To varying degrees most of us now days have been affected by cancer. You may have your own cancer story or maybe that of a family member or friend. Over the last couple years it has hit us hard as we’ve been on the sidelines for too many close friends. In the process we’ve become well-educated on the significance of blood-counts, process of chemo and the physical side-effects. But the spiritual side-effects is what I was eager to probe as one of my dearest friends and her cancer-surviving son sat at my kitchen table yesterday morning.
We live in different cities so this weekend was the first time, post-cancer, we had been able to spend together like we’ve done so many times before on holiday weekends. Our families have been close since we met over 14 years ago when our oldest children were babies.
However, when our daughter was not quite three we had to move away and have since moved again. We both had two more children the same ages and it is our middle sons who have considered each other best friends for 12 years even though they’ve never lived in the same city! We’ve stayed committed to visiting one another as often as possible and our families’ friendship has continued to grow deeper despite the distance.
So when I got the call a year and a half ago that my friend’s first-born had cancer it was gut-wrenching not to be with them physically. Thankfully she kept a fabulous Caring Bridge page so even still, we knew exactly what was going on and how we could pray. And though it didn’t feel like much, praying was the something we could do as we watched from afar the local body of Christ wrap their arms around them so tangibly.
Now the thick of it is behind them and life is getting back to normal. But, normal is not the same because they are no longer the same.
In order to eradicate the cancer from his body and keep him alive, his leg has been amputated. Obviously having a prosthetic leg would be an adjustment and change. But to me, even more noticeable than his new leg are the spiritual side effects that have given my friend a new perspective and freedom in life.
For most of us when our biggest dreams are threatened and greatest fears aroused, our first instinct is to hold on tightly, fighting to keep those things in tack. The fact that we do this points to something deeper going on in our hearts… the “idols” that are ruling as our functional gods. We may say we “trust God” and have faith in Him, but if we are really honest our happiness, contentment and security is more likely bound up in life going the way we planned.
But God has a way of stripping us of those things. And sometimes He uses cancer to show us that true life, true joy and real safety is only in Him. Even when life, joy and safety don’t look like what we thought it should.
This true dependence on Him took place in my friend without her even realizing all the ways He was caring for them in the midst of it. Now she can look back and see the daily sustaining them. The energy He gave her to care for her son with cancer while managing the other two kids’ schedules, her husband and job. The peace that she wouldn’t have had in the past with things so out of control. The change in perspective even amidst the often bleak circumstances. The no longer worrying about all the little things that used to consume her.
And He did this in and through her despite any action or amazing faith on her part. He poured out His grace even when she couldn’t articulate a “good” prayer or crack open her Bible. It was He who was buoying them the whole time. It was He pressing in to her. Not the other way around.
They were weak, but He made them strong in Him. And until we realize that we too are weak and in need of a Savior, we won’t understand her perspective that cancer saved them… and that is what she said!
Cancer literally changed the way they see God and the things of this life. They now know they are not in control, but have found more rest in the safety of knowing He is in control. They see how it was not them who were somehow heroic for beating cancer. Instead they see a God who did it all.
They see a God who became weak for us… taking with him to the cross all our pride, self-reliance, idols and sin. A God who frees us from ourselves enabling us to stand strong on His promises. Even when standing is on a prosthetic leg!
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I am so thankful for this family and the time we had these past two days. And I am so thankful for our God who loves us so much that He doesn’t leave us alone, but molds and shapes us in His image for our good and His glory!
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