Alive, because of His grace

Vincent Zhang was just 19 years old when he was diagnosed with a severe form of brain cancer. An encounter with God, however, made him "the most joyful patient in the chemotherapy room".

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The dining room is dark, and I can feel the darkness swallowing me. The clattering of plates.

Delicacies—tasteless. It is as if I am watching a movie; as if I am in a shadowy, inescapable dream.

My Christian friend is sitting in front of me, at the meal I invited him to four days ago, before I had heard the news.

I haven’t slept for three days.

He smiles at me, and I force a smile back, but that smile slowly fades into the abyss of my situation—I am going to die.

I can still hear the doctor’s words echoing in my mind, like faint whispers of my eerie doom: “Chances of survival are rare.”

Cancer inoperable.

Chemo unbearable.

Should I tell him? Should I dare to grasp hold of his unknown God?

And, without thinking further, I blurt out the agony of my predicament; all the fear, all the hurt, all the unknown.

I have cancer, my second cancer, in my brain, rare, malignant—this time spread all over my brain. I am only 19.

The silence, almost palpable, suffocating, inescapable.

Then he speaks out those words of sympathy and love: “Would you like to pray? Would you like to believe in God?”

And would I? Like a wayward child I have always been running. Running from a God who I didn’t know. Running from a God who I’ve always been afraid to get close to. But I can’t run anymore.

“Yes.” I surrender. “Yes I would.”

We move into the enclosure of the computer room, kneel down and pray.

***

And somehow, someway, the glorious mighty God of love grabbed hold of the longing hand that I held out helplessly from my heart, and I had peace. It was as if all the burdens of life and death; all my hopelessness and fears; all the unknown and known horror of chemotherapy, the Almighty God took upon His shoulders and carried for me. That night, He gave me the sleep of a baby.

The next day I felt different. I was no longer a broken miserable wreck. I was no longer a walking-dead, hopelessly quivering before the Everest of cancer and chemotherapy. I had peace, heavenly peace. A peace that was greater than all my sorrows. Like a gentle wave of the ocean washing over my very being, God’s arms of peace enveloped me in His everlasting love.

"And somehow, someway, the glorious mighty God of love grabbed hold of the longing hand that I held out helplessly from my heart, and I had peace."

And the God of love carried me through the arduous and fearful treatment of chemotherapy with His miraculous love. No longer was I the broken nauseated wreck of my first cancer. Instead, I was the most joyful patient in the chemotherapy room.

What should have been overwhelming and deadly turned into the most enlightening experience of my life.

As the psalmist said, “He is the lamp to my feet, He is the light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). He gave me the power to smile, joke and laugh. He gave me the power to see His magnificent love and the perfection of His plan for us as a family. He led us to be baptised together on Christmas Day that year.

It turns out I was wrong; there is a God who loves us immeasurably. There is a Saviour who died for us. There is a Spirit who can set us free. And, against all odds, I am still alive today, eight years after that impossible cancer, due to the immeasurable love and grace of God.


Vincent Zhang attends Bishopdale church in Christchurch, New Zealand.