expectations. We avoided parties (because of her compromised immune system) and tightened the budget (because of unending medical bills). The removal of our regular Christmas things created a vacuum of sorts.
Looking at all the things we were missing could have created angry, bitter hearts. But instead, God drew near. Those unwanted moments of stillness became an open door into a deeper understanding of God’s unmeasurable love— and an invitation to find green pastures through the door of Jesus Christ.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
The Holy Spirit met our fragile hearts that Christmas. He reminded us of the first Christmas, and the shocking news of God coming to His people in the form of a helpless baby. And the brokenness, sorrow, and pain that Jesus clothed Himself with, on our behalf.
The Holy Spirit opened our eyes to the present ways that God was drawing near to us through His people, our local church, His living and active holy word, and through the mysterious communion of prayer.
And the Holy Spirit reminded us that Jesus would one day return. There will be a second Christmas, when Jesus will return and never leave. Our tears will be wiped away. Sickness will be no more. Broken hearts will be mended. Fear will be permanently cast to the depths.
Every week, that Christmas season, I had to drive our daughter across town for her chemotherapy. We’d pass ornately decorated neighborhoods, and marvel at how the world was still spinning at a normal rate for other families. As we’d pass by glittery wreaths hanging on festive doors, God was healing my heart.
Our daughter needed to go through those surgery doors to find physical healing. But we all need to go through Jesus to find our ultimate healing—the forgiveness of our sins, and our redeemed relationship with God.
That Christmas ended up being the sweetest Christmas I’ve had. It was quiet, simple, and even restful. The Lord, in His kindness, met me in my suffering. Jesus was the always open, always inviting door. The Holy Spirit spoke peace and assurances over me. God the Father reminded me that this was the whole reason He sent His Son in the first place.
Maybe this Christmas you are walking through a season of suffering. Maybe it’s your turn to fight against bitterness and anger and fear. Maybe you need to be reminded that Christmas is about Jesus coming near to you.
No matter how much baggage you bring, or sin you need to confess, or doubts you are wrestling to the ground: may Jesus be your welcoming door this Christmas—ushering you into the presence, peace, and healing of God.
About the Author:
Marissa and her husband Rob are members of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas. They have four girls ages 9, 7, 4, and 1. Having walked through childhood cancer with her second daughter, Marissa now seeks out ways to comfort others with the gospel comfort she received. She writes for Christian Parents of Kids with Cancer, as well as on her own website: www.marissabondurant.com. When she’s not writing, wrangling her strong-willed girls, or keeping up with Rob’s endless energy – she can be found water coloring, walking with friends, or just reading a book in peace.