Hope in the face of a devastating diagnosis


I remember well the dull thud in my spirit when the doctor spoke the C word and the ache at the thought of what lay ahead. But in the period since the Preacher’s diagnosis and long course of treatment that followed, we haven’t spent much time thinking about all that. Neither have we spent much time or emotion on worrying about whether cancer would return.

Nevertheless, we rejoiced when his five-year post-cancer check-up recently indicated an official “in remission” status. We celebrated over dinner for two. We reminded ourselves that God is good all the time; that he was good before cancer, during it and after it. And that he has been better to us than we deserve.

Cancer is a horrible disease. As I write, several friends battle in similar ways that Rick did five years ago. Some have hope of returning to health, one, short of a miracle, will not recover on this side of eternity.

We all process differently, but I’ve noticed some of our friends with cancer moving through their physical wilderness in ways that not only keep up their own spirits, but inspire others. A good friend, an artist, journals her breast cancer road through her art. With pen and brush and mixed media, she shares her journey with friends and strangers alike. She also has a private prayer group where, with vulnerability and sweet (though painful) honesty, she explains where our prayers are most needed.

As I’ve read the prayers of others, and written my own, I realize again – this is what we are here for, we believers in Christ – to walk alongside and help carry the loads too heavy for those who walk beside us.

I love the attitude of another of those friends. Throughout his long course of treatment, he has refused to waste time on anger, shoulda, woulda, couldas. He and his wife continue to live a very public political life, making the most of every moment God gives them. And in the midst of the muddle, they’ve shown the rest of us that God is right there in the mess with them, providing strength, courage, love and hope. That was our experience too.

We are grateful, so grateful, to God that in Rick’s case, healing came through prayers, physicians, treatment and time. But we laugh, we cry, we live and eventually we die. All of us. Nevertheless, the Bible explains that Christ-followers have the assurance of a bright epilogue.

In the face of a devastating diagnosis, when hope holds hands with faith, we find waiting there something entirely unexpected: times and moments of unexpected richness and nearness to a Father God who loves and keeps his children forever in his fantastic grip.

“I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39