6 days ago my friend Dave went home to be with his Creator. Many of you knew him well. Dave was one of the most passionate, charismatic, and contagious people I have ever met. He was fiercely committed to his friends, his family, his country, and most of all, his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He died on December 26th, after spending one last, sweet Christmas with his family. He will be greatly missed, but it won’t be long before we see him again.
As I have been thinking back on his life this past week, I have returned continually to a verse that describes Dave perfectly: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” Romans 1:16. Oh that the same may be said of me after I am gone. The connection between Dave’s life and this verse has been most evident over the last 4 and a half years, as he has battled various types of cancer. His fire for evangelism only increased as his time on earth drew to a close and I know that the fruits of his life and passion for Jesus will be seen for years to come. His life was not one wasted on the trivial. It was not wasted at all. It was not without purpose.
His cancer was not without purpose either. Which brings me to my question, “Why cancer?” More specifically, Why suffering at all? Why genocides and earthquakes? Holocausts and AIDS orphans? Why cancer? It’s a common question, and a legitimate one that deserves care and honesty. It is a question that is linked to the personal feelings and experiences of everyone who asks it, and it is a question that is often left unanswered, or insufficiently answered.
I was watching a debate between two Atheists and two Christians regarding the scientific evidences for God. The debate did not go well for the Christians, who were unqualified and unsupported by the audience. One woman in attendance, who had obviously battled hard with illness for a long time, posed this question, “If there is a God, how do you explain cancer?” Let’s just say that the answer given was forgettable and relatively unhelpful, except that it caused me to process this same question over the last few months.
To better answer her question he probably should have first asked her, “If there is no God, how do you explain cancer?” This is a simpler question to answer and would have helped her to see the answer to her question more clearly. If there is no God, then there must be a scientific reason for some people getting cancer and others people remaining cancer free. The answer is simple, “some people get cancer because they aren’t the strongest and are therefore not meant to survive.” They are not the fittest. This goes for other tragedies as well. The Jews who died in the holocaust were the weakest and least suitable for survival. The 200,000 plus people who died during the tsunami were naturally selected to perish. In fact, evolution would lead us to understand that not only were all of these people selected to die, but that it was a good thing, necessary for the furthering of the strongest of our species so that evolution can continue to take place. If there is no God, cancer happens because the advancement of the human race depends on the death of the weak and the survival of the strong.
Thankfully, there is a God. And He provides hope for the life and death of every human. God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26) and in doing so, He instilled in every single person (regardless of gender, race, background, intelligence, fitness level) a life of dignity, a life worth saving. And though we sinned (Genesis 3) and threw the whole of creation into disrepair in the process, God had a plan that involved the liberation of all creation from it’s broken state (Romans 8:20-21). God’s sovereign plan includes cancer and death, not because He delights in our suffering, but because He desires for us to see His glory and wisdom most clearly. His power is made perfect when we have to rely on Him for every single thing we need (2 Corinthians 12:9). This world is broken, and because of this, we live lives that are filled with suffering. But God has provided an end to the suffering in the salvation that comes through Christ. He came and died to restore that which is broken and to free those who are enslaved to sin, and He is coming again to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). This ensures that no life is wasted, no cancer is without purpose, and no death is in vain, but all things fit together in God’s sovereign plan to reconcile all things to Himself (Colossians 1:20).
So why cancer? Because what we see and hear and feel now is just a shadow of what awaits us when the breath leaves our lungs, and for some, cancer is the way in which God is most glorified through their life. The reality is our lives will be used to bring glory to God, but will we be able to see and savor His redemptive plan while we still have breath? I pray that we will, for in that, we not only live lives that bring glory to God, we also experience the blessing of eternal life, in which there is no cancer, no death, no sin, and no suffering.
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, Where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55
Dave, thank you for your life. It is a reminder to us all that God is bigger than we understand and glorious beyond all comprehension. You got your voice back, better than ever, and I know you would want us to give glory for not only your life, but your cancer as well.
And Lord haste the day
When my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul!