Either Way, I Win: God's Hope for Difficult Times

Either Way, I Win: God's Hope for Difficult Times

by Lois Walfrid Johnson


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806627564
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Publishing
Publication date: 08/28/2000
Edition description: REVISED
Pages: 186
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

From the Preface (pre-publication version):
Dear Friend,
What does it mean to say, "Either way, I win"? How can you have hope even in the most difficult times of your life?

I was still a young mother when I faced a life-threatening diagnosis of cancer. Out of the knowledge that I might not live, I wrote the first edition of this book. If I didn't make it, there were things I wanted to say-words I wanted to leave behind.
Soon I discovered there are many forms of cancer. It's natural to think first of the kind seen under a microscope, but there are also cancers of fear, hurt, depression, loneliness, and unbelief. Cancers in which people face daily frustrations, no-win situations, suffering, and pain. Cancers of divorce or another loss of loved ones. Cancers that seem to end all hopes and dreams.

When things are going well, most of us plan our lives like a trip across the country. We study a map and set out, thinking that we'll arrive at our destination. We forget about detours-interruptions like a brief trip on a side road or interruptions so serious that they keep us from reaching our destination.

Centuries ago, Moses faced a life-changing interruption. As the adopted grandson of the Pharaoh of Egypt, Moses had every advantage. Growing up in a palace, he must have set his sights high and expected to do well. Instead he killed an Egyptian and fled to a foreign land. Forty years later, God spoke to Moses from a burning bush: "I'm sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt."

By then Moses had suffered enough to feel inadequate and afraid. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?" he asked. "Who am I that I should bring theIsraelites out of Egypt?" Out of his long years in the desert, Moses saw only the impossibilities of an extremely difficult assignment, not the opportunity of a lifetime.

But God didn't listen to his excuses. From the bush that burned without being destroyed, the Lord declared, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you" (Exod. 3:14, NIV).

By giving his name, God revealed his divine nature and character. In that one instant, a forty-year interruption became the foundation for a life's work. "It's not who you are," God told Moses. "What really counts is that I am with you."

In that time when I felt pushed against a wall by a life-threatening diagnosis of cancer, I knew that my life was not just interrupted. I could soon be gone-done with, over, dead. But when I cried out to the Lord, he graciously provided a door in the wall. In the moment he gave me the thought, "Either way, I win," everything changed. I knew that no matter what happened, I would win for one reason. Jesus Christ would be with me.

That was over twenty-three years ago. Since then, advances in diagnosis and treatment options for people who have breast cancer have markedly improved. There have also been significant improvements in the management and treatment of side effects related to cancer. I'll note some of those changes, but the spiritual concepts of dealing with something difficult remain the same.

In recent years, a number of people have talked to me about the original edition of Either Way, I Win. Some of them said, "Lois, you better update that book to tell people you are still alive. You need to prove that you did it." Each time I heard those words, I grieved. "Prove that I did it? You really think that I did it? That's the very worst reason for updating the book!"

Every year I've lived has been given to me. I can cooperate with the Lord, but he's the one who gives healing. And so, I'm back with this new edition, not because I've done all the "right" things and therefore am still alive. I know better. I'm back, not because I have "succeeded" in living where many others have died. Again, I know better. Instead I give you this updated book for one reason. Because of the ways in which I've been tested, I am even more certain that the God who said, "I am with you" is big enough.

Let me tell you why.

First Chapter

From Chapter One (pre-publication version):
Trouble Ahead

I hate to admit it, but I'm scared, really scared.
My doctor says I need a biopsy.
What if it's the Big C?
Will you tell me what happened to you?

Cancer. Ice-like, the word brings a chill. "Who has it? Which kind?"
This time it was my turn. When I discovered a lump between two ribs, my family doctor did not waste even a minute. While I was still in the examining room, he called a surgeon to make an appointment for the next afternoon.
At that consultation the surgeon explained a procedure often followed at that time. "We'll give you anesthetic for a biopsy and keep you under while we send the lump to the lab. If it's malignant-"

A cold feeling in the pit of my stomach told me the rest. If the lump were malignant, I might soon be facing a mastectomy, the surgery I dreaded most. Terrible as that would be, what might happen next? Would I be a cancer victim or a cancer survivor?

I could hope I would be among the large percentage of women who have a biopsy and learn they don't have cancer. Yet I believed otherwise. God had given me an inner certainty that my lump would be malignant. To my great surprise, I felt no panic, only the peace that I knew what was ahead and had faced the situation honestly.

In that dreadful moment more than twenty-three years ago, I discovered something. For most of my life I had believed that if I tried hard enough, I could succeed at almost anything. With the finding of one small lump, all that changed. Though I could still make some choices, my options would be limited. If there were cancer, I could not control what might happen,even to my own body.

During the brief period of time between that first appointment with the surgeon and the biopsy, I wanted time to talk with my family and closest friends. I asked two of these people, a Lutheran pastor and an Episcopal priest, to pray, anointing me with oil in the name of the Lord. As I knelt at the altar, one of them spoke in words remindful of Isaiah 43: "Fear not, I will take you through the waters."

I also needed time alone to think about the possibilities and somehow help myself feel better prepared if the news was bad. On the Friday before surgery, I drove out in the country and parked in a favorite spot. The day was unusually warm for a Minnesota spring, and in a quiet place I watched snow turn into rushing streams of water. Through my open car window, I felt the warmth of the sun and a gentle breeze. There I asked, "Lord, what do you want me to know?"

My question was born out of desperation. As a woman, even the sound of the word mastectomy frightened me. If I had to go through such a surgery, I didn't want to find out when surrounded by people.

And so, I took out my Bible. In my daily reading I had come to the twenty-second chapter of Luke. At first I could barely concentrate on what I was seeing. Then at verse 31, Christ's words to Peter seemed to fly off the page: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat."

Staring at the words, I thought, It fits! Not just because of a possible diagnosis of cancer. A multitude of difficult things had happened to our family that year. Already I felt as if I were being sifted like wheat. The warning doctors had given me about a mastectomy was going to be real. They weren't telling me the worst, just in case.

I could try to fool myself by hoping I would be among the countless women who have a routine biopsy. Yet the words of Jesus confirmed what I had sensed spiritually before seeing my doctor. Still, I felt no panic. Instead I prayed, "Lord, that's the surgery I dread most. Why, God? Why me?"

Then I saw Christ's promise to Peter: "But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail." Immediately I asked, "Lord, will you pray for me, the way you prayed for Peter?"

As though Christ were speaking only to me, the rest of the promise seemed spotlighted. "When you have turned again, strengthen your brethren."

Turn again? What did that mean? I had no idea. Strengthen my brothers and sisters in Christ? I wondered, but only for a minute. Right then the other parts of the verse seemed more important-especially the part about being sifted. The reality of those words warned me about what was ahead. Much as I hoped otherwise, there was no doubt in my mind. It would be a mastectomy.

To my own great surprise, I did not feel the worry that often plagued my life. Only later did I experience the fear that nearly paralyzed me.

I used the Sunday I had before the biopsy as an opportunity to speak to my seventh-grade confirmation class. Several times I had talked to them about God's protection. "God offers you a resource for your everyday life," I had told them. "He wants you to ask for the power of his Spirit to help you cope with whatever you face."

Now I felt the need to say more about God's protection in every circumstance. "I want to be sure you understand that his protection comes in many different ways," I told them. "Sometimes we know his care for us through the peace and love he gives."

That afternoon, on Palm Sunday, I entered the hospital for the biopsy the next morning. Instead of the time that is often allowed now for considering surgical options, the decision about a mastectomy would be made while I was under anesthetic. If the biopsy proved malignant, the surgeon would do the mastectomy right away.

Deep within my heart there was a prayer: Lord, don't allow me at any time to feel separated from your presence. If I lose my awareness of your love, I will have lost everything.

Without realizing it, I had discovered the foundation of all our life principles:

When we fix our gaze on
Jesus and keep it there, he
gives us the faith we need.

Table of Contents

Preface: Dear Friendv
1.Trouble Ahead1
2.Walk Out of Fear7
3.Standing Up When Feeling Down14
4.Free to Live!24
5.The Gift of Communication33
6.All Things, Lord?40
7.Prayer That Makes a Difference53
8.God's Remedy for Pain67
9.Words That Give Us Life75
10.You Can Hear the Voice of God85
11.Going Beyond Confusion94
12.God's Provision for Wholeness104
13.Making Christianity Practical112
14.Healing from the Inside Out129
15.Lonesome for Home138
16.The Season of Singing149
Study Guide and Discussion Questions162
Works Referenced183

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