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Can Cancer Be Part of God’s Plan?

Written By Debra Hunt, New Zealand

The three words you never want to hear: “Unfortunately, it’s cancer.”

I was 31 when I received my shock diagnosis. My husband and I had three small children, a mortgage, and I was working as a children’s pastor at my church.

Breast cancer was not part of my five-year plan—or any plan I’d made for my life for that matter. I was a non-smoker, reasonably fit and healthy, with no family history of breast cancer.

Despite all this, I found myself sitting in a small seasick-green room, listening to my doctor explain how far my cancer had spread. It hadn’t been caught early, and was quite advanced, so she detailed a treatment plan involving surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and 10 years of endocrine therapy*. She estimated that if I went through all this treatment, I would have a 75 percent chance of being alive in five years’ time.

Over the weeks that followed, I gradually let go of the dreams and hopes I had for the immediate future. The half marathon would have to wait. So would my goals for the church I was working at.

My life was interrupted. I found myself asking, “Why God? Why would You let this happen? Why would You allow this cancer to hold me back from the things I thought You wanted me to achieve?”

My church family prayed for me. I prayed for myself, begging God to heal me.

What I felt God say in response was that I simply needed to trust Him on this path. Yes, He could heal me, but would I trust Him even if He didn’t?

It took me a couple of weeks of wrestling with the concept, but after many tears, I realized that my response was, “YES.” Yes, I could trust God, even if He didn’t take my cancer away. The Bible says He is trustworthy, and I chose to believe it. I put my faith in Him because I knew He wouldn’t be careless with me. I leaned into a long-time favorite verse, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

I appreciated The Message’s paraphrase of this verse as well: “Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you” (1 Peter 5:7, MSG).

So, I decided to stop asking God to instantly fix me, and instead, to trust Him through the process of treatment.

 

Unexpected Blessings

What I found during my treatment, was that although it was hard, God wove blessings into the journey.

You see, when I really thought I might die, the world became insanely beautiful. Reminded of my own mortality, I drank in sights and sounds like I’d never see them again.

I would step through my door in the morning, and be struck by the sight of dew drops on leaves—the way the light filtered in through branches, or the way flowers closed up so tightly at night but opened themselves widely to the sun during the day. The beauty around me became so acute and intense that it almost hurt. Having my life threatened led me to a deeper appreciation of creation; I could see God’s artistic hand everywhere.

I was also blessed with a special closeness to Jesus. I was surprised, because I didn’t feel like walking with Him through this time was hard work . . . I felt like He actually carried me. I’m generally a bit of a pessimist and prone to negativity, but it seemed like Jesus helped me to feel more positive and upbeat than normal. Yes, it was still challenging a lot of the time, but I always could feel Him with me, and I had an unexpected peace deep in my heart.

Having cancer has also opened up some doors for me, and given me a platform from which I can share more about God’s love. I’ve been speaking at events and blogging, and that has not only helped me to process my experience, but has also allowed me to speak life and hope to a wide array of people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

 

Cancer Is Not a Good Plan

Do these good things mean that I think cancer is God’s good plan? No. No way.

When He makes everything new, there will be no more sickness and weeping (Revelation 21:4). Cancer was not God’s plan for mankind, and it won’t reign forever—He will put an end to it. But unfortunately for now, it’s here, and it affects roughly a third of people at some point in their lives.

As I continue in my fight against cancer, I know that God isn’t sitting up in heaven telling me to toughen up. He is right here with me, weeping with me at the brokenness of my body.

I know this because Jesus has compassion on His creation. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept at the destruction and sadness—even though He knew the story had a happy ending! He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead, and yet He was overcome to the point of weeping (John 11:35). So, I know that it hurts God to see His creation suffering and being cut up, poisoned, and irradiated.

Cancer is not God’s plan. It is a result of our fallen world. But one day, Jesus will end cancer once and for all.

 

For now though, I believe God can use even this horrible disease to do wonderful and surprising things. While we may be shocked by a diagnosis of cancer, God is not. He already knows how He is going to bring about something beautiful from it. He is the one who replaces ashes with a crown of beauty, and turns mourning into dancing (Isaiah 61:3, Psalm 30:11). So we can stop fretting and trust Him with our lives. In fact, He tells us we must do this (see Matthew 6:25-27 and Philippians 4:6-7).

I’m one year out from treatment now, and I’m doing okay. I still struggle with my health, the ongoing side effects, and the anxiety of the cancer returning. But I am so grateful for all the good God has done, and will continue to do, on this journey.

Cancer, sickness, or suffering is not God’s plan for you or for any of His precious creations. If you’re currently going through a difficult time or battling illness, will you join me in trusting Him to use even the grimmest of circumstances for good?

 

* Endocrine Therapy is a hormonal treatment used to slow or stop the growth of cancer

 

Living In A Coffee-Stained World

Title: Living In A Coffee-Stained World
Artwork by: YMI X Marcus Huang (@marc_hues)
Description: Today is International Coffee Day! On this day, we celebrate a drink that binds the world together, from coffee farmers to coffee lovers.

Ah, the warmth of a hot cup of coffee-to-go on chilly mornings, or the thrill of an iced white on hot days. Coffee consumption has turned into a global way of life, a language we share and a common passion we have.

Little do we realize that behind the growing popularity and demand for coffee is the plight of coffee farmers with threatened livelihoods. As we sip our coffees today, let’s start thinking about how we can take steps towards a better future for those affected.

Here are 3 steps to consider taking:
Educate yourself on the situation
Drink certified ethically sourced coffee
Support communities who advocate fair livelihood for coffee farmers

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

#internationalcoffeeday2019

 

 

 

 

 

If God Is Real, Why Is There So Much Injustice?

Written By Asiri Fernando, Sri Lanka

Asiri graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, USA with a Master of Divinity and is now working for Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. Asiri is a speaker, Bible teacher and a singer songwriter. Asiri blogs at http://asirifernando.wordpress.com.

We live in a world that’s filled with suffering and injustice. Every day, we read about how racism, rape, and abuse of power is on the rise. It’s no surprise that one of the common objections to Christianity is, “If God is real, why is there so much injustice?”

In my time as a youth worker, I’ve found that some of the deepest suffering that we have to go through often comes at the hands of those around us—whether in the form of being bullied, suffering from abuse, or even being persecuted for the faith.

In the face of such injustice, how can Christians cling on to their faith and not allow these situations to embitter them?

As I groan with God at the pains of this world (Romans 8:22), I am convinced there are two marvelous, unshakable truths about God that can anchor us through storms: the truth that God is sovereign over every circumstance, and that His love is present in the midst of our suffering.

In Genesis 37-50, we see a beautiful picture of God’s sovereignty, or absolute control and rule over all things, painted in the life of Joseph. Throughout Joseph’s life, he was committed to living rightly, but he suffered injustices in various forms.

As a young man in his father’s house, Joseph received the love and blessing of his father, but his brothers hated him, mistreated him, and sold him off into slavery.

In Potiphar’s house in Egypt, Joseph conducted himself with holiness, yet He was falsely accused and thrown into prison.

Even in prison, he was trustworthy and kind to those around him. However, his kindness was forgotten, and he was left in prison (ESV: “the pit”) for two years!

Joseph was repeatedly and severely a victim at the hands of people who unjustly served him hatred, mistreatment, and abuse. Yet Scripture also makes it clear that in all that Joseph went through, God was with him and blessed him. Many of us might wonder, “Can we consider all that Joseph has gone through a blessing?”

Eventually, God raised Joseph to the highest office in Egypt, where Pharaoh tells Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:44). In the midst of all that he was going through, Joseph probably would never have imagined that he would one day be exalted to this position—but his story is evidence of God’s perfect plan, sovereignty, and love in the midst of suffering.

It is while Joseph is holding this high position, that his brothers come to Egypt, completely at the nation’s mercy to help them survive a famine in their homeland (Genesis 42:1-6). Despite the opportunity Joseph has to exact revenge on the brothers that betrayed him, the story goes on to show Joseph’s great love for his own brothers—a love that had no room for bitterness (Genesis 45:15).

At the end of the story, Joseph makes two great statements of faith in response to his brothers’ pleadings for mercy that can help us understand how we can respond to the injustices we see in the world, especially the ones that are personally inflicted on us:

 

1. Am I in the place of God?

After the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers expected wrath from him, but instead Joseph’s response was, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19a).  That response made it clear that Joseph harbored no bitterness or anger against his brothers—but more importantly, that he recognized that it wasn’t his role to bring about justice. That was God’s part.

One thing that breaks the hold of bitterness against those who have harmed us, is knowing that God will ensure justice against all offenses. This is why Paul says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). The world is unjust but God is perfectly just and has also “set a day for his final justice to take place” (Acts 17:31). This is a truth which answers a lot of questions and releases us from any unease and bitterness about the seeming injustice we are experiencing.[1]

 

2. You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good

Joseph’s second statement of faith is, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . .” (Genesis 50:20a).

We all suffer because of sin—at times suffering comes about through evil systems, unfortunate circumstances, our own flesh, or direct attacks from Satan. The last season in my life was a difficult one, in which I experienced prolonged illness and injury to my family, ministry obstacles, and dark nights of the soul.

But what kept me going was the knowledge that God is sovereign and is working! He is moving things forward. He is in absolute control even during the darkest moments of our lives. Oh, the joy of knowing that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)! So we persevere with total trust in a God who is faithful. His promises are true. His steadfast love is better than life.

 

There is good to look forward to (even if it’s eternal)

As we can see from the life of Joseph, accepting the sovereignty of God provides a deep sense of security and peace, even amidst times of difficulty and unrest. The good will come, in this life, and also most definitely in the next. 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure (through hardships), we will reign with him”. What kind of grace is this? Like Joseph who reigned in the courts of Egypt, we will also one day reign with Christ.

Fixing our eyes on the sovereignty of God strengthens us to be obedient through hardships. We know that God is working for our good. He is greater than our circumstances. Therefore, we can be glad because we know that “the Lord reigns” (Psalm 97:1, 99:1) and He will guard “the lives of his faithful ones” (Psalm 97:10).

Joseph’s life might have been tainted with suffering, but it was also a life that was under the absolute control of God, who used Joseph’s circumstances to fulfill His purposes—for Joseph’s good, for the salvation of many, and for His glory.

This is why we can trust Him even when we’re faced with unjust circumstances—in His sovereignty, He will use them for our good.

 

[1] We also know the glorious truth that Jesus bore our punishment and satisfied the wrath of God on the cross, a justice borne by Christ, and a beautiful justification (no condemnation) appropriated to our enemies who turn to Christ. Our greatest desire when loving our enemies is to see them turn to Christ.

In God’s Hands

Title: In God’s Hands
Materials: Digital illustration
Artwork by: YMI X Eun Ae (@ohjoytree)
Music from Bensound.com

Feeling down? We hope this video lifts your spirits.