It’s not every day that you hear someone say that cancer was all part of God’s better plan for her, but that’s exactly what Heather Smyth believes.

Heather was just out of Bible school when, as a 24 year old, she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a type of cancer usually experienced by older men. Her plans for marriage, children, and work were sidelined as she began a multi-year battle against the disease, including a bone marrow transplant.

Thankfully, Heather had a foundation of faith that helped carry her through. She knew God loved her, had a plan for her life, and was faithful. Even though her circumstances were not as expected, her faith did not change. As she wrote on her blog: “I trust in God’s plan for my life. I don’t always understand it but it is my responsibility to continually live in obedience to Christ. We don’t always choose our circumstances but we do have a choice when it comes to our attitude. I’m choosing joy.”

Early in her journey with cancer, she met Jeff, a youth pastor with plans of his own.  While he liked Heather – a lot – he was not sure he could handle her disease. In Bible College, one of the places he most dreaded visiting was the hospital and he knew that marriage to Heather would entail hospitals, caregiving, and an uncertain future. But, like Heather, Jeff believed that our job as Christ followers is to be obedient to God. He believed that God wanted him to journey with Heather and that she was meant to be his wife.

Heather and Jeff’s story is one of faith, love, and obedience. Their first years together were hard as the disease took its toll on Heather’s health, but as Jesus says in Luke 11:28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Soon Jeff and Heather saw God’s incredible blessings on their life, such as the birth of their son Nathan, the success of Heather’s bone marrow transplant, and their strong marriage.  

This is a love story not just between Heather and Jeff, but also between God and his people. The Smyth family shows us that when we push through our fears and walk in obedience, beautiful things can happen. It illustrates how when we embrace the choices God has made for us, He blesses us in wonderful ways.

Heather and Jeff are now able to lend their support to others going through suffering. In Jeff’s work as a youth pastor, he meets many people who are deeply troubled and his own experience with suffering and uncertainty helps him to help so many others. Heather has opened her home and her heart to those needing encouragement.

2 John 1:6 states: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.  Heather and Jeff are a beautiful example of living out this verse.

For more on the Smyth family, you can read their blog here: