Cheryl Horton is a task oriented, go-getter and used to take pride in living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She typically didn’t get sick and even more so didn’t rely on medication if she did. All of that was rocked when she learned she had a rare, incurable cancer in December 2009. Cheryl underwent two major surgeries. She has been dealing with this growing cancer, now stage four, for over six years.
While she believes that cancer has brought her family closer to Christ, especially her four grown children, Cheryl finds herself in a deeper struggle. As Cheryl’s physical ailment grows, so does her weariness and frustration. Cheryl is weary of the pain in her body, weary of the amount of medication needed to manage the pain in her body, and weary of her growing lack of energy from her deteriorating body. This frustration led her into depression for the very first time just two years ago. It is a constant to challenge to live the joy that is in the truth of Isaiah 40:29: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
Although God is not the author of disease, He does use trials, sickness, and weakness for His glory. For Cheryl, it has been a long and often relentless struggle to realize that she is not in control nor ever was. In Christ, she is freed to yield to an utterly good and faithful God. At this time, it is most important for her to rest, and to be content in knowing Him rather than “doing” for Him. Although she continues to minister to many -- younger women, young believers, mothers, her children and inner-city kids -- she realizes that it is not what we do for Him that matters. Instead, it is what he has done for us, freeing us to know and rest in Him. “To live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). These powerful words are much easier read than applied. The passage reveals Paul’s desire to be in Jesus' presence, yet he realizes that it is God’s decision, and not His.
Cheryl Horton’s story is about the struggle to trust God with the timing of her life here on earth while learning to rest in Him alone.
For trials such as these, we have no choice but to suffer through with grace or reject the power of His Word, His love, and His goodness. Cheryl is focusing on letting go of the frustrations and anxieties of her sickness, as well as the regret of her weakened state. She is learning to be at peace in the surrender of God’s will during her weak moments and to learn to take every opportunity to commune with God. By and large, through cancer, this moment is the best time for Cheryl to know and grow in Christ.
The story of Mary and Martha has become a model of life for Cheryl. “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was being drawn about with much serving, and she came up to Him and said, Lord, does it not matter to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to do her part with me. But the Lord answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; But there is need of one thing, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:40-42).
As Cheryl seeks to rest in Christ, to be a Mary rather than a Martha, she also wants fellow sojourners to know the invaluable worth of God's family. Without the prayers of the saints, the hands-on physical support, financial help, constant availability, and “standing in the gap,” Cheryl would not be able to continue. Not only does she have an amazing husband and children, but the body of Christ is precious. Our sister's life calls us to open our eyes to see that we are, indeed, a body. We bear one another's burdens. Prayer matters. We cannot and should not function alone. Nor should we limit our outreach to ourselves, but always step outside our comfort zones to “be” His body.
Finally, for all of us who know Christ, there is a happy ending. There is a possibility that the ending for Cheryl may not be a cancer-free diagnosis or many years of life on this earth. But while we are here on earth, it is not our job to give up, or determine our days, but to wait, to pray, to know our Lord, and to make Him known. Giving up is a huge temptation, and many times she has prayed to “go home”, but when the dust settles, she knows that God is good and His timing is perfect.
Author: Bola Sobande
Photographer: Jon Cyrus