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Thanksgiving, Cancer, and God’s Faithfulness

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Editor’s Note

Dr. Adrianne Miles is a professor at Southeastern, and she’s a frequent contributor to the Center for Faith and Culture. In this Thanksgiving meditation, she reflects on her journey through cancer — and what God’s taught her along the way.

A year ago this month, I was told that my cancer had metastasized. Instead of being on a curative path, I transitioned to a palliative path.

Short of a miracle, my cancer was not going away.

This news was not part of my plan. God was supposed to bring me through cancer, and I was supposed to praise him for that. What was I supposed to do now? I wanted to be able to tell people God had healed me from cancer. I can’t. But I can tell you that God is a good, good Father and His grace is sufficient, often more than sufficient. I have learned that my plans are not God’s plans, and because He is good, his plans are better than mine even when it doesn’t seem like His plans make sense.

Part of my mission right now is to recognize God’s unfailing love in the dailyness of life and point it out to the people around me.

When I was originally diagnosed with cancer in April 2021, I thought of Danny Akin’s words of wisdom: “When something bad happens, don’t ask ‘why me?’ ask ‘why not me?’” I thought about my extended family members. Few of them walk with the Lord. Would God use this malady in my life to show them his power and his love and bring them into his family? I prayed that would be so. Would God use my cancer to draw my boys closer to him so that they would not keep him at arm’s length as I had done in college but would hold fast to him? I prayed that would be so.

Thus, I went into cancer treatment optimistic. I would do chemo followed by radiation and end with surgery, at which point I would be cancer-free, and all my loved ones would be walking closely with the Lord. That was my plan, and that was my schedule, but it was not God’s. God was powerful enough to cure me. It would be an easy thing for Him, so why didn’t He?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but here’s what I do know. None of my family members who weren’t going to church before I got cancer are going now, but many pray more than they used to. Some have even mentioned looking for a local church to attend. My boys have started regularly attending a church near their college, and they talk about what they are learning through the sermons.

Last year in my daydreaming, I imagined telling the world that I had been cured by God’s grace. I imagined celebrating my extended family walking with the Lord. I imagined my boys being super active in some kind of college ministry. But God doesn’t write stories for Hollywood. Everything isn’t wrapped up neatly in a short time frame. God moves people to him one step at a time, and praise God that He is on the move. He is not in this for a just a year or two. He’s in this for eternity. “He is not slow as some count slowness, but is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God hasn’t healed me. Instead, He has given me a platform on social media to share my prayer requests, a platform on which I end up sharing so very many praises for answered prayers and even for answers no one thought to pray about. But God thought about it because his love is unfailing. At least part of my mission right now is to recognize God’s unfailing love in the dailyness of life and point it out to the people around me.

Because of his unfailing love, God has answered all my prayers but the one. He answered so many prayers about my youngest son’s senior year of high school. I was diagnosed two months before his graduation, but I praise God that I felt good enough to take pictures of my son and his girlfriend before their senior prom. I was able to attend his high school graduation and felt good enough to throw him a graduation party with the help of my mom and sister. I have been able to be the mom for every college move-in and move-out day for both of my boys. I participated in my in-laws 60th wedding anniversary celebration. I felt good for my niece’s wedding weekend and was able to enjoy that time with family. I even made a wedding cake for my brother-in-law and his bride and did not feel sick on their special day. I felt great on my 50th birthday and babysat my two-year-old great nephew, playing on his swing set much of the day. I was able to fully enjoy Christmas despite having a chemo infusion four days earlier. I was healthy enough to celebrate both of my children’s birthdays. I joined my extended family for a tour of the Biltmore Estate and was able to keep up with the group. By the grace of God, I was able to read and discuss Luke last summer and Acts this past summer with an unsaved loved one. I met nearly every deadline for a writing project with a colleague. I returned to my teaching job in a full-time capacity. My family went to Disney World this fall, and despite some foot pain, I was able to keep up with them, and we had a wonderful time. God answers prayers! Because of His faithfulness, I’m a bolder witness than I was a year and half ago. I praise him that so many people have witnessed his answers to the prayers prayed on my behalf.

This past year, God has taught me about hope and about lament, but the lesson that eclipses them all is that his love is unfailing, and that is the most precious thing to be thankful for this season. Even in the darkest times when I am most afraid, He is holding me and my family. Not because we are good, not because we deserve it, but because of his unfailing love. It’s hard to wrap my head around. I don’t fully understand that kind of love, but I am so very grateful for it.

As you consider all the things you are grateful for this holiday season, don’t let your unanswered prayers eclipse all the ways God loves you every day. God’s plans do not always match our plans, but His plans must be good because He is so very good. Take time to thank God for all the blessings He has poured out on you this past year.

Despite cancer, my cup overflows! And because of cancer, I recognize the lavish love of God better than I did before.

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Adrianne Miles

Adrianne Miles is an Assistant Professor of English and Linguistics at The College at Southeastern. Her research is in the intersection of literature and sociolinguistics. She lives in Wake Forest with her husband, Scott, and her two teenage boys. She is an active member of her church and community and has a passion to see all people experience the promise of John 10:10 -- the abundant life in Christ.

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