Fierce Trust : Julie Galanti
Although I meet Julie on a summer afternoon, I am about to learn about the darkest times of her life. After her father was tragically murdered, Julie lost her sister to cancer and was then diagnosed with the same illness. How could she continue to believe in a God who is good?
The Journey To God
Although she always had a sense that there was something bigger than us out there, Julie’s road to finding a God whom she could personally relate to has been a hard one. ‘I was raised in a Greek Cypriot community in South Africa, in a community that believed in keeping women indoors,’ Julie relates. Feeling stifled, Julie packed her bags at 22 and set off to travel the world. ‘So you’ve always been independent?’ I ask her. ‘No, I was fiercely independent,’ she corrects me without hesitation. After a period of partying hard and experimenting with drugs, Julie’s perspective began to change when her backpacking brought her to London. Initially embracing the freedom that came with the anonymity of travelling in a different country, the sheen of ‘the great adventure’ gradually began to wear off. Growing dissatisfied with club-hopping and getting high, Julie recalls the sense of realisation that she wasn’t living a recipe for success. Hoping to find a new direction for her life, Julie began to visit a number of churches in London. ‘I knew I was missing something and I gradually began to see was God,’ Julie recalls. Eventually, Julie came across Hillsong Church, which she has now been a part of for 18 years. She came to know God personally and her trust in God grew. Little did she know at the time, tough years were on their way.
Losing Her Sister
‘Six years ago, my sister passed away from cancer. She was only 33 years old,’ Julie tells me, ‘I was overwhelmed with pain.’ Although God had not healed her sister, Julie still knew that God had heard her prayers and still trusted that God cared about her. Her sister was so ill that Julie had asked God either to cure her or bring her life to an end.
At the time of her sister’s passing in a cold February, Julie momentarily struggled to hold on to her faith, asking herself, ‘Is God really loving?’ Yet through this questioning, Julie reflects that her relationship with God deepened in a profound way. In the last ten years, female breast cancer incidence rates in the UK have increased by 7%. In a world where such malicious diseases exist, how can someone like Julie believe in a living and loving God? ‘We live in a broken world – God is not the author of anything bad.’ Grieving for her sister was tremendously painful for Julie. However, as she prayed and read her Bible, she learned to accept God as sovereign over life and death.
‘Underneath I never stopped believing that God is good,’ Julie asserts, placing her hands flat on the table and looking me dead in the eye. From a woman whose father was murdered, whose brother nearly lost his life in a motorbike accident and who was treated for cancer herself, this is an astonishing statement.
‘God doesn’t promise that we won’t go through things, but He does promise that He will never leave you or forsake you.’ Julie’s faith was again rocked in November 2012: she was told that a lump in her breast was cancerous. ‘My first thought was, “What am I going to tell my mother?”’ Fighting the temptation to be devastated, Julie held on to the belief that God had not changed, even though her health had. Reading from the book of Jeremiah in the Bible gave Julie a renewed sense of courage that God had good plans for her future.
‘I don’t carry a trail of pain, my faith has not been destroyed by these things,’ Julie states, with boldness that has come from years of continual prayer and relationship with God. From being strongly independent, Julie has moved to a fierce trust in God. Making a full recovery from cancer in just under a year, Julie has made some lasting adjustments to her lifestyle. In the light of a 2011 documentary called Forks Over Knives, she now no longer eats meat and has reduced the level of sugar in her diet.
In the UK today, one in eight women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in her lifetime. I ask Julie what her message is for this generation. ‘Our life here is a breath,’ she says, ‘We need to live it with real purpose.’
Words by Sabrina Dougall