Suffering With Hope | A Share Your Story Blog

Woodside Bible Church
Woodside Bible Church
5 min readMay 15, 2024

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In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6–7)

“Before we knew Jesus, we were a normal, middle-class, married family with a kid. Pretty average, really. We worked, had our son, and lived an unremarkable life. I know that sounds like we are putting it down, but we were a quiet American family.”

This was my introduction to Liz and Larry VanWashenova and their sweet boy, Danny — but nothing about their story is average or unremarkable. As we sat together, they proceeded to share their extraordinary faith and what a life sold out for Jesus looks like.

Larry grew up in Catholicism, and Liz grew up in a Judeo-Christian home. Still, neither experienced transformative faith until they became friends with the Harris family from Woodside Plymouth. Larry and Liz were drawn to how the Harris family led by example. As the couples became closer, the VanWashenovas started to get involved at Woodside alongside their new friends.

At first, Larry’s faith was slow growing, but he was drawn to the way Pastor Jeremy taught from the Bible and the idea of putting the messages into practice throughout the week. Then, a few weeks before he was slated to be baptized, Larry was diagnosed with brain cancer.

While there was the potential for fear and bitterness to creep in, Larry’s faith grew exponentially as he found himself with the kind of peace that surpasses all understanding. Liz, however, found herself in denial and shock.

“Larry had been complaining of headaches,” Liz recalled. “I kind of brushed him off and told him that everyone gets headaches. I wasn’t very nice about it. [After the diagnosis,] I was kind of upset with myself for not taking him more seriously. The shock and denial really set in. Our son, Danny, wound up getting sick at the same time and I found myself having to go between two hospitals. It was a very hard time.”

When the day of his baptism finally arrived, Larry could see the hand of God all over it. His joy was palpable as he described the events of that day.

“With everything going on, I didn’t know a lot of people at church very well,” he said. “Telling a room full of people that you have brain cancer and then getting baptized…and then coming out of the water and feeling energized. A lot of people were hearing for the first time that I had cancer. It felt freeing. And then I got to experience it with my wife — she was added last minute. It was pretty cool because our son was there and got to see us both baptized.”

In fact, Liz had been considering baptism for some time. She was fearful about receiving so much attention onstage, but decided that if Larry could do it, she could do it too.

“I wanted to get baptized with him,” she said. “There’s nothing scarier than what we’re going through right now. I can remember right before we were baptized — we were waiting for it to happen, and we were just hugging each other and talking. When we got married, we were just doing it for ourselves. We decided that we were getting married. But this was different. I felt like, from this day forward, we were doing this for God. It has changed our marriage so much. Now, God is a part of our marriage. Before, it was just me and Larry. Now, it is the three of us. It has brought us closer together.”

The VanWashenovas were baptized in the summer of 2023. Since then, Larry has had two surgeries. After meeting with the surgeon and going to the Lord in prayer, the couple felt at peace. The surgeries were successful, removing about ninety percent of the tumor, and once he recovered, Larry started chemo and radiation.

Larry’s cancer has been holding steady with no new growth. While the prognosis is not great, the couple is trying not to focus on that. Instead, Larry is reflecting on the state of his life before coming to know Christ. While he wishes he’d met Jesus sooner, he’s thankful to have Him now, when he needs Him the most.

“In many ways, I can see the way He has used people to minister to me,” Larry said. “I’ll find myself crying out to Him and asking for help, and every single time I’ve done this, within minutes — if more time had gone by, you could say it was a coincidence — but within minutes, someone would reach out to me. Whether it be a phone call or text, God made it known that He was looking out for me.”

“I’ve learned to not focus on the future so much, which is a good thing,” he continued. “It’s easy to think ahead about the bad things that could happen. But now, those bad things don’t seem so bad. Sure, if you don’t have eternal life through Jesus, death seems scary and terrifying — because then, what’s next? I don’t know what’s going to happen when I die exactly. I don’t know what the transition will be like, but I don’t have to fear because when I do pass, it’s not the end of my story. It will be a transition to a new chapter. I don’t know what it looks like, but I don’t have to fear it.”

When Liz and Larry think about suffering, they think of a sympathizing High Priest and the people that have walked alongside and prayed with them. They have a small group that has helped meet their needs and carry some of the load. They’ve seen a God who cares for them, especially in the midst of pain.

“I saw that God [had been] working in us to prepare us for this moment before we even knew it,” Liz said. “I wouldn’t change anything because it’s His will and He is working. I try not to dwell on the future. When I find myself fearful and thinking about it, I pray. I cry out to God to help me have the faith to trust that He is in control.”

Written by Mandie Oliver
Published by Woodside Bible Church

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Woodside Bible Church
Woodside Bible Church

We exist to help people belong to Christ, grow in Christ, and reach the world for Christ across Southeast Michigan and the globe.