Throw Me a Rope

Nine years ago tomorrow my life changed forever. I’ll never forget the phone call. I was making macaroni and cheese for my three and one year old when the phone rang. I had been expecting this phone call, I just had hopes that the outcome would have been different. My whole body went numb as my doctor said the words…

“its cancer, and I’ll need to see you in my office at 8 am tomorrow morning.”

In my doctor’s defense, because people are often shocked I found out over the phone, I was glad she told me. If she had said “I need to see you in the morning,” I would have known anyway. Truth be told there’s no good way to tell someone they have cancer.

Later I would learn I had a rare form of cancer called Inflammatory Breast Cancer, and even later they would find out I also had a different kind of cancer in my other breast as well. Who gets cancer in both breasts, and two different kinds at that? That would be me and a few others. At first, since there were two, I was stage 4, but shortly after, they decided to stage both cancers at 3. As my doctor told me at that point, this could mean I could be cured. After several hits to my morale, this was my first glimmer of hope since the diagnosis.

They say you should stay off the internet when diagnosed with a disease such as cancer, and I suppose this might be helpful if you have someone else doing research for you. However, I was glued to the internet, where I found some good things and some bad. One bad thing I found out, and it’s still pretty much the same today, and that is….only 30% of women with Inflammatory Breast Cancer survive the battle.

Everything was a blur as I traveled to University of Michigan for second opinions on treatment and started chemo. Stuffing my bra with cabbage leaves (yes, this does help) to stop the flow of milk from breastfeeding. There is nothing more painful than having to stop breastfeeding without slowly weaning. Let’s talk excruciating pain. I’m not joking here. I felt like my breasts were crying, mourning the loss of this relationship with my child so dramatically. We weren’t ready.

But there was no waiting around for me….within 2 weeks I was hooked up to a cocktail of chemo drugs.

It was after this first round of chemo that the fog began to lift, but the roller coaster of emotions also hit. My mom often came over to help with my two youngest children or at times come rescue me as I was doubled over in pain. On one particular occasion, between chemo 1 and chemo 2, I made myself a bath, and I started crying. I cried for so long and so hard my mom called my husband home to help me out of the tub. I truly believe this was the point the shock wore off and the reality set in for me. It was also a pivotal point in my life. It marked a point when I decided I wasn’t going to give in. I wasn’t going down without a fight.

I don’t think I would have found the hope and the courage to fight, to move ahead without the support of several people in my life. I had my church family that delivered meals and really rallied to support me, but beyond that there were several who really came around me and helped lift me out of despair and give me hope.

Jeremiah is often referred to as the weeping prophet. If you’ve read about any of the Old Testament prophets you know they weren’t always treated fairly and kindly. Jeremiah was no exception. In chapters 37 and 38 of Isaiah we see him being first being beaten and thrown in Jail, and it says “where he remained for a long time.” Then King Zedekiah, hands Jeremiah over to the officials for warning the people of Judah to leave in order to avoid death at the hands of the Babylonians. So the officials then took Jeremiah and threw him in a well.

So here Jeremiah sits at the bottom of a well, which is described as containing no water, only mud. It says Jeremiah sank down in to the mud.

How often is it that life throws us one curve ball after another. It’s not just cancer, its two cancers. It’s not just one death of a family member, its two right in a row. It’s not just a wayward child, it’s compounded by job loss. I could go on….financial insecurity, a divorce….life has a way of getting us down….really down, like the down that resembles sitting in mud at the bottom of a well.

But there’s good news. In verse 7 of chapter 38, someone named Ebed-Melech shows up. This man is a servant of the King. He goes and petitions the King for Jeremiahs release. He pleads Jeremiah’s case that the officials have acted wickedly and that Jeremiah will starve, and thankfully the King listens and allows Ebed-Melech to take 30 men to get Jeremiah out. Now taking that many men meant that the King expected trouble from the officials when trying to get Jeremiah out.

Ebed-Melech then didn’t just throw a rope down to pull him out, risking rope burns. He instead went searching in the palace and gathered old rags to keep Jeremiah from injury while pulling him out.  And Jeremiah put the rags under his arms and these men pulled him out.

Sometimes God gives us hope through other people, sometimes it’s only one person that is willing to stand in the gap, and physically respond to our need. Sometimes it’s someone willing to throw down rags and gingerly lift us out of despair. Sometimes it’s like Jeremy, my husband, who came to pull me out of the tub when I was frozen in fear and despair, or my mom who came to rescue me when I was too sick from chemo to function.

Sometimes we forget that even in our time of distress, we have people in our lives that are being the very hands and feet of Jesus to us. They’re throwing us a rope.  (If you don’t, which would make me incredibly sad, I encourage you to find a church….if you need help, please send me an message or comment below.)

If life is difficult for you, can you identify an Ebed –Melech in your life? Someone who is being the hands and feet physically for you right now?

And if life is good….how are you acting as an Ebed-Melech for someone else today?


By Jennifer Starr-Reivitt at



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