You have cancer.
Whether you have been walking closely with the Lord or running hard on a path far away from Him, those words stop you in your tracks and then bring you to your knees. Cancer—could there be a more unwelcome, more truly loathsome intruder? You have, no doubt, recoiled at the thought of cancer and perhaps struggled numbly to comprehend what sort of storm may lie ahead. And maybe your heart has voiced a silent, sincere question to God: why, Lord?
When Laura was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she not only wondered why, but also why now? Just 29 years old, Laura and her husband were still settling into their first home and celebrating the birth of their newborn son when Laura’s diagnosis came. The diagnosis explained a lot of the discomfort that had begun late in her pregnancy—the constant, painful crick in her neck, the dry cough that would not go away, and the small, odd lump in her neck. But cancer? Now? Thrilled to be a first-time mom, Laura just wanted to enjoy her new baby. But the cancer growing in her neck and chest was demanding her attention, forcing her down an unknown road and spoiling so much of her joy.
She poured out her grief to God: “Why do I have to go through this now, when this should be one of the greatest times of my life, having a son and enjoying him and being a mom?”
For the next year, Laura would reluctantly divide her time between her son and the demands of cancer treatment. It began with four rounds of chemotherapy, followed by a PET scan, then eight more rounds of chemo. Over the next several months there were blood transfusions, more scans, countless needle sticks, more chemo, the wiping out of her immune system, and finally a stem cell transplant. It was a long, grueling road. She lost her hair and her energy. “I had days where I wanted to give up because I was just tired of everything,” Laura said. At her lowest point she remembers thinking, “There’s no hope. I’m not going to be able to see my son grow up.” But then: “One day I thought, ‘You know what? I’ve got this—God’s got me! I’m going to be okay.’ And so I powered through. I’m so glad that He showed me to never give up and that I have so much to live for.”
Still the why question remains: Why did Laura go through all this?
On this side of heaven, we may never fully understand the wisdom behind the why. But there may be a clue in something Laura said. Looking back on her cancer journey, she observed, “I had faith before the cancer, but it is a whole lot stronger now.” Her experience is a reminder about how faith works. Just as muscles only grow stronger if they are continually challenged to bear more weight, so it is with faith. We grow much more in our hard times than when everything is going our way. So often, we do not yearn for od until we are broken by a painful problem or a hard circumstance we cannot change. Knowing this about us, and because of His immense love for us, God may allow adversity into our lives so that we will either return to Him or go deeper with Him. Sometimes the adversity God uses is cancer, even though God hates disease as much as we do.
It is a mysterious and hard-to-wrap-your-head-around truth that sometimes God permits what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves. And it pains Him to do so. The Bible assures us, “He does not willingly and from His heart afflict or grieve the children of men.” In The Message, this same verse, Lamentations 3:33, reads, “He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadbloacks in the way.”
Never forget that you are God’s beloved child. All of His plans for you are good. Our impassioned, “why Lord?” is simply a reflection of the fact that His thoughts and ways are not like ours. Sometimes He draws us to Himself in ways we would never choose. So turn toward Him, talk to Him about your cancer, and allow Him to accomplish all He desires to do in you, for you, and through you because of it.
Excerpted from Strength for the Cancer Journey: 30 Days of Inspiration, Encouragement, and Comfort by Deborah Barr (©July 2020). Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.