News of having cancer is a life-changing event. Sorrow, sadness, sympathy, and understanding are appropriate responses. But for a Christian, more is needed. Cancer brings fear and for many who are diagnosed, finality. Once the initial emotional impact passes, uncertainty and helplessness may dominate. Some may just give up in resignation. Other folks may assume an aggressive posture towards cancer and determine to “beat it” no matter how great the odds.
Regardless of which response is made one additional perspective is needed. This perspective is God’s perspective. Talking about cancer may seem out of place at Christmas, but to those who have the disease, there is no better time to think about God and cancer. A compassionate biblical response is not rooted in whether we will live or die. In the midst of our suffering God’s purpose is that we bring honor to his name. How long each of us lives is not really the main concern of life, whether we have cancer or not. Our days have been already set by God.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16
Each of us is just like the cancer patient. The days for our life on earth are set by God. No one has a promise or reasonable guarantee that he or she will live longer than the person diagnosed with cancer! You are both equally dependent upon God for your next breath. This is reality from God’s perspective!
So each of us has a point of contact with the cancer patient. We will live just as long as God wants us to and not a second longer. The point of contact is really about faith. Hebrews says that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Faith, to have meaning for the cancer patient, or any of us, must be personal. Two and 1/2 years ago my wife was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The life expectancy for this sort of cancer (glioblastoma multiforme or GBM) is 12-14 months. Faith has to do with what is not seen. Faith has to do with confidence. Cancer diagnosis has to do with what is seen – cancer cells as seen in MRIs. The other thing about cancer is uncertainty about what the next test result will show. Neither has to with faith.
My wife continues to live her life in faith. Her focus from the first day she was diagnosed was about how she could use her time on earth for God. For her, life is not measured in time but in faith. Ruth is concerned about loving God. She has helped me to see that true faith cannot be measured by things that can be seen or touched or counted. This is what those with cancer need – faith. Our time on earth is God’s time. This time can be lived in fear, uncertainty, and the measurement of things that can be seen. Or life can be lived in the certain reality of faith and confidence that God’s care for us is constant and sure. What matters most is that he is honored. From this perspective cancer is not a barrier to living for God. If this is true for those who have cancer, what about the rest of us? What are the reasons we have for not honoring God with all of our hearts? By living life for God’s glory, you can join with the one who has cancer in a common goal of the heart. When God brings cancer he is reminding all of us just how dependent on him we are. He is reminding us earth is not our home. He is reminding us that he alone is our good.
Have the courage to live for God; nothing else is certain, nothing else matters.