At age 32, just after celebrating the start of the new life of our son inside my womb, I discovered that there was also death beginning to form inside me, in the shape of a cancerous tumor in my breast. What a weighty tension it was to hold; to rejoice in the Lord granting us this gift of pregnancy, but to also mourn the loss of my health and potentially my life at a young age. My husband and I, when sharing these tidings, would always start with the cliché, “We have some good news and some bad news…” There was really no other way to prepare our family and friends for the roller coaster of emotions they were about to experience.
As if that weren’t enough…
At the same time I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my father was undergoing chemo treatments for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). And in the midst of it all, the unthinkable happened. My sweet mother died suddenly of a heart attack. Her loss, in the midst of such an already fragile and tender time physically and emotionally, felt like too much to bear. My dad was on the road to recovery, and I was close to the end of my treatments and the birth of our son. That heart-wrenching tension was there again: how could we celebrate our healing from cancer while at the same time mourning the loss of mother and wife in one of our lowest points in life? Why would Jesus heal me and my dad, and protect my son in the womb while I had chemo, yet allow my mom to die when He could’ve stopped it?
But, this is not the end.
We all wrestle with the question of why God allows suffering in this world. I certainly do not know the answer. But when I have cried out in despair to the Lord, he has reminded me that “this is not the end.” He has reminded me that my children will one day fully know Grammie in heaven; that I will have the conversations with her there that I’ve longed for here. This life is but the blink of an eye. Our hope is not here on this earth. And yes, we do hope for healing and renewal on this earth because we were created with that hope, but it is not where our eternal hope lies. Jesus, in His great mercy, allows us to experience healing miracles here on earth to reflect the ultimate healing and restoration of our bodies and souls in eternity.
Recently I had the honor of illustrating a children’s book which recounts Jesus’ healing miracles in His time on earth. Having experienced physical healing in my own life, this book had special meaning to me, even though this healing did not come without pain and loss. My favorite part of the book is the final spread, showing Jesus as the victorious King, and ending with the words “…and we are healed because of His wounds.” This is the ultimate healing.
Let us take heart that He has washed us with His precious blood and defeated death on our behalf that we may live wholly in health and glory in the world to come. I can praise Him for healing me and my dad from cancer and for bringing my mom into His glorious presence, radiant and joyful for eternity!
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
—Romans 5:3-5 NLT
Jessica Blanchard is a graphic designer and artist who lives in the Washington, DC, area with her husband, Seth, her two children, Clara and Theo, and her baby foster daughter. She is the illustrator of Jesus Heals: An Anatomy Primer.