Surviving a Worst Case Scenario

Today on my husband Michael McDowell‘s 75th Birthday, I’d love to share part of his life story which inspires me greatly.



Mike McDowell age 32.

What does a 34-year-old man do when he hears these two phrases only days apart: “Congratulations, you have a baby daughter!” and “I’m so sorry to tell you that your wife has liver cancer?”

He makes a choice to move forward into each new day, trusting in God’s strength and seeking to fulfill his calling as loving husband and father.

He perseveres.

At least that’s the way my husband, Michael McDowell, faced life when he and his first wife, Inka, were confronted with the unthinkable as a young couple.

In the Bible we are told to “persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”  (Hebrews 10.36)  But what if the will of God involves walking through the suffering of someone you love? Holding your family together while juggling work, childcare, medical appointments and household; all the while watching the love of your life grow weaker, cancer diminishing her vibrant young life?

“At first the whole thing was surreal,” Mike recalls. “I remember standing in the kitchen on the telephone, absolutely stunned and speechless, hearing the doctor’s prognosis that was about to turn our lives upside down. Yet, through much help, we sought treatment and surgery for Inka, cared for the three kids and felt hopeful that the cancer was completely eradicated.”

“By the end of the year we were all devastated when the cancer returned with a vengeance.”

One thing that helped Mike keep going was the example of his own parents who had survived the death of their seven-year-old son Greg, battled financial hardship, and struggled with their own medical challenges. “I learned at an early age to never give up. And my whole ministry at the time – InterVarsity outreach to college students which required raising support each month – taught me that God could be trusted to provide, no matter what the circumstances.”

As Inka’s condition worsened, she wanted to be near her family in the Netherlands, so Mike transferred there with InterVarsity and moved everyone into a Dutch flat, never realizing he would be a widower within the month. He remained there, learned the language and kept his two sons and daughter well cared for an additional two years before returning to the States.

Mike recently shared how he was able to persevere through so many hard times. “I cannot imagine going through the life I’ve lived without a solid sense of God’s presence, love and care for me at all times. Three ways I experienced this:

  1. The body of Christ ‘held up my arms’ like Aaron did for Moses in the Bible. When I was too tired or perplexed to handle a situation I would often find someone else quietly cleaning our home, or (in a most generous surprise) anonymously providing a final family trip for all of us to Hawaii. I still meet people who remember praying for Inka back in the 1980s – those prayers sustained us.”
  2. I found that in the midst of horrific change, God never changes. One way this sustained me was through my own spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, the sacraments, and Bible reading. Those are the touchstones not only for my life, but for the lives of countless saints through the ages. There’s a reason we commit God’s Word to memory in the good times – so that it can be remembered in the bad times, and bring hope.”
  3. Lastly, in order to persevere, I simply learned to take the next step.”

“We cannot survive on our feelings. Many times I didn’t feel like getting up to change my daughter’s diaper or bike the boys to school, but actually those very ordinary routines were what kept me going. Yes, it’s hard to be a single parent, but knowing those precious lives depend on you is a great boost to focus beyond your own pain,” Mike concluded.

What situation has interrupted your life recently? What was your very first reaction? Run? Pray? Scream? Confide in a close friend? But what did you actually do? Take some time today and examine your own strategy for surviving a worst case scenario.

Thank you, Michael McDowell, for modeling perseverance for our family and many others your entire life. Life continues to confront us all with the choice to give up or keep going.

Will we persevere?

under the mercy, Lucinda

NOTE: Just to fill in some blanks, in case you are puzzled. When I married Mike 36 years ago, he was a widower with 3 small children. I went through the court process in Seattle and adopted Justin, Timothy and Fiona as my own —  both in my heart and legally. While our children can’t remember Mommy Inka very well, we have stayed in close touch with all of her family in the Netherlands and many of them joined us for our two daughters’ weddings. God is faithful.~ Excerpted from Day 13 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The McDowell Clan 2020 – God is Faithful!

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength”

©2020 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” She has authored 15 books including “Soul Strong – 7 Keys to a Vibrant Life” and “Life-Giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most.” She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and shares encouragement at


Soul Strong just released! Order “SOUL STRONG” Today …. More about Soul Strong HERE.

Check out my new companion devotional book Life-Giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell Order Today!


  1. Maggie Rowe on July 29, 2020 at 11:42 am

    While I know Mike’s story well, and yours, it never fails to move me. Such history, such suffering, such faithfulness. What an answer you have been to Inka’s prayers.

  2. Lillian Morley on July 29, 2020 at 11:51 am

    What a pleasant surprise as I read your devotional this a.m. Michael and I share the same birthday. He’s younger than I, but it made me smile anyway.
    I’ve forwarded your email on to several friends to be blessed and lifted up in these days of quarantine which is very old at this point. God is good always in whatever our circumstances are at that moment. As we age, we have the advantage of looking back and seeing the many times He got us through those ‘tough times’.
    May God continue to bless and use your ministry to women and their families.

  3. Paula Whitaker on July 29, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    A beautiful faithful man, how he relied on God for strength, wisdom & courage. To bring him through all he had to deal with. What a beautiful family you have.

  4. Cindy Burns on July 29, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you for sharing through this post about your husband’s strength and character and his dependence on the Lord. This is a powerful reminder that despite the emotions we as humans will feel, that each of us can yield to the Lord’s ability in and through each day, to see us through. Your precious husband’s legacy is so encouraging to all, no matter what we face! In Jesus, Mrs. Cindy Burns

  5. Linda Mackillop on July 29, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    What a powerful, encouragement, Lucinda. I found this very helpful in a season where our futures are filled with the unknown. Thank you for sharing it!

  6. Kathy Collard Miller on July 29, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    What a beautiful testimony of a faithful man and a faithful God. Praise the Lord!

  7. Cindy Bolshaw on July 30, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you for telling the story of God’s faithful blessings !

  8. Sally Matheny on July 30, 2020 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful testimony of trusting God for strength and courage in the midst of trials. Also, this was a precious reminder of how Christians share the love of Christ by serving others.

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