I’ve learned a lot over the past year. It was ONE YEAR AGO this month that I went in for a routine mammogram with plenty of things on my mind. One thing that was not on my mind was concern for the results from my mammo. I had had one plenty of times before and wasn’t having it done as a result of a lump I felt or because of any pain or tenderness. It was “routine” after all! Little did I know at the time how the results from that one screening would change the course of direction for me last year.
Ever think about how one action, one choice can make such an impact on your life? I didn’t know much about cancer other than that it was something that happened to “other” people. I wasn’t really overweight, got plenty of sleep, some exercise, ate fairly well with healthy choices, didn’t smoke or drink…why would I even think that cancer would happen to me? Especially breast cancer…after all, I had nursed four children and each at least for one year and went for yearly exams and check-ups. After cancer happened to me I realized that no one is exempt! We all live in a fallen world where there is sickness, poverty. disease and evil. It is a sinful world and we are subject to many things. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to live a healthy lifestyle or that it is in vain, but it doesn’t exempt any of us from disease or illness.
I would not choose to redo last year. Going through tests, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, prescriptions/medication, continued infusions, pain, discomfort, all the side effects (long and short term), the inconvenience, the monetary expense, missed work and activities, the paperwork, the follow-ups, the appointments, the dependence upon others for meals, rides etc. is no fun. In a word it is suffering! I would not wish it on anyone. Your whole life changes overnight.
However, some changes are for the better and would not have come if it wasn’t for the suffering. As much as cancer in any form is a negative thing, how you deal with it as an individual will determine whether it can be used as a positive in your life. I have seen this over the course of the last year running into many cancer patients throughout my treatment. Some are angry and bitter and curse and blame God asking, “Why me?” Realizing that no one is exempt living in a fallen world I ask, “Why not me?” I don’t blame God for my cancer. He chose to send His Son that He loved to a sinful world and die a painful death to accomplish salvation for us. I am sure that there is a purpose and plan in my cancer. Some of that I have seen already and one day the rest will be revealed.
Do I blame God? Let me answer that again. As a matter of fact I do. I blame Him for making me fall more in love with Him. I blame Him for making me more empathetic towards others who are physically suffering. I blame Him for making me re-prioritize my life and think about what really is important. I blame Him for trusting Him even more with my life. I blame Him for strengthening my faith. I blame Him for giving me a platform to share my faith. It is a direct result from my battle with cancer that these things have happened and for that I am thankful.
Dr. John Piper has written an article/booklet about his personal experience with cancer called, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” which can be downloaded as a free PDF. I highly recommend it. Our sufferings teach us not only about ourselves but about the true nature of God as well. It is our opportunity to get to know Him in a way that you only can if you are sharing in His sufferings. Dr. Piper writes, “Satan’s designs and God’s designs in our cancer are not the same. God designs to deepen our love for Christ. Cancer does not win if we die. It wins if we fail to cherish Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 3:8-11 says, “ Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” (NLT)
I believe the difference in anyone’s journey though cancer or other suffering is whether you choose to avail yourself of the HOPE that is yours for the taking. Instead of blaming God for the suffering, praise Him through it and allow Him to work in you.