Pillar Journal
- A seasonal journal produced by Pillar Church in Holland, MI to guide us through the Christian year.
Pillar Journal

Not What I Want – By Jonathan Harlow


A year and a half ago my dad was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. The news seemed unreal and almost like a bad dream that I wanted to wake up from. I really didn’t know what to think. Doubts, uncertainty, and fear were constantly at the forefront of my thoughts. My dad and I have had a very close relationship, something that I often take for granted. Hearing potential outcomes about the future filled me with panic and fear. The cancer hit the hardest in his right arm, causing excruciating pain all last summer.

Pain medication was frequently strengthened in order to have any effect on the increased pain that seemed to never end. The summer quickly turned out to be very different from what I had envisioned. The trip to Colorado to backpack in the mountains was cancelled. Oftentimes when I would come home from work, my dad would be in so much pain that all he wanted to do was just be alone. This hit me really hard as someone who has always been right there with my dad, wanting to do exactly what he did.

The hardest part was watching him go through such excruciating pain and never knowing exactly how to help or improve the situation. I felt so helplessness.

I remember one specific day in July when I reached rock bottom. I went on a hike by myself late at night and just spent time alone with God. I honestly was frustrated with God. I really didn’t understand why he was putting not only my dad through such pain, but my family as well. I oftentimes grappled with the thought of death and the future and found myself just getting mad at God for allowing my dad to get cancer. I didn’t understand what God was trying to teach me.

Even though I often times still ask God that same question, I think He has begun to show me the way that He was molding and shaping my life throughout that season. Our family has grown much closer together as a result and I know that I am more grateful each and every day for the breadth and life that God has given me as well as the friendships that I have with my family and friends.

My dad’s cancer story is not over yet (although we have heard very good news in the past few months), but my prayer that is God will continue to use this hardship to help me grow closer to my family, friends, and my Creator.

By Jonathan Harlow

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