In the solitude of her surgeon’s office, Kristin Griffin fearfully fell to her knees in prayer. It had only been a few days since she learned of the tumor located in her chest—a mass only inches away from her heart, pushing against her lungs. And now the doctor said it could possibly be cancerous.
Even before facing these circumstances, Kristin sensed that her faith was being prepared for a test. But even in that moment, fear and anxiety overcame her as she worried about what the diagnosis meant for her children’s future.
“I was filled with so many emotions—one being the fear of leaving my children to this world,” Kristin emotionally recalls. “That’s when all I could do was pray and hold on to God’s faithful Word.”
Kristin, along with her husband Scott and two of their four children, moved to Austin a few months before their world was turned upside down. They had been living in Houston, but felt the tug to relocate after attending The Austin Stone Community Church with their daughter, who attended The University of Texas at Austin at the time. After experiencing the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit mixed with the desire to live in community, the Griffins knew they needed a change in their spiritual lives.
“Throughout our marriage, we had our ups and downs where we would be connected with our church, but then we would fall away,” Kristin says. “We would just go to church on Sundays, and it never lasted throughout the week. Our church life was never a reflection of a relationship with Jesus.”
It wasn’t until the 2007 recession shook the family’s financial circumstances that Kristin realized she needed a relationship with Jesus. He would be the only one who would sustain them, even if the possibility of losing their home became a reality.
Over the years, Kristin’s relationship with Jesus slowly began to grow through prayer and the reading of God’s Word. And unbeknownst to her, He was laying the foundation of a faith secured in Him, preparing her for a storm that would shake her soul.
In February of 2017, a few months after the Griffins relocated to Austin, Kristin experienced pains in her chest. One night, while she was alone at home, she began feeling as if she were having a heart attack, despite always being mindful of her health and staying very active.
After a series of tests and X-rays, the doctors discovered a fist-sized tumor in Kristin’s chest that was causing heart palpitations. At the time, doctors were unsure if it was cancerous, but they were sure that it needed to be removed immediately. Surgery was postponed for a week, and Kristin was sent home. The doctors wanted to get as much information as they could about her mass before performing surgery. Once again, God used that time to prepare her faith for the unimaginable.
“Looking back, it was a blessing, because I was able to spend the week at home with my family. I started a journal and would write down everything that God was teaching me,” Kristin tearfully remembers. “I knew I needed to find a way to let go of the constant worry I had for my husband and children and the anxiety that it was giving me.”
As God guided her to Scripture, Kristin eagerly filled her journal—each scribbled promise soothing her anxious heart with a peace that surpassed all understanding. Her family and friends, both in Houston and Austin, sustained her with prayer and an outpouring of love that included visits, texts, and a call from the elders at The Austin Stone. Their support made her feel like part of a real community.
“It’s amazing because I had been praying about getting connected in the church, and then the elders asked if they could visit me in the hospital. I felt like it was God’s way of making me be a part of His church.”
In March, the surgery to remove the mass was successful, but Kristin’s recovery was painful, as part of her lung was also removed. But there was no cancer in her body! Though the traumatic experience changed Kristin’s life forever, it was her spiritual life that underwent the biggest transformation.
“When I was in the hospital, it was the first time I ever had the strength to pray for God’s will,” she says. “Even though I didn’t want to have cancer, and I didn’t want to die, I had to pray for God’s will and not my own.”
Before the surgery, Kristin had always wanted to be in the Word daily, but she allowed her busy family life to keep her from being disciplined. Her recovery time provided an opportunity to spend every morning reading Scripture, which she now realizes is vital to having a foundational faith in everyday life. As Kristin embarks on her new normal, she continues to make time to read the Word and is even more intentional about investing in the community around her at The Stone.
That foundational faith is what God had been preparing in Kristin’s heart long before her trip to the emergency room, and that faith is what gave her the courage to pray the words of Isaiah 41:10 on her knees in her surgeon’s office: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” (ESV)