To look at Catherine and to listen to her talk, you would never have thought she was dying of cancer. She always had the same smile on her face and a kind word for everyone who came to see her. The other patients spent a lot of time with her, because her spirit seemed to be contagious. She ministered to her roommates by remaining cheerful and positive. Even the thought of death couldn't take Catherine’s dynamic humor from her.
Cancer does not seem to pick and choose whose body it’s going to invade. It is a growing problem among all walks of life - both adults and children and Christians and non-Christians alike. It is not a friend to Christian people. But we must understand that the Christian can face cancer with a different outlook and attitude than the non-Christian or unsaved person who is not in touch with the living God. They can face this dreadful monster with reassurance that God is on their side and God’s promises are never taken away from them in the time when they are battling with cancer.
Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.
The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.
I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.
But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.
Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.
To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered.
Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise. (1)
What if you had an appointment with the doctor and found out that you had cancer? Maybe you have heard this news or heard it on behalf of a loved one. I want to tell you some things cancer cannot do. Cancer cannot shatter hope. Cancer cannot corrode faith. Cancer cannot eat away peace. Cancer cannot place a limit on eternal life. Cancer cannot quench the Spirit of God and cancer cannot lessen the power of the resurrection. That’s how limited cancer is!
A cancer diagnosis is nearly always a devastating shock. However, today it is far from an automatic death sentence. No one wants to have cancer, but we should all be encouraged by the hundreds of thousands of survivor success stories. There is always hope. Best of all, our God can be trusted, even with cancer. He is present with His children no matter what comes our way. And, as I later discovered, cancer is an exhilarating journey with God, like no other. Today, when nonbelievers tell me Jesus is just a crutch, I answer them, “Crutch? He’s a whole hospital.”
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
(1) “Cancer's Unexpected Blessings” by Tony Snow ,JULY 20, 2007 ,Christianity Today