The following is a guest post written by my wife as she reflected upon the 2nd anniversary of her father’s passing. I pray that her recollections of that season will encourage you to trust all the more in the goodness of Christ through all things.
Last Saturday was the second anniversary of my father’s death; he died fighting gastric cancer. Sadly, in our current time, the chances of you knowing someone who has died from or is fighting cancer are very high. I wish that he was the last person who died from cancer, but that is not the case.
Cancer is… an interesting concept. It could be simply explained as a corruption of a healthy cell from within your own body… suddenly you are against your own flesh. You are supposed to declare war against the very thing that keeps you alive. It is surreal to just think about this concept and then process it.
When I think of cancer, I cannot stop thinking about something made good and perfect that became corrupted…
Have we heard that pattern before?
Doesn’t sin work the same way?
If we do not take care of this cancer (or sin), will it not lead to death?
Thankfully we had the Lord and the gospel to get us through my father’s cancer, which meant that my dad’s death was very sad but not tragic. I saw cancer as a gift of time, as a blessing. See, we know we are mortal, but we still act like gods. Cancer, however, gave us a timer for the unavoidable death, since with cancer or not he was still going to die one day.
And so will we.
Cancer gave us access to a countdown clock, but even then, we don’t understand death even if it slaps us on the face. The day my dad died I couldn’t believe it, even though I knew that he was on hospice and that this day was coming soon. Why?
Did I not want to admit it?
Was my faith in another direction?
Although logically I knew that death is part of life, my soul didn’t accept it; eternity is written in our hearts. This is, after all, the major problem and fear of cancer: that it will lead to death.
But in the midst of all these emotions and feelings, I was given time, and many don’t get this gift. If you get this gift, please pray so you can use it well.
When my father passed, he probably was in pain, but what we saw the most was joy and peace. We all know that although the physical cancer took his body, Christ and His work on the cross took his spiritual cancer, giving him life forever with Him and the understanding that to live is Christ and to die is gain.
So my prayers for my dad were not only about healing. It was about God’s will being done. I pray for a broken and contrite heart, for him to grow in dependency upon the Lord, for my dad to be closer to Him, for us to have eyes to see his blessings, mercies, and love in the midst of the chaos, and to see how he leads us through the valley of death.
A key realization for me was understanding that his cancer was temporary; either the Lord would heal him or he would go to be with the Lord.
Cancer was a gift for my dad too, and I’m carefully using those words, as one of his main caregivers that had to administer morphine to control his pain. Cancer was never a punishment over his sin, but I know the Lord used it to discipline him and to sanctify him (Proverbs 3:12).
It was a complete privilege to see the dramatic change in my dad’s heart and life, from pride to humbleness and so much more. We saw him draw near to the Lord, to love Him, to thank Him, to desire Him, and that was priceless. Sadly it took cancer, but I’m glad it happened. And it was not wasted. It was a grace to be able to see how full of peace he was and the lack of fear he had for death, to see all the strength given to our family that only God could provide.
But one of the main things I learned was the dependency upon the Lord, to not lean on my intellect, mind, strength, actions, etc. I know sometimes we lament that the only thing we can do is pray, but prayer should be the foundation and guide for all our actions and thoughts. Prayer is the main thing to do in such situations. Prayer should never be our last resource or tossed around as an extra lift. Prayer and the Scriptures should be our go-to in every single aspect. (In fact, I wish now that I could have pursued the Lord more in that season rather than all the medical research I did. Not that the research was wrong, but the other is of eternal weight.)
Understanding every single breath we take is dependent upon Him, I am thankful for a God that is more powerful than death and has promised us eternal life.
If you are dealing with cancer or a loved one is. Do not lose hope. Put your hope in Jesus Christ. He is the only way to give you eternal life and guide you through this and show you the way. Don’t waste your cancer and the time given.
Although I miss my father every day, and, in many occasions, I wish he was still here with me. It is beautiful to know that the Lord gave me the grace to grow and learn with him and to know that the Lord chose him and rescued him.
If you are either a caregiver or fighting cancer, let the community of Christ help you and support you, we could not have been more blessed with amazing community of brothers and sisters that walked with my family and I through it.
Cancer may be a death sentence, but it is not! This life is temporary, so put your eyes on Christ.
He is good.
He is loving.
He is sovereign.
He is perfect.
He is merciful.
If you are walking through cancer or have walked through it, my prayer for you is that God will open your eyes to see Him, and that your heart would be soft to ask for His will to be done first. I pray for hope, peace, and an urgency for the gospel. I pray that during times of pain you can have the security that He sustains you and the whole world is in His hands.