God placed our first parents, Adam and Eve, into a world that was good, very good. There was no disease, no human rebellion, the ground was receptive to crop growth. There was no air pollution. There were animals who submitted to the rule of God and man as they came before Adam to be named. There was no marital discord between the first couple. This was creation. This is what Adam and Eve rejected when they thought they had a better way to live than to follow God’s command. Sadly, this was also the choice that you and I and every other human would have made had we been in their place. In short, Adam and Eve paved the way for the Six O’Clock live, local, breaking news. By choosing self-determination over following God, bad news became a daily reality for man.
In spite of this reality, we continue to be surprised by bad news. Because of sin, our world is broken. The Bible tells us this again and again. The impact of sin is so great that even the creation itself groans with us at the bad news of sin. (Romans 8:18-25) So, it is important that our everyday talk about bad news is consistent with biblical reality. Bad news of every sort is part and parcel of a fallen world. Bad news should not be unexpected.
Talking about bad news is part of what Deuteronomy 6:4-7 is commanding us to do each day. We must explain to our children where bad news ultimately comes from. We must also tell our children that no matter how many advances are made in science and technology, there will always be bad news until Christ returns. There is good news to be sure. Jesus Christ has given us this hope. But the ultimate good news, the only good news that really matters, is based upon a hope that cannot be seen. This is because as Romans also teaches us, hope that can be seen is no hope at all. These realities must be part of our everyday talk.
Some bearers of bad news get our attention more quickly than others. When a doctor says I have bad news, we tend to pay special attention. On April 1, 2010, a neurologist told my wife Ruth, as we sat in his office, that he had very bad news for her. He pointed to a picture from an MRI that showed a large gray mass on left side of Ruth’s brain. He believed it was a tumor, but that we would need testing to determine how bad it was. As he said, it was bad news.
My wife is someone whose everyday talk and everyday thoughts have been centered on the loving sovereignty of God since she was a young child. She believed that not only was God in control of things, but that he was a good, loving, and gracious God. She believed that God’s goodness was something that was proven by the truth of Scripture, not by the content of one’s experience. So, from the first moment that we found out about this brain tumor her everyday talk reflected that reality. Because of this belief, we were not devastated by this bad news. We were blessed to be able to get in contact with Duke University and the doctors at their brain tumor center. From Duke we learned that Ruth’s tumor was a Glioblastoma Multiform (GBM), the most lethal of all brain tumors. We found out that GBM patients had a life expectancy of 14-16 months – very bad news.
Ruth had surgery to resect (remove) the tumor on April 26th, 2010. However, a number major blood vessels and nerves ran through the center of this tumor and the surgeon was able to remove only a small portion of the tumor. Again, bad news. The options for treatment now were a combination of radiation and chemotherapy, followed by more chemotherapy. And, oh yes, there was one more vital ingredient in treating this tumor – a hope which cannot be seen. As Ruth and I were driving to Duke to view the MRI taken right after the round of radiation and chemotherapy, we were comforted and encouraged by three young men who faced certain death at the hands of a powerful king. All they had to do to live was to worship an image. They refused and faced a death by fire. Their last words to the king before being thrown into the fire were these:
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
These three young men demonstrated everyday talk that was not cowed by the bad news of this world. Our hope for Ruth was rooted in God’s faithfulness to her, not the results of an MRI scan. Ruth’s everyday talk continued to focus on the goodness of her God. She knew that God was able to save her from the cancer. She also knew that her well-being was not to found in MRI’s, but in God’s faithfulness proclaimed in his word. It was this hope in what is unseen that caused her to demonstrate the courage of the three young men in Daniel. She was never devastated, she never doubted the goodness of God. Driving to Duke that July day two years ago was filled with hope that regardless of what the MRI showed, she served a God who was good and worthy of praise.
There have been 12 MRI’s since then. The last six have shown that whatever cancer that was there is now dead. The doctors expect that her chemotherapy treatment will end this fall – which is good news. This form of cancer carries with it the reality that it may come back. Thus the future, from a medical perspective, remains uncertain. But the hope that has sustained Ruth is certain, because it is based upon a hope that cannot be seen. For that which is seen is no hope at all.
Ruth’s everyday talk, as it has been since I have known her, is filled with hope in God’s faithfulness. This is true whether it is talk about cancer or about the additional curriculum that she wants to write or about what our five adult children are doing. Your everyday talk matters. It matters because whatever the bad news is, there is the good news of an unseen hope rooted in the reality of Jesus Christ and his salvation!
Below is a link to an interview me that was done by my good friend Paul Dean about these last two and half years. Ruth and I believe it is time to tell you about God’s faithfulness to us. Our prayer is that God would cause your everyday talk to bring honor to him in all that you do. Please let me know your thoughts about this post and the interview. We are eager to hear from you.
12 thoughts on “Everyday Talk about Cancer & Other Bad News”
Great message of God’s faithfulness in the midst of hardship. Your family is an encouragement to many as you exemplify what it means to trust God and keep an eternal perspective no matter what…in good times and bad. Thanks for sharing. –Ginger Hubbard
Thanks to you both for sharing this. Yes, God is faithful. Love Ruth’s book for children/families “Get Wisdom!”, the witness of “Everyday Talk” book by Jay, and the life of Jay and Rugh, and glad Ruth is looking to write yet another book. Our God is awesome and faithful.
Posted a link to this helpful interview, editing a July post, on my blog about my husband’s Alzheimer’s. Also pinned it on Pinterest.
Thank you so much for sharing this, Jay. You and Ruth are living out 2 Corinthians 1:3-7: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to
comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we
ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we
are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you
patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” Praise God, Who is sovereign, loves us, and comforts us!
Everyday Talk about Bad News . . . thank you, Jay, for once again using your singular gifts to teach, convict, and correct my own heart as I am exhorted to look at “Bad News” from the Scriptural lens of hope in God’s faithfulness. We continue to pray that (Ruth) and you “may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul(s) prosper.” Val Domagalski
What a wonderfully encouraging testimony! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. May God bless you with long life and continually show you His salvation regardless of life’s circumstances.
I just got the news that a beloved friend was given a very grim cancer diagnosis and I am just beside myself. We are old friends, both of us know the Lord. This story has given me a new strength and vision for my meeting up with her when she is feeling up for company. God bless. I am grateful for your sharing.
I too have cancer. And from the onset, I thought “can’t do cancer without God.” My Mom and I now make bottle cap necklaces that say just that and give them out to anyone living with cancer. We would like to send one to Ruth and to anyone else out there who is reading my comment. Please go to my blog ruthiesgift.blogspot.com and leave me your name and address via my email address. You will see a picture of the necklace in the upper left hand corner. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! I am so grateful that we can walk through cancer, or any life storm for that matter, with His hand in ours.
I am a working mom with three children and a wonderful husband and life is hard without cancer. Finances and time just don’t seem to be there. God is always faithful and good! I really needed this encouragement. Thank you!
We have a true warrior for Christ in Kirk and I thank you for standing in the gap in a media industry that is full of corruption. Know for a certainty that you and your wife are in my prayers and strength will be yours through Christ for whatever comes your way. God bless you.
A friend sent this to me and I’m thankful she did! Thanks for the reminder of focusing on hope. I’m still in the battle against cancer and the story of the 3 courageous young men is one I look at often for my theological stance. Thanks again.
This article sounds like my own life as I deal with a brain tumor that was discovered in 2010. I had surgery to remove it, but the excellent doctor was not able to remove all of it. I also went through chemotherapy. Now it has stopped growing. I am doing all I can both on my knees in prayer and through dietary changes to try to keep it from consuming my brain, but ultimately my life rests in the Lord’s hands. I am at peace because my life belongs to the God who gives life and sustains it. I am at peace because He has given me peace. I am at peace because no matter what happens in this medical uncertainty, I will live again in the resurrection. Praise God!