Honest to God, Session 6: Hard Cuts

by Leighann McCoy

hardcutsGrowing up, I consulted my mood ring to gauge my happiness. But dark days have taught me that while happiness is wonderful, holiness is life’s goal.

Born at the tail end of the Boomer generation, I saw civil rights advance, the anti-war movement begin, mistrust of government grow, and the women’s rights movement flourish. With so much freedom of choice and speech, I, like many of my generation, truly believed we could determine our own destiny. And if we wanted to know where we stood emotionally, we wore a mood ring. I cannot tell you how many times I consulted that ring to tell me how I felt.

Years pass, and with time, things change.

On March 1, 2010, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Two months later, our church was flooded. That summer, I discovered my unmarried daughter was pregnant. In September, my son was diagnosed with mono, and in October, my husband had surgery for cancer on his eyelid.

I’d like to report that God demonstrated all His glory through the difficulties we faced, and the past three years have been great. While that would be partly true, it would not be altogether honest. Many of the things that went wrong in 2010 are yet to be made right, and whatever glory God will get from them, I’ve yet to see.

Unfortunately, our generation’s destiny mentality lends itself to making us less than hardy when trials and tribulations barge into our lives.

Unfortunately, our generation’s destiny mentality lends itself to making us less than hardy when trials and tribulations barge into our lives. We moan and we groan. We forget that God’s Word always tells us the truth. And God’s Word tells us lots about trouble:

  1. Trouble is a certainty of life. Jesus told us so Himself. “You will have suffering in this world” (John 16:33).
  2. Trouble is allowed by God. God allows trouble because it tests our faith and develops our endurance. “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).
  3. Trouble never trumps God. If you have given your heart and your life to God; if you have received the free gift of life by asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins; if you trust that His death on the cross paid the penalty for you; and if you have solidified that decision by allowing God to be your Lord, then you can rest assured He will work all things together for your good and His glory (Romans 8:28).


One summer evening when I was 21, I sat alone in the Nevada desert and nailed my life to the cross. I literally placed a large railroad spike on top of my Bible, put my hands over it, and prayed:

Lord, I love You. I trust You, and I want to walk with You every step of the way. I give You my dreams, my ambition, my experiences, my talents. Lord, I give You all of me. I want to live my life for You from this day forward and forevermore. 

I wish I could say that surrendered mind-set wasn’t crowded out by the generational mind-set of “having it all.” I didn’t know how much I’d lost until 2010, when all that I’d trusted to God was shaken. I cried for an entire summer over the unfairness of what God was allowing. But over the past three years, I’ve learned Jesus also meant what He said in John 15 when He told us about the pruning that the Master Gardener was intent on doing (John 15:2).

Disappointments in life might make us feel like so much has been lost, left behind, and cut away. But when the Gardener is cutting, I must focus on Him, not on what He’s doing. I need to remember He loves me and trust that the wounds will heal in such a way that I will bear more fruit than imaginable.

I see this reminder whenever I’m at the mountain house my husband and I share with my parents. Toward the end of summer 2011, my father severely pruned the rhododendrons that wrap around the porch. They had been scraggly ever since we purchased the house four years ago. I knew they needed attention, but the kind of attention my father gave those plants seemed harsh to me. I wondered if they would survive his ruthless cutting.

This last summer, to my delight, the plants were full of green foliage, much thicker than they’d ever been. My father’s pruning spurred those plants toward greater health.

That’s the way of God’s pruning as well — spurring us to greater health. That really is the goal in life: to be made holy, not happy.

Currently, I’m recovering from surgery because my cancer returned. My chemo treatment will begin soon. Years ago, my mood ring would have pulsed gray-black. Now, I see my life through the beautiful lens of Scripture, and I’m reminded of the promise I made in that Nevada desert — a promise I intend to keep.

Leighann McCoy is the prayer and women’s minister at Thompson Station Church in Thompson’s Station, Tenn., where her husband, Tom, is senior pastor. Her books include Spiritual Warfare for Women (Bethany House) and Oh God, Please Teach Me to Pray (Freeman-Smith). 


  1. Teresa Wilkins says:

    In the mist of tragic circumstances or suffering learning to ask God what do you want me learn from this instead of why is this happening is the great challenge of Christian living. I too have learned that God does not answer our questions about suffering and loss, but He does draw us closer to Himself and we can experience Him in a way not possible in good times. From a human perspective if I could avoid the hard, difficult times I would, but that is not possible. What I hope and pray will happen is that I will trust God more and lean on His everlasting love and like Job I will see Him for myself in the mist of my dark night of the soul.

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