Trying to Make Peace With a God of Cancer

Cancer Cell

As a person of faith, there are two core truths I’ve strained to hold onto even in the most difficult, painful, discouraging moments of my life:

God is.
God is good.

These declarations have undergirded my spiritual journey and been the secure anchor points during the most disorienting tumult. They have held and sustained me, filling in the gaps when my faith has wavered and when evidence around me seemed to point to a far colder reality than the God-story I told myself.

These two truths have been a figurative (and many times quite literal) lifeline during my time here on the planet.

As a pastor for almost half of my life, part of my job has often been to encourage people in spiritual crisis; to convince those, who because of the traumas they’ve endured are  fighting to still believe, that they should continue trusting in God and God’s goodness. I confess that these days, this is a task I find more and more challenging.

I am a person of faith, struggling to make peace with a God of Cancer.

Over the past week, seeing legendary pop stars, world renown actors, and some of my best and most inspiring friends prematurely stolen in the most excruciating of fashions, the questions that I can often push into the background now refuse to be relegated to the shadows any longer and demand to be dealt with:

Why does a God who loves, allow our heroes and dear ones to be brutalized?
How can I reconcile my faith and this terrible reality?
Why does an all-powerful, caring Creator tolerate Cancer?

The tried and true Sunday School party line many Christians respond with, is that because of our Sin we now live in a fallen world, and something like Cancer is simply a mysterious byproduct of this residual moral sickness that Creation has been infected with.

That doesn’t wash for me anymore.

It’s too easy to dismiss the unspeakable horrors millions of beautiful people are ravaged by every day, by blaming them all on two people, a snake, and a piece of fruit. Even if I could reconcile that such illness is somehow our doing, either through some initial sinful act or (as many others contend) by the chemical impurity of our modern existence which causes such internal mutations, I’d be left with the same conclusions:

God could shut it all down.
God could make it right.
God could send relief now.
God could heal everything once and for all.

If God is as loving and compassionate and powerful as we contend (and as I’ve argued for two decades) He could end all of this suffering without even flinching but refuses to—and that flat-out pisses me off in the depths of my spirit.

If those core truths that I’ve rested in all my life are indeed true, I can’t fathom why sickness is given permission to do such damage, why such sustained suffering is allowed, why so many people have to wait until life is over to be relieved.

If God is, I can’t comprehend why Cancer also is.

I know that when it comes to many of the deepest questions of this life, our minds simply can’t fully grasp what we seek to; that there are mysteries which will on this side of the grave, remain beyond our capacity to understand. I know that God’s ways are not our ways, and that for God to be God He remains unfigureouttable.

But none of this provides adequate consolation right now. None of it gives total peace. None of it seems sufficient in the face of the so very terrible right in front of us.

God is the God of the vast Cosmos, but the God of every single cell in our bodies too, and when they are given consent to betray us and this feels like a profound glitch in the system.

In the Bible Jesus tells his disciples that if they come to him in earnest prayer, he will give them whatever they need. I’ve never interpreted this as some magic, supernatural vending machine God who spits out goodies and favor upon our request, but I have understood it to be confirmation that God is ultimately for us, and that we can approach God in our pain and distress, knowing that we will receive relief and healing.

I’m just not sure what to do with this any longer, how to pray in a way that seems worthwhile, how to understand something as insidious as Cancer alongside a belief that God is and that God is good—but I will keep going.

I will continue to seek and wrestle and ask and hope.
I will celebrate the lives of David Bowie and Alan Rickman and my dear friend Karen and my childhood idol Uncle Sal.
I will stand with and cheer on those who fight battles within their bodies, and pray strength for their souls as they do.
I will strain again to hold on to those core truths of God and God’s goodness, even if my grip right now is tenuous.

And I will continue to walk in faith, even if I do so with a limp.

 

 

0 thoughts on “Trying to Make Peace With a God of Cancer

  1. Yes, that’s what faith is, knowing that God is …even in the face of all the unjust tragic consequences of living in our present reality. For me, I just trust that all this is part of our “education”. After all, our faith is grounded in the knowledge that life is eternal. This present reality is but a blip in context of our eternity. I don’t think I’m going to die and just float around in some blissful eternity….I think we advance to our next classroom whatever that is. Is this heretical?…hmmmm…I think not.

    I enjoy your posts & pray that you get the support you need in your geography. Your voice is an important one.

  2. This post resonates deeply with me today as my friends 3 year old begins treatment for stage 4 neuroblastoma. I’m a Christian, but I am afraid that one day she is going to turn to me and ask “Why would God allow this to happen to my precious, innocent child?”

    Thank you for taking the time to say what often goes unsaid in our community. If you figure out the answer to this one, please let us know!

  3. I am not claiming the following as “the answer”, but just some food for thought.

    How does God accomplish most of the good work in the world? Is the miraculous supernatural power of God frequently on display? Or does most things get done by ordinary people, inspired, directed, “led” by God, with or without their direct knowledge of it, to do good, to help, to heal, to research and learn. Over the past 50 years, we have made HUGE strides against cancer. It used to almost universally be a death sentence where now, for most cancers, the odds of surviving are in your favor. Certainly the research and medicine behind this fete was at least partially driven by people’s commitment to God and the compassion He placed in their hearts and knowledge He gave them the ability to learn and expand upon. After all, we are His hands and feet.

    So let us not grow weary of the fight. Lets push on towards the goal of eliminating cancer from this planet. Support research. Support science and medicine. Encourage young people towards this goal. They can and will tap into the love and strength that God supplies to further this goal.

    In the meantime, God co-suffers with us. He mourns with us that we will no longer enjoy the continued musical genius and acting prowess of these unique men (at least in THIS life). He sorrows WITH you over the passing of your friend and personal hero from your life. He understands loss. He experienced it firsthand. And He is FOR us – our biggest cheerleader in this fight against all things that harm and kill us. So lets press on and in His name Mess. Cancer. UP!

  4. If you believe in a personal, interventionary God of humans, then these obvious dissonances can utterly disrupt your faith. But if you believe in a God that created a universe of possibilities for life and set that initially simple machine in motion, then the dissonances abate, and you see personal maladies such as cancer as the result of the intersection of those possibilities. Those intersections are wonderous, creating the evolved but opportunistic perfection of an eye, but also the imperfection of its Blind Spot (at least in humans), and a host of susceptibilities. But without both, we would not have eyes.

    It does mean that, like the Deists of the Enlightenment concluded, that God is the creator, but God is not personal; God has no opinions about the present situation; but God is in everyone and everything in equal measure.

  5. I feel your pain, too, John. It’s the pain of world suffering and, because of why? It’s not just cancer, but hunger, cruelty, abandonment, homelessness, war, and all the other awfulnesses of life. Sometimes it’s hard to keep from sobbing about it all.

    And, then, along comes the love, and the smiles, and the hugs from those we love, from strangers even; we decide once again that it’s our solemn duty to be grateful and joyful to offset and balance all the world’s pain. At least, that’s my intention and hope. What else?

  6. I have lost two dear friends to this horrible disease. I walked with my teenage son, Ian, through four and a half years of treatment for it. I saw his continued joy and trust in the God he loved. He never gave up having fun or believing that he might be cured. The last night he was able to speak I watched as he spoke to his youth pastor who had come to pray with him. “You asked me once,” he said, “why I thought God allowed me to get cancer. I believe it was so that I could be an encouragement to others.” And he was an encouragement then and still is. When his dad tells his story he paraphrases John 8:14. “Ian was a young man who knew where he came from, where he was going, and why he was here.” This world is not our home and I do believe that a loving God does allows disease and death. I miss Ian everyday but the best is yet to come, we will spend eternity together worshiping King Jesus.

  7. Cancer sucks. Life is painful. We lose people we love. But this life is not here to be easy – it’s a place where we learn love, and compassion, and loss. It’s intentionally a place of trial where we are subject to morality and all it’s difficulties and joys. If met with faith in God, we learn the necessary lessons, and when we do, it’s no longer so painful. And it helps me a great deal to view this temporary and short life as only a stepping stone on the way to someplace more glorious and bright. God bless you in your trials, and thank you so much for sharing your writings with all of us!

  8. When I found out my 2 year-old grandson had cancer, I asked the same questions. After much prayer and an ocean of tears, what gave me any sense of clarity was that if only good things happened, this would already be Heaven. It has also given me an eagerness to do what I can to help ensure that future children will not have to face this. Our little one had to have an eye removed, but is doing well now.

  9. I have been struggling with these exact questions for months. As I see my young nephew slowing slipping away from brain cancer and mother suffering through radiation for anal cancer I seek but don’t find answers. How do I continue to preach and encourage those I love and a congregation that looks to me for guidance when I am in a state of confusion myself?
    Please keep posting John. So many times you send a post when I need it most!
    Blessings and prayers to you

  10. You have echoed the very same feelings I have been struggling with for over a year. I am not consoled by people who just say “It’s God’s will.” I want to know Why, I realize that speaks to my faith or lack thereof, I suppose, but watching people close to me suffer and wither away when they can no longer battle this scourge of mankind really breaks my spirit. I do love the last sentence- I do walk with a limp, and those of us who still hang on to some semblance of faith just have to adjust to that.

  11. It is very hard to imagine why God, who loves us infinitely, should allow cancer to exist – along with ebola, malaria, Spanish Flu, bubonic plague, all the other horrors. I’ve lost a mother-in-law to cancer and I do feel for you, John, and all who grieve. My take on this is that we are only in this world for a very short time, whereas we will be with God a very long time, and this short time is the only chance we have to face fears, endure suffering with a good spirit, learn how to trust, practice patience and compassion. Love to you all. X

    • I lost my mother to cancer. She was one of the most faithful Chritians you will ever find. She suffered terribly and my faith was shaken. I saw young mothers who abused their children, took drugs , were alcoholics , yet were allowed to live a Long life while my faithful mother who never questioned God was taken at a relatively early age of 55. I was taught by this faithful woman to never question God. But how ? How do I not? How do I understand why these children of God who live a life solely to edify Him are allowed to suffer this deadly disease ? Please help me understand..,

  12. John, I love the name of your blog – Stuff that needs to be said. I appreciate your writing style, i admire your morality, philosophy and psychological insights. But I also see you – particularly in this post – as someone who is struggling to find answers to questions that don’t need to be asked.

    What if cancer is simply the result of man-made chemical pollution, poor eating habits and unhealthy life-styles? What if God isn’t?

    It is unbelievably liberating to stop asking why God did this or allowed that once you realize that He didn’t. Once you stop looking for answers in the supernatural, it is not difficult to find answers in the natural, knowable world. Problems that have been created by man, can be fixed by man.

    I can’t help thinking that finding a cure for cancer would be so much more satisfying than finding the answer to why God allowed cancer in the first place.

    • Elizabeth,
      Excellent post. Perhaps a bit too secular and/or rational for most but I found myself pumping my fist in the air and saying “YES”. It has always amazed me how so many folks can rationalize their belief that God should get the credit for the “good stuff” and yet be absolved for the “bad stuff”. He is not responsible for either and should get neither thanks nor blame. God did not create us…we created him…countless times over recorded and non-recorded history. Most of the old gods have morphed into mythology or simply been dumpted into the trashbin of history where they belong. All religions should be enjoyed as religious mythology instead of allowed to produce agonizing existential issues which lend themselves to tortured “answers” in an attempt to reconcile faith and reality. I am 81 and have suffered throat cancer and openheart surgery with a triple bypass. I survived both but when the Chaplain came into my room to assist me in thanking god, I thanked my doctors and nurses instead. Had I died from the cancer, god would not have been the object of blame and since I lived and recovered, he is not entitled to the credit. In order to reconcile John’s dilemma, he merely needs to rethink the first “truth” of his position which is that “God Is”. Really? I agree with your position which coincides with my own. It is a liberating position and causes me to appreciate life and to make the most of it while I can. I guess that makes me a humanist, a label which I have no problem in accepting. Thank you for your post and best wishes for the coming year to you and to all of John’s followers. Richard

  13. I can only think of three reasons God has allowed me to have late stage cancer three times in the last three years. 1) I am at the end of my ability to do much to help myself and must become more fully reliant on God. 2) People tell me that by watching how a Christian faces terminal illness and sees God helping me in the midst of it, that they have been inspired to grow closer to God themselves. 3) Like a car, my body was not designed to run forever. And the harder it is to suffer while remaining in this sick body, the more I long for Heaven–my true Home. I would like to close with one of a hundred examples of how God meets me in the suffering. At 5 PM yesterday, I was at my weakest and sickest since last week’s chemo. I texted a good friend that perhaps it was time to start receiving some help with meals again, maybe twice a week. I hit send, then went on to read the next text I had received. It said, “Hi, this is Dana. I want to let you know that I just left dinner on your porch.” Finding dinner on the porch happened within 15 seconds of my hitting send on that first text. Dana told me God had been speaking to her all day to bring me food. Is God with us in our suffering? Does He provide in ways we cannot fathom? Yes. Thanks be to God, and thanks for the hope of Heaven where our ultimate healing will take place.

    • As a cancer survivor myself this is the best interpretation I have ever read about they WHY of cancer. We are here to glorify God. And if my cancer draws one person to God, it was worth it. I absolutely needed to become more reliant on God and He used the cancer to teach me! Blessings to you and praying for healing!

  14. Elizabeth, well demonstrated, exactly my point as well. Asking why God permits this or that presupposes that that God is a being that “fixes things” at the personal level. That’s a God that does OUR bidding, rather than the other way around. This is where I take issue with the idea of a personal God. That seems like such a diminishing projection of a Creator of a Universe of possibilities, and one that denies our own agency in that Creation. If cancer exists, it is because the Universe has evolved the conditions to make it so. And we, being part of that Universe, may have had something to do with that evolution as well as its future course.

    A loving God, to my mind, doesn’t take sides, whether you’re a person, a plant, or an atom.

  15. Thanks for this post. So touching that so many identify with what you say, John, and in the midst of the struggle find faith and hope and love in spite of it all. So we limp along, leaning on each other when we are weak, and supporting each other when we are strong. I’m so blessed by your blog. Thank you!

  16. Thanks for letting us have a look at your personal wrestle with God re: cancer. Two things come up for me. First, so much of what troubles you about the disease rings in my heart when I consider war. Why God do you allow us to wreck such destruction upon one another? That’s my current wrestle with God. Second, when I was a teen, I was diagnosed with a painful, debilitating, and humiliating disease — Crohn’s disease. I have survived and lived a full life to the age of 70+ and am everyday more thankful for the lessons of faith I have received because of this disease. God bless us all.

  17. This comes at a critical time for me. My husband has stage IV pancreatic cancer and is slipping away a little more every day. I know I’m powerless to stop it and I’ve argued with God to no end, begging Him to keep my hubby with me a little longer. We had our dream vacation in December and he did well during the trip; now I think he was just hanging on for that because he’s gone downhill ever since.

    Anyway, I wanted to thank you for stating what is in my own heart but can’t articulate very well.

    • I’m so very sorry about your husband. May God hold you close and bring so much love and support your way that you know for certain that He is with you both every step of this unwanted journey.

  18. As my beloved soulmate was going through a 6 year battle with cancer, we often said, “Life isn’t fair, it just IS, and we have to deal with it. What do we do next?” That helped us focus on what we COULD do rather than seek someone or something to blame. She ultimately died from the 3rd episode but due to our positive outlook we had some wonderful times in there anyway.

  19. Years ago, I asked my pastor at the time why he thought God permitted such suffering. He said he didn’t know, but that God sent his Son to endure pain and suffering as well. So I guess there is something about our human condition that requires suffering to be part of it. Surely, we’ll never figure this out with the limited understanding we have in this life, but somehow we need to keep the confidence that in eternity it will all make sense.

  20. A timely post and questions that run through my own mind as my mother heads into surgery for her third type of cancer. My youngest brother passed away from a cancerous brain tumor while Mom was finishing up Chemo for her second bout with cancer. I have yet to find an answer that feels in any way satisfactory.

  21. Famous Kentucky psychic Edgar Cayce fell into one of his famous trances and came back with an answer to this question. Human beings are eternal spirits who have lived most of their lives in an alternate dimension from our own—a spirit dimension. Eons ago in time depth greater than we can imagine, they were once humans like us—or very close to it. However, they evolved over a very long period of time into spiritual beings with an inability to “sense.” They were no longer able to feel, smell, taste, hear, or see like we do—and they could no longer experience love, pain, highs, lows, or death. Eventually, they created an alternate dimension (our dimension) that they could use as a Vacation Zone like the Hoildeck on the starship Enterprise. The typical vacation takes about 75 years in our time—give or take—and the spirits in their dimension enter into our dimension by donning specially designed biomechanical suits that form at the cellular stage—when the spirits implant themselves. These suits allow them to do here for 75 years all the things that they missed so much in life after they evolved into totally spiritual beings. It allows them to smell, taste, hear, see, experience sexuality, murder someone, go off to war to feel the exhilarating sting of battle, etc.—all that vast array of things that their evolution to totally spiritual beings had done away with in their dimension. The biomechanical suits are designed to decay and become defective over time so the spirit can come back to the spirit dimension at the end of their vacation. Many such vacation journeys are possible, but they need to return to their spirit state periodically to be one with it—kind of like polar bears need some ice and snow every once in a while because they were made for it.

    Well—that may not have been what Cayce said exactly—but this sort of thing is what he had in mind during his trance. This could explain why some people have problems with gender identity and being gay. If you were a female human on your last vacation trip, you went back to your spiritual dimension for only a short time, and then went quickly back to our dimension in a male body, you may retain the memory of what it was like to be female in the new male body you are given for the quick second vacation trip to our dimension.

    An alternative but quite similar story maintains that our physical dimension here on Earth is a huge prison. A spirit society in another dimension created our dimension of existence as a place to send its criminals for punishment and reform. You, me, and everyone else we know were some form of serious misdemeanor or felon criminal in that spirit dimension. We experience suffering in this dimension of ours because the Lords of the spirit dimension created the prison dimension in clever ways to ensure that suffering will take place.. For example, they designed the available foods in our dimension such that the most tasty and delightful things to eat would lead to great suffering in life, whereas the foods that are good for us would be unappetizing and unhappy. They created our dimension according to the rule that it takes years to build something good—but only seconds to destroy it. They created it so that a powerful force called entropy would continually work against orderliness, structure, and integrity—always tearing down all that is good. They designed it so bodies would decay and suffer—and every criminal in the dimension would eventually experience death. Also, it explains why we have people who we describe as “good people” and “bad people.” The spirit beings in the other dimension have only one prison dimension for everyone. In other words, the jaywalkers and people with library fines are thrown into the same prison with the worst of the worst—and that is all part of the prescribed suffering for everyone. The day of our death is when they release us from this dimension for a parole hearing that evaluates our progress—or lack of it. If we have done good and reformation is complete we are re-integrated into their spirit society in the other dimension. If we fail, we must enter another biomechanical suit and go back into the prison dimension to suffer more for a prescribed amount of time, which is geared to the age limit programmed into our biomechanical suit. Babies who die at birth or shortly after birth are prisoners who were falsely accused and convicted—so they have to be brought back as quickly as possible to be re-integrated immediately into the spirit dimension. We experience pain, suffering, and death because the Lords of the other dimension designed our prison to mete out the sort of suffering we experience each day. This is because we are all condemned criminals.

  22. As a cancer survivor, I will admit that I get angry at cancer and what it did to my body. And I admit that I have gotten mad at God because I don’t understand a lot of the things that happen in this world. But the bottom line is they are not God’s fault. God gave us free will so that we could choose. If we were able to program perfect children for ourselves who said they loved us every time we wanted to hear it, it would not mean anything to us because we made them to say what we wanted them to say. So God gave us free will and when we do choose to say “I love you God”, it means something because it was our choice just as it means something to us when our children say it.. But we have also made many bad choices in this world and I believe cancer is a result of the human race’s mistakes not God’s. God is there with outstretched arms waiting to hold me even when I am mad, probably especially when I am mad, and not just when I am afraid. God is there for me even when I am not there for him. God is love. God is good. God is everlasting life. God is. Cancer is evil because it can destroy what is good on this earth but it never wins. When our bodies die, cancer dies but we get to live on in heaven because God loves us. I have made so many mistakes in my life and some of them supported cancer growth in my body. Doctors can remove cancer yet we are never guaranteed it will not return. We have to accept what happened to us the best we can and go on until we die and there is no more cancer but only God’s peace. God’s love wins out every time. Cancer can take our bodies but it cannot take our souls. And the grace of God is there for all of the human race even though we are not worthy. God really is. God is really good. God really is love and love always wins.

  23. This is excellent, John. The suffering of humans, animals, even all creation which groans as Paul has written, provokes me to spend all my energies to do whatever I can to relieve suffering, even if that effort is no more than sit with a friend who is suffering.

    A few days ago a 7 week old puppy from my dogs Evan and Silca, died. I did all I could to save her, but to no avail. The one thing I could do was to hold the puppy, Nena, through the last hours of her life, caressing her, talking to her, assuring her she was loved and not alone. OK, some would say she was only a dog. God, who sees the sparrow fall, does not take lightly the life or death of any of His creatures.

    I live in a country where there is such violence, such pain, such living daily with suffering and death. Sometimes it nearly overwhelms me. All this violence can have the effect of desensitizing one to the suffering. I refuse to do that. Perhaps this is a facet of what it is to experience the “fellowship of His suffering”, He who wept over Jerusalem; He Who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.

    God bless you, brother, the other John, in Honduras

    • “The suffering of humans, animals, even all creation which groans as Paul has written, provokes me to spend all my energies to do whatever I can to relieve suffering, even if that effort is no more than sit with a friend who is suffering.”

      Exactly.

      Some time ago I preached on the question of why bad things happen. (It was part of a series in which people submitted various questions they’d always wanted to have a preacher answer, sort of like the “stump the pastor” nights we occasionally do with the youth groups.) As I was preparing that sermon, I ran across an article online by an Australian rabbi named Aron Moss. He actually says it’s better that we NOT have the answer to that question. If we did, he says, we’d be unmoved by the suffering of others, and unmotivated to do anything about it. THAT is what’s unthinkable, he said. So his suggestion was exactly what you’re saying: “Let your outrage propel you into action. When you see innocent people suffering, help them. Combat the pain in the world with goodness. Alleviate suffering whenever you can.”

  24. John, I hear your pain. I struggle with it as well, both in general, and in my own life where I ask for healing or I ask for relief and it seems my prayers go unheard. But are we sure God is the author of cancer? We have poisoned the earth and our bodies, and our bodies are fighting back. Is tuberculosis from God? TB used to be a death sentence, yet now is pretty much contained. People close to me have committed suicide. Was God the author of their pain, or were they too ill to see the light at the end of the tunnel? I struggle with why God allows poverty in a world of plenty. Poverty is the root of so much suffering, why doesn’t He step in? I don’t know. But I do know that I love you and I am with you in your struggle. We see through a glass darkly–God sees us clearly. I recommend “Disappointment with God,” if you haven’t already read it. Peace and grace to you.

  25. Ever since 29 June 2009, the day my husband died of liver disease, I’ve wrested with saying to God: “…You have the technology; you could have rebuilt him…”(yah, ”The Six Million Dollar Man’ was a favorite growing up)

    For six years I’ve struggled – being alone, having to do everything myself, missing him, not knowing why he wasn’t healed, being angry at God – asking the same questions – if You are a good, loving God, why permit such suffering? Why permit cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, starving and abused children and a host of the horrors of humankind…why should I have faith?

    I have to say that I have faith because the alternative doesn’t work for me – I see enough evidence in Creation (Earth in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of the Solar System with a large Moon in tidal lock to regulate the tilt of its axis , a molten radioactive core generating a protective field against the solar wind and most Coronal Mass Ejections, a Jupiter to sweep away many Extinction-Level comets and asteroids ) to keep struggling with the inconsistencies as contradictions of belief – not satisfying and neat, but there it is

  26. I never comment on things I read online but this struck me to my very core. I lost my mom to cancer exactly two months ago. My world stopped turning, I felt at 24yrs old everything I thought I knew as fact had slipped away from me about the world, about myself and so many other things, however I never lost my faith. My mom was content with herself and her relationship with God and did not fear the judgement because she knew in her heart of hearts that she was saved by his grace. That’s not what held me together knowing she was better off from the worldly suffering, or that the bad has to exist for the good to exist or that God always takes the good ones. We prayed, everyone prayed for healing and comfort for her and us. The day we had to remove her from the ventilator I sent a message to a dear sweet religious friend that my mom was gone. Her response was not one of heart break, sorrow or condolences she simply said to me “I’m sorry she had to leave you to get her healing”. No it doesn’t explain cancer or the evils of the world but it did remind me sometimes God answers us literally sometimes figuratively. We prayed for healing she was healed in the most amazing way possible by joining the angels in heaven. It steuck me when she said it and that simple comment has gotten me throufh a lot of rough days. The fact that god answered the pray just not how we wanted. There is a reason for everything the good the bad and ugly. I realized at the funeral as friends and coworkers showed up unexpectedly that one reason that God used the tool of cancer to take my mom was so that I created friendships and long lasting relationships with people I wouldn’t have met had she not gotten sick. Cancer is a tool that God allows because though it makes our bodies weak it makes our spirits and faith strong. Cancer made my mom a stronger person and a stronger Christian. Cancer isn’t the reason my mom isn’t here to hug me, love me, watch me grow old and have a family if my own God is. God wanted her back and it was her time. I don’t question hate gim or doubt him because I know I don’t have the capacity to understand why. And this tragedy only served to make me realize I need to be a better Christian and person. I’m certainly not at peace with the loss but I am at peace in my heart with why God saw fit to take her, why she got cancer etc. Cancer isn’t an evil being it’s a tool God uses, it may not be pretty it may not be pleasant but it sure is effective for him to get a point across to someone affected by it in some way. I hope you can find the balance of understanding and understanding that we will never fully understand gods methods, the madness, chaos or means of taking his people back to heaven. I pray for your peace of mind and ability to have two seemingly counterintuitive ideas at peace in your heart and mind. What seems at odds may not necessarily be. God is, God is good and God allows cancer God allows terrorism, God allows famine and so many other dark and horrible things because he cares about saving people. all gods people are tempted tried and put to the test you know this if you read the Bible. If the death of one can save millions or even one person than that person’s death meant something regardless of how they died. It’s how they lived suffered and died all in God’s name that inspires others to turn to God and repent. I have watched it happen over and over again. God bless all of you and may your faith be strong.

  27. Thanks for your honesty, John. I appreciate it.

    After many years of serious illness, I eventually drew the conclusion that suffering comes about because of our vulnerability and that vulnerability is essential to love and compassion. So suffering did not come about as a result of our sin, as some would have it. Rather, both sin and suffering came about as a result of our vulnerability. And vulnerability was ‘built into’ creation in order that we could know love.

    Of course, that begs a whole host of other questions. For example, is this a fair exchange? Is knowing love worth the price we pay in our vulnerability, sin and suffering? What does this understanding say about God? If God is love, does this mean that he must also be vulnerable – and hence not quite the ‘all powerful’ God that we imagine him to be?

    There is a line in one of the Iona liturgies for Communion that says, ‘You are worth all our pain and all our praise’. I have wept buckets over those words. I have also rejoiced over them. In both cases it was because, deep down, I knew their truth. Yet there are times when the pain feels so hard that I wonder… Can God really be worth it? Is he simply an illusion?

    There is also the hymn in Philippians 2, which speaks of Christ making himself nothing; being made in human likeness and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Reading this, it seems to me that God could do little more than ‘being made in human likeness’ to demonstrate what it is to be vulnerable. We speak of the cross most often in terms of God’s love. But yet vulnerability lies right at the heart of both cross and incarnation. So, even in God, it would appear that love and vulnerability belong together. This rather begs the question as to whether God could create a world in which such vulnerability did not exist? I mean, if God is love and creation springs from the very nature of God, then you’d expect vulnerability to be in there somewhere?

    ‘The earth proclaims the glory of God’ – or so wrote the Psalmist. They are words we say so glibly, imagining we know exactly what they mean. But do we? If the earth truly proclaims the glory of God, then it means that in some unfathomable way, cancer and disease also proclaims that glory. I accept that sounds crazy. Everything inside us screams that such diseases can only be an indication of ‘a profound glitch in the system’ (as you put it). But perhaps that is part of the shock of the cross – the ‘foolishness’ of which Paul speaks? The only way in which we can even begin to glimpse the glory in such horror is in the profound vulnerability of love. But most of us would prefer to turn our faces away…

    So, if vulnerability is so essential to love, what happens when death is defeated and there are ‘no more tears’ (Revelation)? Can a world without such pain exist and still retain the possibility of love? Or is this just wishful thinking on the part of Christians? I’m not sure, but I wonder if the answer lies in the resurrected Jesus. Think on this:

    Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
    Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.

    Perhaps there is a sense in which we will carry the scars of our vulnerability forever? No longer in the form of suffering and pain, but in the glory of knowing the true depth of God’s love?

  28. Hard stuff to grapple with. My feeling is that there is pain, suffering, cancer, etc, so that Compassion can manifest in this evolving creation. It would seem that we would likely get lost in egocentric desires if it wasn’t for suffering. Perhaps this is the recipe for Christ Consciousness to transform all things to a loving climax. I realize I can only speak in metaphor here. Thanks to all for the wonderful thoughts.

  29. Cancer…..I hate it! Just 6 weeks ago my husband passed away from this horrible disease! He was a healthy 47 year old full of life in April 2015 and had a pain in his chest on a Monday morning. We thought it was a muscle issue because we had just worked tornado relief with our church that past weekend. He had also had blood work done 2 weeks earlier for a check up and no red flags were found! After it became increasingly harder for him to breathe, we went to the ER and they found a mass on his lung. After biopsy they found it was Metestatic Melanoma, that’s right, skin cancer that had found its way into his organs. He had it everywhere! Bones, brain, both lungs, and liver. They started treatment right away. The first chemo was a blessing, we thought it would cure him. From July to mid October he felt Great! We took trips and spent great quality time together! But then, the cancer found its way around the chemo. It mutated so that the chemo no longer worked. The cancer was back to growing with a vengeance! He met his Savior on November 28th, 2015. He was 47. Father of 8 and Grandfather of 12. He loved God with all his heart, soul and mind. He gave unconditional love to everyone he met. He is a beautiful soul! I have my good days and my bad. I wonder why God allowed cancer to take him from us. I do not know the answer and can only speculate that all will be revealed to me someday. It doesn’t take away the pain of losing him or the heartache of missing him but I do know my God can make beauty from ashes and that’s what I am counting on Him to do now.

  30. This except from Charles Stanley says it best: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways.” Isaiah 55:9
    Be prepared–at times, the Lord’s instructions may not make sense to you. In fact, it’s a principle you must embrace if you wish to know the Father; God doesn’t require you to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable. Think about it. Why would the Lord ask Abraham to leave his home without telling him where he was going? Or why would God promise Abraham a son at age seventy-five, and then wait twenty-five years to fulfill His word? (Or ask him to sacrifice his son???) But that’s the point. You are NOT supposed to understand the Father–His desire is that you would honor Him as God–sovereign One who transcends all earthly limitations. Because when You do, He does the miraculous on your behalf and your faith grows strong. Reason will always interfere with faith. As long as you’re looking for everything to make sense, you’re not fully depending on omnipotent God. Friend, give up your earthbound notions and allow Him to show you who He really is.
    I would like to say something else — humanly we say, “Show me and I will believe.” God turns human thought and reasoning upside down! He says, “Believe, and I will show you.” It’s true. I love that God takes our human wisdom and turns it upside down. I know personally how the hard stuff has made me strong and stretched my faith to do His will. John, He knows best, and I’m talking from one that has suffered much!!!

  31. It is time we redefine God – we keep putting Him in boxes of our own making and then become surprised when He does not meet *our* expectations. However carefully constructed our assumptions may be, they are based on the reasoning of a finite mind. It is time we used what He has taught us to go beyond, beyond the pain, and see some more. Job is my hero and he was anything but patient.

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