(A three-minute read)
Here are some thoughts based on material from my upcoming memoir, The Lie Called Cancer (A Divine Comedy) being released in October. Yes, it’s a comedy. Sign up here to learn more.
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Last year at this time I was being treated for cancer; I was just about to enter my fourth round of chemotherapy. A group of faithful friends gathered regularly in prayer for me. They certainly encouraged me, and I’m convinced their prayers helped tip the balance toward my complete recovery.
My prayer request this week in 2019 was to focus on God’s promises, not on the physical discomfort and weariness in my body. Those were transitory. ‘This too shall pass’, and all that. Despite these truths, and the comfort they brought, my life was in crisis.
Crisis provokes one of two responses in the human heart, faith or fear. My choice? I can either turn to the God I know and lean on Him in faith, or I can turn away from Him and blame him for my problems. Faith or fear, my only options. There is no ‘wait and see,’ because even the grossest procrastination dumps me into one or the other in the end.
I knew the trial of cancer treatment would be spiritual as well as physical. So I appeared to face a stark challenge. Do I approach healing spiritually, supernaturally and trust God? Or do I attack it physically and trust the doctors? Was it possible to do both? It was a much more complicated question for me than you might think. But the answer was simple.
I stupidly thought that these paths were mutually exclusive; one path leading to greater faith, the other dead-ending in despair. My foolishness was undone by a friend.
Until it closed due to covid concerns, I would spend my Tuesday afternoons as a volunteer (and later, as a client) at the Healing Rooms of SW London. This particular week I was on a ministry team with Catherine Q. After the ministry time ended she shared with me a scripture that was given to her specifically about healing.
‘Someone shared this with me when I was very ill. It can speak about the healing power of communion – how remembering Christ’s sacrifice can bring physical healing, not just forgiveness of sins,’ she said.
‘For we who are in this tent (figuratively, the mortal body) groan, being burdened, not because we wish to be unclothed, but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal might be swallowed up by life.’ 1 (insert mine)
That life that swallows us? It’s Father God’s love through the sacrifice of His Son. What I receive at the communion table swallows me up within His greater life. I go there with nothing; I leave with everything. What is mortal (the dead parts in me) is swallowed up by life and made whole again!
This section of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church talks about living a faith-filled life. This seemed particularly apt as I underwent treatment for a condition the physicians said had a 50-50 chance of killing me within ten years. I read this passage often in the ensuing weeks. It’s worth quoting more fully here, (in The Message translation) so you know the faith I was trying to cement into my heart to offset the fear running laps in my head:
‘So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.’ 2
I’m instructed to walk by faith, not by sight, to rely on the invisible more than the visible.3 I see myself blindfolded, groping forward cautiously. Forget what I can see with my eyes, what does my heart see? Moreover, what does it mean?
It means making decisions based on faith, even while I’m surrounded with the facts of the case, coming at me like a pack of yapping dogs. It means trusting God, and His promises first, while simultaneously listening to doctors.
Walking by faith, and not by sight. I’d be doing a lot of that in the following months.
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1. 2 Corinthians 5:4
2. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (MSG)
3. 2 Corinthians 4:18 ‘while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’