Earlier this week, I broke my ironclad rule of no TV (other than news) during the day in order to watch Christian artist Mandisa be interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. Mandisa’s song “Overcomer” served as an anthem for me after I received my diagnosis of ovarian cancer in January 2016. The song’s video features clips from Roberts’ battle with bone marrow cancer. Mandisa was on the show to talk about the story behind her new album, “Out of the Dark,” and its first single called “Unfinished.”
When a close friend of Mandisa’s died of breast cancer, the singer lost her footing. She couldn’t understand why God didn’t answer her prayers and the prayers of so many others. She stopped writing songs and performing. She sank into a dark depression and isolated herself from friends. She gained almost 200 pounds. She sat in the dark, watched movies, and ate.
While I have worked hard to stay positive during the last year and a half of chemotherapy, surgery, and maintenance drug treatments, I have deep empathy for the singer’s struggle. I’ve shared with my Sunday school class my fear of praying for complete healing when my oncologist tells me I will fight this battle for the rest of my life. What if I don’t get the answer I want? What will that do to my faith? Is it as strong as I present to those around me or am I secretly a doubting Thomas just waiting to be disappointed?
It frustrated me when people said everything would be all right. God’s got this. He brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it. Really? People who pray for healing die from cancer all the time. Daily. If He doesn’t cure my cancer, should I not believe in Him?
That’s what happened to this woman whose songs provide such hope and inspiration for all of us who listen to Christian music. Her friend died. She didn’t get the answer to prayer she wanted. She questioned her faith. She questioned God. She shook her fist at the sky.
It took an intervention from friends to help Mandisa struggle free of her depression and return to making music. They covered her car, parked outside a movie theater, with stickies that said things like “We love you,” and “We miss you.” They waited four hours for her to come out to the car. Then they told her they loved her just the way she was, but they loved her too much to leave her the way she was.
Having people around us who bolster our faith and stick with us through life’s struggles is a blessing from God. He brings those people into our lives. He knows what He’s doing.
I’m thankful he understands my fear of praying for miracles because I have a greater fear of being disappointed the way Mandisa was. Scripture says pray in everything. It says don’t worry, God has this. It says God has plans to prosper, not harm me. And yet, I worry. I fume, and I fret because I can’t understand what God is thinking. Why give me two diseases back-to-back? (Shakes both fists at sky!) What’s the plan? I want to be in control. I want Him to do it my way.
It’s obvious that God has other plans. So I hang on for dear life and know that Mandisa’s new song, “Unfinished,” will serve as my new anthem. Christian music like Mandisa’s will remind me to keep my focus on God. It will remind me of His faithfulness and all the reasons I have to be hopeful. God’s not finished with me yet. He’s brought me this far. My last CT scans were clear. It will be a year in July since I finished chemo. My PLS has not progressed significantly in the last year. He has answered my prayers. And he’s still working on me. I’m not finished yet.
I loved the fact that Mandisa told her story on GMA, a popular morning TV show seen by folks across our country. We need to have these conversations so that others who are lost and sad and filled with despair know they’re not alone. I love what Roberts said about her own cancer journey. “I tell people that I was mad at God, but He can take it.”
He understands. Instead of shaking my fist, I’ll fold my hands in prayer, knowing He hears me. My prayers today are of thanksgiving for all he has done in my life and for Christian artists like Mandisa who create music that reminds us we’re all in this together. We are overcomers!
Are you afraid to pray for what you really want? How do you see God working on those things in your life? Does Christian music play a role in your walk with Jesus? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.