Last night I learned a lovely, kind and considerate woman from my Friday morning Bible study was diagnosed with lung cancer and mesothelioma. She is one of the first people who strongly encouraged me in my proposal to facilitate a local Christian cancer support group, the first in our valley. She was also enthusiastic about my blog and sent my information to her daughter who was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am so sorry that now she walks this often bumpy road called “cancer”.
When you hear the final pathology report and the doctor states, “You have cancer”, in one millisecond fear grips your mind, you feel like you are suddenly adrift on a huge sea and without a raft or life vest, you struggle and gasp and sputter trying to breath and not go under. Finally, your cloudy thoughts begin to become somewhat coherent as you hear the doctor outline the next steps for the rest of your life.
John Piper states in the introductory chapter of his book, Don’t Waste Your Cancer, “When God subjected the world to futility, he did it ‘in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21). So the groaning of our cancer has a double meaning. It means that sin is horrible, and it means that glorious freedom is coming. We will waste our cancer if we don’t hear in our own groanings the labor pains of the new creation.”
Groanings is an interesting description of our suffering. How many of us groaned inwardly, and maybe for some of us, groaned outwardly through harsh tears, when we heard our diagnose? My first response was confusion and then, yes, fear; never did I think that my diagnose was the start of labor pains of a new creation being birthed in me.
As the doctor states (often as a matter-of-fact) what our next step is in our all out war against our newly diagnosed disease, we catch our breath, grab a hold of our life vest and with what strength we have left, pull ourselves into the raft that the emotions, or “groanings” begin to flood our minds. For me the following 24 hours were crucial in my emotional decision making. Was I going to be angry at God and with my fist in the air shouting, “Why me God? If You really loved me You wouldn’t do this to me!” or “It’s the devil!” or “I submit to Your perfect plan for my life.” And our decision colors our approach to our sorting out and accepting this life changing diagnose.
I accepted my cancer as purposeful and that there was a perfect plan surrounding my suffering and there is no getting around it, I feel like I did suffer especially in my post-treatment recovery at home. I experienced a deep groaning and felt lost and confused as I sorted out the last seven and a half months, adjusted to my having cancer and accepted the fact I had cancer and foundationally, some how and in some way good would come from my experience. So Mr. Piper was correct, my groaning was likened to labor pains and now, in looking back, I see the new creation being wrought in me.
“So the groaning of our cancer has a double meaning. It means that sin is horrible, and it means that glorious freedom is coming.” Yes, indeed, sin is horrible. Period. The falleness of the world wracked my body and it was horrible. But a promise follows, “and it means that glorious freedom is coming.” What is that glorious freedom?
I believe any traumatic event can cause one to reflect on their life. My suffering was a pause and prompted a journey of recollection of my earlier days before cancer. Through the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit I saw a very judgmental woman. I was driven but my ambitious nature was a guise for a deep need to control my surroundings. What I realized I was ashamed of and I was deeply convicted.
Before my cancer I was a woman with a tongue that freely spoke my thoughts and I know I made bold statements to people that I “loved” and these statements hurt them deeply. In this season of post-treatment suffering and reflection, I repented for my judgments and criticisms. I was sorrowful that perhaps by my harsh words fellow believers stumbled in their faith and maybe left the church because of Pharisees like me.
My groanings spurred on my confession of sin and this confession began my glorious freedom of a changed person. This freedom is ever expanding. I softened, I began to listen, I was more empathetic and compassionate and patient. I am softening, I am listening and I am learning to be more empathetic and compassionate and patient. Where once a cloudy gray confused my heart, an ever increasing soft light shines.
How did you receive the news you had cancer? Did you groan inwardly? Did you sense the crush of horrible sin? Has your groaning turned and are you beginning to experience the glorious freedom that is coming?
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rms. 8:28) My cancer was for my good and it is my hope that my cancer helps me today in better reflecting the goodness and glory of Christ.