Don’t Waste your Cancer
(taken from a John Piper Blog)
A week ago today I received a call from my Dr. telling me that my biopsy came back as cancer. It has been a whirlwind of a week since that phone call. It has consisted of a handful of appointments, a PET scan and plenty of prayers and encouraging notes.
One encouraging note was a link to the blog of John Piper, a Christian theologian that was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006. I thought what he had to say in this blog was very interesting. I have added some of my thoughts to each point (in italics).
1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, He permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, He can stop it or not. If He does not, He has a purpose. Since He is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design.
MY THOUGHTS: I know God has a plan for my life. There are days it seems 100% clear and other days (like today) when I am not sure where this is going, but I do know He knows what He is doing. He has made this cancer a part of me. It is a part of my overall story. Just like everything in my past, it makes me who I am.
2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 83:11).
MY THOUGHTS: I love the song by Matt Redman – “Blessed Be Your Name.” It talks about giving God the glory and praising His name in the good times as well as the bad times. While “cancer is a gift” is a hard statement to comprehend, it really goes back to #1 – God having a plan for my life. He can use this to reach others… what a gift that is. He can open doors with this that I may never have been able to open otherwise.
3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7).
MY THOUGHTS: This is something that I have not thought about. Maybe it’s because there haven’t been any “odds” thrown my way or maybe it’s because I do trust in God, but thinking about some human calculation has never been something that has crossed my mind.
4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Eccl. 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.
MY THOUGHTS: Today I sat through a funeral. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that the thought of dying didn’t cross my mind. As a matter of fact, I began planning a possible funeral in my head… right down to possibly video recording my own “final sermon.” What to say, what to do… the reality is death is real for each and every one of us and when we face something like “cancer” our eyes are opened a little wider to what is to come.
5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)
MY THOUGHTS: The first time I found out I had cancer, life changed for me. My priorities changed, my thought process changed, my world view changed. As I look at my life five years later, I have really changed and I feel like I have matured. I don’t know what is to come five years from now, but I am hoping that I am closer to who God wants me to be.
6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”
MY THOUGHTS: One area I saw my life change was in my “reading” about God and learning the realities of God.
7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
This is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.
MY THOUGHTS: I am an outgoing person, but in all reality, I didn’t want to tell anyone about what was going on. Why? Simply put, I don’t like it when people worry about me. After reading this thought it hit me… this isn’t about what people feel for and about me – but instead how my feelings have changed towards others – and they really have.
8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.
MY THOUGHTS: I have hope. PERIOD.
9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are.
MY THOUGHTS: We waste our time and life on such stupid things… things that do not matter and things that are just plain selfish and wrong. It really is amazing to look at my life through a new lens (again) and understand the trivial nature of some of the stupid things I do.
10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 22:12-13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.
MY THOUGHTS: Like I said in #1 – God has a plan. I want everyone to know that I am OK with where I am in life and what Christ is doing in me and through me. My faith is strong and growing stronger. God is going to use this for His glory and I am excited to see what that is going to be.
As you read this, you may not understand why God does some things whether in my life or in yours. You may be battling with your own struggles that you can substitute for the word “cancer” throughout this blog. Understand that God is in control of your life, just like mine. Isaiah 55:8 tells us "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Be open to what God can do, no matter the situation.