As a Christian and a pastor, I have spent a ton of time in the last nine years wrestling through the question of “Why me?” Am I being punished by God? Have I done something wrong in my life that brain cancer is the result? Why am I the one to carry this burden? This question of suffering and pain is one that theologians and philosophers have been tying to answer for centuries. It was interesting to encounter some of their thoughts in seminary. It is much different when you are the person experiencing the brokenness of life.
As a Christian, I turn to the Bible to find answers. There are a couple of stories that captivate me. In the Gospel of John, chapter 5, there is a story of Jesus in Jerusalem at the pool of Bethesda. He encounters a man who had been sick for 38 years. Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?”, the man has an excuse, and Jesus heals him by telling him to get up and walk. Crazy stuff. Many messages have been preached on that passage – about why was the man sitting there for 38 years, the power of the words of Jesus, seeking help for helping from things other than Jesus, etc. I have had cancer for 9 years…am I the man sitting at the edge of the Bethesda pool? Do I want to be healed?
There is a story in the Gospel of Luke about Jesus on his way to heal a dying girl (Luke 8). In the midst of the crowd around him, there is a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years – doctors couldn’t heal her. She barely touches Jesus’ clothing, and is healed of her bleeding. Sermons have been preached about the faith of this woman and the healing touch of Jesus. Am I like this woman? Do I need more faith to be healed? Do I need to find a way to get closer to Jesus?
Here is a story that resonates with me. In the Gospel of John (chapter 9), Jesus encounters a man who has been blind since birth. His disciples ask him, “Jesus, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?” Jesus responds, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
I can jive with that. I have a story that tells of the good works of God. There are hard times and scary times, but over it all, God is in the midst of my cancer. I have courage because I know Jesus. God provides for me and my family through this entire journey.
Jenn was two months pregnant with our first child when I was diagnosed. We named her Emmanuella because of the overwhelming sense that ‘God is with us’ through this journey. Our second child was born 16 months after I finished chemotherapy. We named him Nathanael which means gift of God in Hebrew. We named our third child Gabriel – the Lord is our Strength – as a reminder that God is good and that it is through God’s strength that we get through trials.