During the most difficult storm of my life, I quickly found that I wasn’t just battling cancer — I was also battling a powerful storm of emotions.
At times, these emotions were so overwhelming that I felt like quitting and giving up completely. I had to continually remind myself that there was a reason for everything I was going through.
Eventually, God showed me that the battle of emotions is a process through which He uses our circumstances to mold us more into His image. But first, we have to trust Him and allow Him to guide us through each stage of that battle.
My emotional battle took place in five stages. In today’s excerpt from my book, Why? Answers to Weather the Storms of Life, I want to share with you about that first stage. I call it “The Bombshell Experience.”
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I’ll never forget the first time I watched the fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed in the movie Rocky. I winced and grimaced with every punch he took. Rocky’s opponent pummeled the inexperienced boxer over and over again with punishing blows. It didn’t take long before the young fighter was broken, bloody, and swollen. His ribs, stomach … every part of his body was taking a beating.
Apollo, the reigning heavyweight boxing champion, knocked Rocky to the floor of the ring over and over again. But each time, the battered but determined boxer found the strength to get up. It was too brutal. He could not survive another blow. Why did he keep getting up? How could he keep getting up? Soon, I was yelling at the screen right along with his trainer, Mickey, “Just stay down! Rocky, stay down!”
Finally, Apollo leveled one more crushing blow at Rocky. He went down for the count one last time — one, two, three, four …
When we endure a trial, we feel about like Rocky looked as he lay on the floor of that boxing ring. I know I do. Even without the physical scars to show it, challenges and struggles can leave us battered and broken — just like with Rocky’s boxing epic.
More often than not, the most serious wounds we endure in life are those found on the inside … the ones we suffer during a battle of emotions.
And the despair we feel on the inside can be just as painful as a bloody, gaping wound to our bodies. An emotional beating can leave us weak, vulnerable, and close to defeat like Rocky. But unlike a fictional story, our struggles are very real … and the ending is being scripted by our actions and faith.
I went through several stages in this battle of emotions during my own personal struggle. More times that I can count, I wanted to tunnel under or go around to avoid the emotions that I needed to face. But now I know that it was a journey that I had to go through in order to receive all the benefits.
I fully believe that God will not change our circumstances until the circumstance that He’s allowed in our lives changes us.
The battle of emotions is nothing more than the process of transformation that starts in the mind.
Stage 1: The Bombshell Experience
This step begins the moment your world caves in around you. I remember vividly when the bombshell hit me. I was in the intensive care unit recovery room after my initial surgery. I was just coming to, and they took the breathing apparatus out of my mouth. My wife, my good friend Gary Habermas, and my pastor Jerry Falwell were standing by my bedside. I reached out and grasped Jerry’s hand, asking him, “Is it cancer?”
“Yes,” he replied. “But they think they got it all.”
Jerry encouraged me and prayed with me, but the words continued to explode inside my head … “Yes, you have cancer.” I felt paralyzed from the force of those devastating words.
There are times in our lives when we receive a blow that seems impossible to bear. Such news can numb you, making it difficult to cope with the reality or grasp the seriousness of the situation. It renders us helpless to make good decisions.
It can even be difficult to carry on conversations because of the overwhelming burden of worry and anxiety. I remember that in those first few days and weeks after receiving such devastating news, I felt very detached from reality.
Thankfully, God didn’t leave me there. He brought me through each stage of my journey of emotions until I was finally ready to accept that He was in control and I could trust Him fully.
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Check back next week for another excerpt from Why and to learn about the next three stages in the battle of emotions.
And if you missed last week’s excerpt, you can click here.
Or to read the whole book, click the link below to order your copy for just $8.99. You’ll also receive access to a free companion devotional and discussion guide that you can use if you want to read through Why with a friend or small group.