Some Things You Just Try To Get Through


I’ve always thought of Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson as something of a perfectionist. I suppose that’s because no matter what problem people throw at him, he seems to have an answer. But I will tell you, the best answer I’ve ever heard from him, the one that gave me the most satisfaction when I heard it, was when the mother of a teenager posed some perplexing situation to him and asked what in the world she should do about her child in the teenage years, and the great psychologist replied, “Well, ma’am, you just try to get through it.”

That’s when I knew that James Dobson lives on the same planet and in the same world as the rest of us. He knows the frustration and the scariness of that dangerous but necessary stage all children go through, and he understands that the ultimate goal is surviving it. Just getting through it. There is life on the other side of adolescence. For parents as well as for the kids.

My wife and I are taking special delight in our two sons these days. The citizens of Columbus, Mississippi, where our boys grew up would hardly recognize them. In those days–their teen years–they bucked against authority and cut their own paths and exasperated teachers and parents. But they got through it, thank the Lord. These days Marty works in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Bank of America, and he and his wife are active members of their local Baptist church. Our older son Neil lives here in the New Orleans area, teaches management at Northrop-Grumman’s local shipyards, and with his wife and children are active members of their Baptist church where he is Sunday School director. These young men are excellent citizens, good husbands, and outstanding fathers to their children, and that gives me more joy than I can ever express. Most of the gray hairs in my head, they put there as teenagers. But we all survived.

Some things in life you just try to get through.

Since January 26 and until March 9, I’m taking 30 radiation treatments for cancer of the head and neck area. The doctors warned me that the side effects start to kick in about two weeks into the program and linger for that long after the last treatment. As I write this, I’ve just had the 21st treatment and the side effects have arrived in full force. My face and neck and shoulders are blistered like a bad sunburn, my saliva has dried up, my tongue is sore and swollen, and my taste buds have gone south. My taste has been corrupted to the point that I now know how Fear Factor contestants feel after eating worms and bugs and assorted animal organs. I feel like my breath could peel the bark off a tree. Nothing, absolutely nothing, tastes good, and I have to force myself to drink the prescribed ensures and smoothies to get enough calories and protein for my body to replace radiated cells with new ones. It’s a miserable way to live.

I was looking forward to that day two weeks after March 9 when the side effects should have disappeared. Last Monday, my oncologist casually remarked, “It’ll take about 6 months for your tongue to get back to normal.” Six months! Are you kidding? He wasn’t.

I feel like my four-year old friend Jacob Swartz. The other day, the orthodontist fitted him with a retainer and told him he would be wearing this for a while. When he started protesting, his mom said, “But honey, it’s only six months.” Jacob said, “Six months is forever!” For a guy his age, that’s one-eighth of his total existence.

It feels like forever to me, too, Jacob. But there’s only one thing to do: try to get through it.

Sometimes when I’m lying on that slab with the radiation machine whirring above and around me, and I feel stressed by the confining mask that has clamped my head in tight and won’t let go, I recite a verse that gives me a lot of comfort. “Who for the joy set before him, (Jesus) endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Hebrews 12:2)

That fascinating verse tells us a) Jesus did not enjoy hanging on that cross, b) he focused on the joy on the other side of the cross, c) he refused to give in to the scariness or shame of the cross (literally the word “despise” there means “to think down on something”), and so d) he endured it. Some things you cannot get around and just have to endure. For Jesus, it was the cross. For us, it is this life with its ups and downs, hardships and disappointments.

Toward the end of their first missionary trek into Asia Minor, the Apostle Paul with his companion Barnabas decided to retrace their steps, to visit the disciples they had made on their way into the interior of that country, and to “encourage them to continue in the faith, and by telling them, ‘It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.'” (Acts 14:22)

New believers need to know that between here and heaven we may expect a lot of trouble. Try to get through it.

Everyone’s favorite Psalm, the 23rd, reminds us that sooner or later everyone encounters the “valley of the shadow of death.” What to do? Get through it. And fear no evil, for “Thou art with me.”

Some wit once said his favorite verse of Scripture was the one that said, “It came to pass.” And so it does. Get through it.

15 thoughts on “Some Things You Just Try To Get Through

  1. Dear Dr. McKeever,

    Please know that, although I have never met you, I know you through your emails. Your ability to put your heart into your written word is a great talent and I pray that you can continue this type of ministry for many years. My prayers have been with you during this time of treatment. It is so true about having to get through things, and the teen age years are truly traumatic for all, but thanks be to God we survived as did your family. Our only daughter is doing great, is in church and both she and husband are very active. There was a time that we had to be very cautious about how much we said or did to be careful and not to push them away from God. But He was good and we all got through it. I pray that the time of healing will go more quickly than you think and that you will get through it just as you have done thus far with Gods help and grace.


  2. Bro. McKeever,

    God bless you as you “endure” this trial.I truly needed your words tonight. Thanks for continuing to minister to me, (a minister’s wife) even though you may not feel like it. May the Lord make the next days and months pass quickly. Mark Lowery says that “it came to pass” is His favorite verse. May the Lord shine on you in a healing and heathful way today. Sincerely, Shirley Williams

  3. Dear Joe,

    I have received such an inspiration from your articles during the past months. I know you are thankful to be getting through with your treatments. I will certainly be remembering you as your mouth and throat get well. God gives us so much of his Strength and Grace when we need it.

    Keep up the courage and you will get through it.


    Irma Glover

    P.S. You mentioned Columbus, Miss. I was born and lived in Tupelo until my senior year in high school, then the family moved to Kosciusko where my mother and father are buried. I graduated from Mississippi College, so Mississippi is dear to my heart.Most of my relatives still live in Tupelo.

  4. Hey Joe, I am thankful that you are the person God has made and used down through the years. I am thankful that you are my good friend. All the staff at Annistown Road Baptist Church are praying for your complete recovery. You are ministering to so many people with your writing and for that I am thankful. I know that you will “Keep the Faith and get through this as you have so many other things.

    Joel Davis

  5. Dad, Your comments on “Some Things You Just Try to Get Through” were inspirational. Remember, I love you “cunga”! Keep up the strength- and know that alot of people do love you, and appreciate reading your website.


    Your Daughter

  6. Dear Dr. Joe-

    I have been praying for you and I know God is using you to comfort others, even as he is healing you. I’m praying today that your mouth will be healed in record time! “Some Things You Just Try to Get through” really struck a chord in my life today as this morning I woke up as the mother of a teenage son — Leighton is 13 today! He is growing into a sweet, loveable and funny young man. We have wonderful talks, sneak off for an occasional slice of pie & coffee and share a love for Lord of the Rings. He has a genuine and growing faith, and even though some rough times may be ahead, we are truly blessed just to have him in our lives. Teenagers are great! (as the shoe polish on my car today proudly says)

    Thanks Brother Joe for all you do and for all the comfort you give others.

    Love, Holly Griffin Gilbert

  7. I am always amazed at you Joe McKeever. This is no exception. You may have lost your taste buds, but you have not lost your taste for the Lord, for the Lord’s people, and for a great word that is constantly an encouragement to us all.


  8. “I can do all things through HIM who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NASB updated)

    Bro. Joe, some 28 years ago, I too had 21 radiation treatments in the area about 12-14 inches below your treatments. I remember the length of these treatments and thought I would never get through them. Yes, I had side effects that I thought would never end, but through HIM,HE strengthened me and I got through it and through HIM I know that he will strengthen you and you will get through it.

  9. A friend of mind sent me your email. I feel as though I have had church on a Tuesday afternoon. Thank you so much for reminding us all to just get through it because if we look we can find someone else “getting through something” worse than us.

    I will be praying for you and your family. I trust and hope that the Lord will heal you completely.

    Trish Berry

  10. Dear Dr. McKeever,

    You did it! Those therapy sessions are behind you! I pray you will not have to wait 6 mo. to get your “taster” back! Though I have experienced none of the horrendous side effects you have from cancer treatments, I have recently had shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and to remove scar tissue. The Dr. said it was one of the worst “frozen” shoulders he had seen.The therapy has been grueling, and I,too have favorite verses I recite as I’m going through it. “I can do all things through Christ who stengthens me”, and My grace is suffcient for you.” This is temporary and life will go on!

    Thank you again for a wonderful reminder of the suffering our Lord did for us, and a very vivid reminder of those teen years that we “suffered” through with our son. He is now a godly 33 year old Instuctor Pilot at Columbus AFB in Columbus MS where you grew up. They attend East End Baptist Church, have 3 girls who are attendimg Immanuel Christian School. God has been so faithful to us and to our son. Know we will continue to remember you in the days to come.

    God bless you and your family!

    Claire Parlier

  11. Dr. Joe,

    You are an incredible encouragement to me! Thank you for your words of wisdom each week…they are a blessing. You continue to be in my thoughts and prayers! Much love!

    Lauren Glass

  12. Hello Joe,Last May I had surgery for Squamous Carcinoma Cancer which had massed in my throat and neck the surgery included [right radical neck dissection, right internal jugular vein,muscle stemocleidomustomio spinal accesory nerve lymph nodes/tumor XI]So Brother, I emphasize with you in your radiation and chemo. treatment, as mine has been right in line and the results identical. Unfortunately I have had to begin a new round of chemo.Robert Ford has been sharing your messages with me and they have given me much encouragement. Thank you Tom

  13. Bro. Joe,

    Thank you for your transparency and for sharing so freely with all of us. We have been through the “cancer thing” at our house, thus we can identify with your pilgrimage. We will be praying for you during these tough days.

    Ken James

  14. Dr. Joe,

    Just got a forwarded email from my sister, Sharon, containing this wonderful link. I can’t tell you how many times you come to mind. You hold a very special place in my heart and always will. I am so very sorry to hear about the cancer and brutal treatments. I know that if anyone can come through this with gained wisdom and a laugh to boot, it’s you. You are in my prayers. My best to all your family.

    With love in Him,

    Stacie Sams Baumann (somehow we all managed to survive and be okay)

  15. Hey Dr. Joe, I received this web page from Stacie, and am so very saddened at the pain and frustration you must be feeling now. I have always admired your ability to see the good side, as well as funny side, of things, and you seem to continue to do so even now. How right you are that on our walk through this life, the road is not always smooth, yet we do not walk alone. I know that Jesus will bring something good out of this…if only a new appreciation for the taste of food! Dr. Joe, you have been in and out of my life for so many years that you will always have a special place in my heart. Hopefully, one day our paths will cross again. I would love for you to meet my children, and see the all gray hairs I am getting! You and your family will be in our prayers. Much love, Stephanie:)

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