I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. — Psalm 121:1-2 NIV
My 8 year-old son, Justin, and I were trailing behind my husband and other two 8 year-old sons (yes, triplets) on the beach bike path near our home when Justin turned to speak to me and veered into the oncoming bike traffic. A woman had no choice but to crash into Justin, who went sprawling across the pavement like a baseball player diving into home plate. He sat up as a small crowd of concerned faces encircled him, but his teary eyes fixed on mine and never wandered until I helped him up and assured him that he’d be fine.
In times of trouble – financial insecurity, career uncertainty, relationship struggles, a cancer diagnosis – where do you fix your gaze? Just as my son looked above the chaos of tangled bikes on the ground and locked onto the one person he trusted to overflow with love and caring, so must you lift your eyes beyond the confusion and pain of unwelcome challenges to lock onto the Creator of the universe who cares for you always and who brings the power to heal.
Psalm 121 assures us that our God watches over us and He will never slumber nor sleep, so that no harm shall befall you whether the sun shines during the day, or the moon beams at night. Where or to whom else would you rather start looking in a moment of crisis? An omnipotent, loving insomniac sounds ideal to me!
In my practice as a breast cancer surgeon, I am honored by the privilege to come alongside women during some of the darkest days of their lives, and to hold their hands until the light shines again. I’ve noticed that women of strong faith exude a calm and a confidence that others often lack. When viewed in a spiritual context, the cancer journey often strengthens a woman’s resolve to emerge from the experience refined, perhaps with more empathy or a renewed sense of passion in life. Faith attaches meaning to events; when events lack purpose, stress shows up. Faith gives you reasons and hope.
Nothing reduces stress better than hope!
Belief in a benevolent God correlates to both psychological well-being and mitigates the impact of stress on physical health; in fact, when measuring cancer-fighting cells in the bloodstream (“good” white cells and lymphocytes) against self-reports of spirituality, a more capable, functional immune system correlates to greater spirituality. Faith elicits feelings of optimism, comforts existential fears, elevates self-esteem, creates an internal locus of control, and reduces anxiety. Breast cancer survivors emphasize the positive benefits of prayer and a relationship with God.
On the other hand, spiritual distress and feeling abandoned by God or the religious community causes depression and decreased adherence to medical advice among cancer patients. There’s much to gain from belonging to a faith-based community that supports your beliefs, provides social support and connectedness, as well as the opportunity to be altruistic toward others, which can be a boon to sustained health. Spiritual families reinforce a common belief system, and remind you that you are not meant to carry the weight of the world alone but to be part of a whole, and together you can accomplish more than you can alone.
It might surprise you to hear that religious women with breast cancer do not fair any better than non-believers when it comes to improved survival or slower cancer progression. Having said that, your quality of life improves considerably when you have faith and hope, rather than despair and fear. Let’s understand Psalm 121’s wise conclusion to find resolution and comfort in that truth:
The Lord will keep you from all harm — He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. – Psalm 121:7-8 NIV
Whatever the number of years remaining for you on Earth, the Lord is acutely aware of when He plans to welcome you home. Christian or not, adversity strikes us all, but believers can claim God’s awesome promise that as He tirelessly watches over your life, He will keep you from all harm. All you have to do is lift your eyes up.
Father, as the adversities of life come closing in, may I always remember to lift my eyes to the Maker of Heaven and earth, my ever-present help in times of trouble. Amen.
Original devotion written for Faith.Full by Dr. Kristi Funk, author of Breasts: The Owner’s Manual.
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In crisis, where are you looking? It’s easy to veer into spiritual distress when something unexpected and unwanted happens and we forget for a moment that God is good and He is with us in the struggle. Getting our focus back on Jesus, lifting our eyes to Him is so important because He is where our help and our peace comes from. Share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full