A man goes to his doctor for his annual checkup. After a taking a number of tests, the doctor comes back with the test results. The doctor tells him, “I have some bad news. You have cancer and Alzheimer’s.” The man replies, “Well, that’s a relief. At least I don’t have cancer.” You may find the joke funny, ridiculous, or offensive. But this is exactly what happened with my father in 2009. Sometimes I have to laugh so I don’t cry.
In our weekly phone conversations, my dad always sounded okay, and he told me he was okay. But a neighbor called to tell me that something was drastically wrong with my father that I would not notice in a phone conversation. Because my 66-year-old dad lived in another state, I drove 750 miles to spend a week with dad to find out what was going on. I spent more than a week taking my dad to several doctors. We discovered he had rapid onset Alzheimer’s. His bloodwork showed he also had undiagnosed cancer. That ridiculous joke was dad’s reality.
Dad died of cancer 6 years later. Mom died of cancer 2 years after dad died. My wife Connie lost her mother to cancer too. I was shocked to discover than more than 39% of Americans will get cancer in their lifetimes.
We have so much cancer in our families that my wife Connie prays daily that we will be spared of cancer. Then the unimaginable happened just over 18 months ago. Connie had several months of severe health issues, multiple hospitalizations, and countless medical tests. For months wonderful physicians could not diagnose her. After taking multiple biopsies, her surgeon called me, “Your wife Connie has cancer.” I felt like I was in a horrific dream. But it wasn’t a dream.
Cancer is so brutal and terrifying that people often ask: Where is God when you have cancer? Will you allow me to share our journey with cancer in hopes it may help you or someone you love who has cancer?
Cancer messes with our emotions. Walking with my wife through cancer left us spiritually, physically, and emotionally exhausted for months. At times we felt sad, discouraged, and depressed. At times we felt anxious, scared, and angry. Other times we felt numb due to the exhaustion. We also have days of wonderful joy and laughter. Our emotions test our faith. In the Bible God tells us, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I also learned that we live by faith, not emotion. Our faith tells us: God loves us. God is in control. God cares for us. We trust in our unchanging God rather than the roller coaster of our emotions.
Cancer makes us feel all alone. We may be surrounded by medical specialists, family, and friends. But cancer still makes us feel lonely. Our pain is our pain. Our worries are our worries. Our fears are our fears. Some people avoid us when we have cancer because they just don’t know what to say, do, or feel. Their personal discomfort keeps them distant. I’d encourage you to let people who care about you know what you need. In the Bible God tells us, “Carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Most people want to help carry our burdens. They can’t read our minds, so we have tell them what we need. If you are family or friends of a person with cancer, ask them how you can help them.
Cancer can make God feel distant. Cancer can cause us to question God. If you love me, why did you allow me to get cancer? Why aren’t you answering our prayers for quick healing? Why are you allowing me to suffer? God, why do you feel so distant while I’m suffering so much? Why, God, why? While we are hurting, we must live by faith, not emotion. Our emotions can betray our faith. We choose to trust God because we know God loves us, God cares for us, and God is with us. In the Bible God gives us many wonderful promises. Here’s one of my favorites. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Where is God when you hurt? God is closer than you can imagine. Where is God when you suffering? God is in the same place he was when evil men nailed his Son Jesus to a cross. God is with you. God is weeping with you. God is suffering with you.
God loves us more than we can imagine. That’s why God sent Jesus to die for our sins. Reach out to Jesus in prayer today. Jesus is waiting to hear from you.
This article originally appeared on The Shawnee News-Star: Minister's Corner: Where's God when you have cancer? By Charles Kimball