Redefining Bravery: How Do We Triumph Over Tragedy? Selina's Story, Part 1

Finding triumph in the midst of life's trials and tragedies can be a tall order. But our Taiwanese friend, Selina, served as a remarkable example of a victorious turnaround.

You see, Selina was facing a diagnosis she could of hardly imagined months earlier. Cancer of the tongue. It was a harsh outcome for Selina, who was in her final days of a two-year Master’s degree in Translation & Interpretation. Her tongue really mattered for her future career. What was God thinking?!?

Early Spiritual Roots

Selina came to the U.S. from Taiwan as a Christian believer, but was only lukewarm in her faith. During her college years, she decided to follow Christ after growing up in a nominal Buddhist when some who had done the same before her shared their experiences.

The Christian faith seemed to make sense, she reasoned, and the Christian friends she met all seemed to be prospering in their different spheres. “Maybe God gives you more blessings if you choose to be a Christian,” she reasoned. It was a relatively painless switch for her.

Those first months as a Christian believer were a real high time for Selina. Everything seemed to be falling into place. “This must be the key to luck,” she thought. But as time moved on, being a Christian became more routine and predictable.

Cancer of Tongue for an Interpreter

Fast-forward several years, to her current situation. "Cancer of the tongue! What?!?" Never a smoker nor drinker, it just didn’t make sense. What was she to do now? She had even received a good job offer so she could stay in the U.S. for the coming year under an OPT (Optional Practical Training) agreement.

Those days were dark and lonely. Selina confided in me that she couldn’t see where God was in all this. She couldn’t decide whether to remain in the U.S. for treatment or go back home, where she understood the system better. We prayed together. And prayed. Slowly, surely, clarity came. This was the first triumph.

She realized the best move was to go back home, to say “no” to the job in the U.S. Through long sessions of prayer, being with her family became the clear best choice.

We said “goodbye” but not forever. Over the years, Selina became an excellent correspondent, both by regular mail and email.

About one year after the cancer discovery, she wrote us: “I’m in a great small group right now and have made many friends. Most of all, my faith in Jesus has never been so firm and sure. And I can feel the Holy Spirit dwelling in me every day! I believe there is something even better and more wonderful in the future. I’m glad that God has brought me back to my country and made me see what I can do for Him in this precious land. We have a group of dynamic, energetic, passionate people here at our church. We’re eager to bring more young people to God!”

No question. Selina was discovering triumph in the midst of her own personal tragedy.

Cancer Aftermath

Selina had that much-needed operation and lost a good portion of her tongue. A biopsy revealed that the cancer had remained localized, thankfully. But she went through radiation and chemo just in case. Over time, she was pronounced “cancer free!”

After extensive rehabilitation therapy to regain use of her tongue, she learned how to use this vital instrument in new ways. Eventually she could communicate well with others.

Through this ordeal, her parents and younger sister stood by her, supported her and loved her. And as Selina became more able to speak, she overflowed with praises to God, openly sharing about this God of redemption, with a big plan, who loved her enough to take her through this journey, restore her and make her whole again. She shared most intensely with her family.

Soon, her dad put his faith in Jesus, and Selina’s younger sister followed shortly afterwards. But her mom held out because she still couldn’t reconcile the idea of a good God letting something like this happen to her daughter.

A few years later, Selina’s mom was diagnosed with cancer herself. This time, however, it was Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Her mom only had days…weeks…at most a few months to live. Selina saw this as a message from God to spend every moment possible with her mom, loving her, sharing God’s love for her, praying for her.

In her mom’s final days of lucid thinking, she made a confession to God of her stubbornness and sin, and asked Jesus into her heart!  This was the best gift Selina could ever imagine! She would see her mother on the other side, no more in pain! Yet another triumph!

Finding Her Calling

Although a career in interpretation (oral) was no longer part of Selina’s future, she came to realize that teaching was the gift that God was developing in her heart. In time, a prominent university hired Selina to teach the very subject she loves the most. From this platform, Selina was able to reach out to her students in Christ’s love, sharing her faith and mentoring many.

Selina could see God’s hand even through the struggles of her life, and the way He used the hardships to creatively draw many others to Himself and eternal life.

People from all cultures face cancer and other catastrophic difficulties. So, while it’s easy to blame God rather than see the positive side of struggles, the real opportunity to triumph lies in finding the value in the trials and tragedies themselves. 

How do you face major struggles in your life? What can we learn from Selina’s attitude?

Image Credit: Flickr on Pixabay


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