When Brenda Tan testified at Saturday Praise Service in January that 2016 would be a year of great personal challenge, little did she know that it would include undergoing treatment for stomach cancer.
by Brenda Tan
By the time I was diagnosed with stomach cancer on 12 February 2016, I had already been a Christian for 27 years. In those years, I’ve had the privilege of visiting the valley of the shadow of death a number of times with our Shepherd.
When the doctor revealed that the tumour was cancerous and my entire stomach had to be removed, I was not only fully at peace, but I also saw the humour in the situation. How else was I to reconcile the oft-sung, “Lord I give you my life”, if I refused to give Him my one stomach?
With victory already won in Christ, I don’t fear death. For me, “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21): while I’m alive, I live to grow in Him, to love His sheep, and to obey Him. And when (not if) I die, the reward is to go to a far more glorious place than whatever I can experience in this life, a place where I can reunite with loved ones that have gone before, and where I await my family and friends still on earth.
Less than a month after that testimony, I embarked on this valley journey with Him; step-by-slow-step, changing the rhythm of busy-happy-chaos into one where healing and time is on a continuum so different from the speed and expanse of 2015.
One of the lessons God revealed to me is that if I live a perfectly healthy life, it’s harder to be real in testifying to other sufferers about why God is real to me, nor why I have a peace despite my cancer. My words from the place of health would ring hollow to someone in pain: of course, I can say all these easy words since I don’t have to go through it myself.
Our testimony doesn’t always have to be about overcoming illness or crisis, but it consistently involves who God is to us, no matter what challenges we face in life. There is power in glorifying God as we suffer. The footsteps of Jesus Himself are of suffering – “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13)
Apart from having testimonies to share, a detour to the valley affords a Christian the opportunity to walk a little closer to our Shepherd, to understand suffering, and to be comforted by God, His rod and staff, that we may otherwise lose in the bright sunny paths.
And that is the best thing about walking through the valley of the shadow of death: we never walk alone.
With each loop and pull of her crochet needle, Brenda Tan sees God using her life like a colourful thread of yarn, fashioned into blessings for people around her.
This article first appeared in Issue 17, November 2017 CHORUS Magazine.