May 25

Peace in the Face of Cancer

 

I’ve just received word from Tyndale House that my manuscript for my new book Peace in the Face of Cancer has been “enthusiastically accepted!” This book has been rolling around in my head for at least a couple of years and I just couldn’t really relax in retirement until I got it out.

For a long time I’ve been wanting to write a book that would be especially for those facing cancer that is not expected to be cured. You know the descriptions. Treatable, but not curable. Chronic cancer.  Always in treatment. Cancer for the long haul. 

This new book–coming out next March–even includes three bonus chapters at the end just for such folks: Why doesn’t God heal? How to dance with cancer instead of  just battling it. And how to live AND die well for Jesus.

And the really good news is that Peace in the Face of Cancer actually is written to speak to the needs of ALL survivors and their caregivers no matter where they are on their cancer journey–newly diagnosed, in treatment, living in cancer’s shadow, dealing with a recurrence or trying to buy more time.

Not sure if you’re a survivor yet?

 

The National Cancer Institute says we become  survivor “from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.” So survivors include folks who have just found out they have cancer, people who used to have cancer, and those who can expect always to have it. Pretty sure that means everybody who has ever heard those three dreaded words: You have cancer.

As I write, there are an estimated 14.5 million people in the U.S. with a history of cancer and about the same number of new diagnoses is expected worldwide this year. That’s an incredible total of survivors, but I wonder how many meet only the first dictionary definition of survive: to remain alive or in existence? And how many also portray the second meaning: to continue to function or prosper?

Between my former job, my cancer prayer support groups and my speaking-travels, I literally have held the hands of thousands of people facing this disease. I count it a real privilege to walk with hurting people, whether the ones with the medical chart or the ones standing nervously by.  But despite my huge number of cancer-acquaintances (including about 90-percent of my Facebook friends!), I never would presume I know exactly what you or your loved ones are going through. Each patient and caregiver journey is unique, but chances are good that you and I have shared some of the same feelings over the years. And chances are very good that I know someone who has been in a very similar medical situation to yours.  And I think it’s especially feasible that you, like me, at times have trouble finding peace in the face of cancer.

  It’s definitely difficult to feel peace…but it is possible.

I know it’s possible because I have been there, done that, and because I’ve known scores of others who are finding peace even though they thought they couldn’t. In the pages of Peace in the Face of Cancer,  I’ll share true, hope-filled stories to encourage you that a survivor also can be a “thriver!”

If I come to your mind, please PRAY for this book as it goes through the editing and design process and that God would use it to bring PEACE in the face of cancer to those who need to hear that message.

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”—Luke 1:78-79 NLT

May 18

Losing Your Faith?

 

Have the trials of life caused you to lose your faith in God? Or are the doubts starting to pile up and you’re wondering if you’re on the verge of turning your back on Him?

Oh, you still believe God exists, but you don’t feel like you can or want to trust Him anymore. The difficulties of life and especially serious health concerns can lead to a spiritual crisis in many lives.

“Doubt rises up to obscure His presence and disillusionment settles into despair,” writes Dr. James Dobson in When God Doesn’t Make Sense. “The greatest frustration is knowing that He created the entire universe by simply speaking it into existence, and He has all the power and all understanding. He could rescue. He could heal. He could save. But why won’t He do it?” [1]

Feeling abandoned by God is especially terrible to experience after you earlier felt a closeness with Him.

“Satan then drops by for a little visit and whispers ‘He is not there! You are alone!’” Dr. Dobson adds.[2]

I can’t begin to explain to you why yet another family member is sick or why your child has cancer or why you’ve received such a dismal diagnosis. I agree with you that it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem right, and it certainly doesn’t feel like God cares.

But I also believe that despite life’s tough situations, we all are deeply loved by our Heavenly Father. I believe He proved that once and for all 2,000 years ago when He sent His one and only, perfectly sinless Son to die on the cross for your sins and for mine. I believe that even if God never answered another single prayer on our behalf, He already has done enough because when He raised Jesus to life, He defeated our greatest enemy: Death.

So go ahead and ask Him all your questions. As the praise chorus says: “Give Him all your tears and sorrow. Give Him all your years of pain.”

But remember, God is not required to defend His actions (or seeming inactions) to you and you may never know in this lifetime the reasons for the suffering which has touched your life.

He asks only one thing of you—to trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense.

 

[1] James Dobson, When God Doesn’t Make Sense (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers), 1993,

[2] Ibid.

May 11

How Could God Let This Happen?

 

When you believe in God, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that He has allowed adversity to come into your or your loved one’s life. Author David Biebel talks about this fact in his book If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? He says there are two truths suffering people have to reconcile: sometimes life is agony, and our loving God is in control.

 

Think about it.

If God knows everything, this diagnosis did not surprise Him.

If God sees everything, He saw the bad news coming.

If God has power over everything, He could have stopped it.

But He didn’t.

 

He didn’t stop you or your loved one from getting cancer (or AIDS or lupus or Alzheimer’s or kidney disease or whatever else has afflicted you). He didn’t stop it from happening to you or your loved one or many other people and their loved ones.

But the reality is that God’s Word never promises that He will stop all bad things from happening to us. On the contrary, it promises us that He is prepared for each battle and will equip us, too.

The Message Bible paraphrases 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 this way: “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized. But God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”

God is in control.

Errant cells aren’t.

Toxic medicine isn’t.

White-coated doctors aren’t.

Herbs and vitamins aren’t.

We aren’t.

 

The sooner we learn this truth, the easier our fight against cancer will be. It’s actually quite freeing once you get it right. You can relax knowing Someone else is in charge—Someone much more intelligent, powerful and vigilant than we are or could ever hope to be.

Be encouraged that this health crisis has not taken God by surprise. He is in control and knows how to equip you for the fight.

May 04

Laughter IS Good Medicine!

 

 

It’s been said “Laughter is like changing a baby’s diaper—it doesn’t permanently solve any problems, but it does make things more acceptable for a while.”

How long has it been since you had a good laugh?

There’s nothing funny about cancer, but every time we laugh, it reminds us we’re still alive and that feels really good. I believe that we all need to keep—or—get a sense of humor even in the shadow of illness.

Laughter is good for the body. Science is just figuring that out, but the Bible told us that a long time ago. Proverbs 15:30 says: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news makes for good health.” Proverbs 17:22 reiterates the point: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

For some people, the ability to laugh comes easily, but for others—especially those going through trials—it takes a more effort. If your funny bone could use some strengthening today, here are some suggestions from Endurance with Jan & Dave Dravecky:

  1. Start your own comedy collection of jokes and cartoons. (Do an Internet search for “clean jokes” or read the daily newspaper and you’ll find some funny ones. Post them at your desk or on your fridge so you can remind yourself to laugh.)
  2. Get your groceries and a chuckle by reading some of the tabloid headlines while standing in line. (Pick a long line so you’ll have time to read about things like aliens with anorexia and manure as a miracle cure for arthritis!)
  3. Hang out at greeting card racks and enjoy reading funny cards. (You’ll get a kick out of them yourself and you also can buy one and send it to someone who hasn’t had anything to laugh about for a while.)
  4. Become a humorous people “groupie” by hanging out with funny people. (Either you’re a funny friend or you need one!)
  5. Make the most of embarrassing moments. (Share your foibles with a trusted friend and have a good laugh together about things like how your wig blew off your bald-from-chemo head.)

Laughter is healing medicine, so please take a full prescription of it!

Apr 27

A Place to Call Home

 

Our world could use some good news couldn’t it? In many ways it’s a frightening time in which to be living; wars, rumors of wars, the constant threat of terrorism, the ups and downs of the stock market, violence in the classrooms, so many friends and relatives with cancer, families torn apart by abuse and divorce. Life is not only hard; it’s often downright unfair, as some people seem to have more than their share of troubles. You might even be one of those people.

I once overhead a middle-aged gentleman remark: “Every time I think I have my life together, something happens and it’s falling apart again!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a world where everything was fair and people didn’t get sick, and sad things didn’t happen, and nobody had to die? Who wouldn’t want to call such a place their “home?”

Did you ever wonder why there’s such a longing in each of us for just such a kind of place? It’s a longing for home, you know. A longing for our real home. You see, we weren’t created to live in California or New York or Florida or anywhere else on the face of this planet. We were created for our real home: Heaven.

The Bible describes heaven in Revelation 21:4 as a place where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.”

And why won’t there be any more tears or death or sorrow or pain? Not because we’ll have all the money we ever wanted or all the fame or all the knowledge or any other tangible item.

It’s because we’ll have God Himself.

In Revelation 21:3, the verse right before the one about no more tears, pain or death, it says: “Look! God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them and they will be his people.”

That’s why there won’t be any more tears or pain or death. We’ll have what we always really needed to be whole—the constant presence of God Himself.

The great 17th-century philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote that each of us has a “God-shaped vacuum” in us. There’s a hole, so to speak in our hearts that leaves us longing for something more than this world has to offer. It’s a hole and a longing that God put in us when He created us. He knows only He can fill that hole even though we try to fill it ourselves with all sorts of other things. Some of us try to fill it by buying “stuff” or with relationships or with work or sports or with learning or religious rituals. Some even try things like food or sex or drugs or alcohol. But none of these can fill the God-shaped vacuum in us…instead they only make it bigger.

The only thing that fills that hole and makes us whole is when God fills it with Himself by putting His very Spirit inside us, one life at a time. And when God’s Spirit lives inside us, we discover our purpose for living.

A health crisis often makes us realize how precious life is and can send us scurrying to discover the meaning of life. So, why are we here?

It’s really quite simple. Do you know what it is?

We were created to praise God.

That’s right. We find true joy, true fulfillment when we realize there’s Someone bigger than us. Someone greater than us. Someone worthy of every bit of praise we can give.

We were created to praise God with our lips…and our lives.

And when we do, there’s a feeling of peace and power that comes over us that hardly can be described. It’s a feeling that reminds us this world is not our real home.

If you’ve never really had praise for God well up in your heart, we pray that you will as you read He Cares today. Revelation gives us just a teeny glimpse of what it’s going to be like in heaven standing before the throne of God with Jesus at His right hand and us telling them how much we love them.

And if you’re still trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with other things, I pray you’ll allow God’s to fill you with Himself and satisfy that longing for your real home.

Apr 20

That’s NOT Fair!

 

Remember when you were a kid and indignantly informed your parents: “That’s not fair!”

They probably responded with some important information for you: “Life’s not fair.” Their response only made you madder!

Nobody who’s being treated unfairly wants to hear it. It’s a logical response to a heartfelt emotion. But the longer we live, the more we all realize how true that statement is. Perhaps life has been unfair to you or your loved one recently or perhaps for a very long time. Either way, life has disappointed you. Maybe if you’re really honest you’ll admit you even feel disappointed by God.

I have another truth we’d like to share: don’t confuse life with God.

In Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment with God, he writes about a man named Douglas whom he interviewed because he thought Douglas might feel a great disappointment with God. Life, as Yancey describes it, had been very unfair to Douglas. While his wife was battling advanced breast cancer, Douglas was in a car accident with a drunk driver and suffered a terrible head injury that left him permanently disabled, often in pain and unable to work full-time.

But when Yancey asked this victim of unfairness to describe his disappointment with God, Douglas said he didn’t feel any and instead told Yancey the following:

“I have learned to see beyond the physical reality in this world to the spiritual reality. We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair,’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life—by expecting constant good health, for example—then I set myself up for crashing disappointment.

“If we develop a relationship with God apart from our life circumstances, “ said Douglas, “then we may be able to hang in there when the physical reality breaks down. We can learn to trust God in spite of the unfairness of life.”

Cancer is very unfair. Even if you “did” something to “get” it or didn’t do something not to get it, it’s still unfair. Maybe you are a smoker diagnosed with some smoking-related cancer. It’s still unfair because many smokers never get develop a disease from their habit (only about 20-percent get lung cancer). Maybe you quit smoking ten or twenty years ago and you still have been afflicted. Hardly fair.

Perhaps you didn’t get regular mammograms, PAP smears or PSAs and now you have cancer. Guess what, it’s still not fair, because lots of people don’t get those screening tests and they don’t get cancer. Besides some people get them faithfully and the cancer isn’t even detected! That seems even more unfair.

Maybe you are overweight or out-of-shape or didn’t get regular physicals and now you have cancer. It’s still not very fair because you know many others in your same circumstances with great health. Or perhaps you received the ultimate insult in being diagnosed with cancer in spite of taking the best care possible of yourself and doing everything right not to get sick.

Go ahead and say it.

It’s not fair that I have this.

It’s not fair that my loved one has this.

It’s not fair that this has happened to us right now.

Say it, but don’t be confused that life should be fair because God is.

Life is not fair, but God is not life.

 

Yancey says that “Every time a believer struggles with sorrow or loneliness or ill health or pain and chooses to trust and serve God anyhow, a bell rings out across heaven and the angels give a great shout. Why? Because one more pilgrim has shown again that he or she understands that Jesus is worth it all. God is faithful.”

There’s a law firm I once heard advertising on the radio by spotlighting people who have had awful, unfair things happen to them and then hired a lawyer to try and rectify the situation. The commercial concluded, that you, too, should call this law firm “when life hands you moments you just don’t deserve.”

I have some even better advice: When life hands you moments you just don’t deserve, put your trust in the Lord, because even when life is unfair, God is faithful.

Apr 13

Finding the Right Attitude

 

 

It’s often said that there are two kinds of people in life: optimists and pessimists. You probably think I’m going to tell you to be an optimist, but I’m not.

I think the best attitude for someone facing cancer is neither total optimism (without a doubt, I’m going to be cured) nor total pessimism (without a doubt I’m going to die), but realism (without a doubt I have a life-threatening illness and I may or may not get better, so I will plan for both).

When we insist we are going to be cured, we set ourselves up for a terrible defeat if it doesn’t happen. On the other hand, if we insist our situation is hopeless, we already are defeated before we start. I believe it’s best to be realistic and make plans to be financially, emotionally and spiritually ready to depart this life. That’s not giving up. It’s coming to grips with our own mortality, so we can really life fully without fear of death.

I believe there’s a difference between total optimism and a positive attitude. Total optimism says: “I’m absolutely, positively going to be cured.” A positive attitude says: “I hope and pray and even expect that I’m going to be cured, but even if I’m not, I will not be defeated.”

A totally optimistic attitude insists lemons will get sweeter. A positive attitude adds some sweetener and makes lemonade out of the lemons.

Author Chuck Swindoll has a wonderful description of the power of a positive attitude: “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I am that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it. I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important that my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.”

I pray your heart finds the right attitude—a positive, realistic attitude.

Apr 06

Entrusting Our Loved Ones to God’s Care

 

When cancer hits someone in a family, it’s as if the whole family “has” the disease because it disrupts our lifestyle and affects everyone in the home. We wish we could prevent its impact, but it’s not possible.

Those of us who have been diagnosed with cancer may even soberly imagine what life would be like for our families without us.

And when we do, the bottom-line question we must face is: Which do I love more—my relationships on earth or my relationship with God? It’s fairly easy to say we love God most of all, but when push comes to shove (or illness comes our way), will we be longing for our heavenly home or only hanging on to our earthly one? Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think God wants us to turn our backs on our family or our home with some sort of misdirected heavenly gaze.

 

He wants us to love our family with an unending, unconditional love.

But He still wants us to love Him more.

He wants us to love life with a passion and a purpose.

But He still wants us to love Him more.

He wants us to love this world with care and concern.

But He still wants us to love Him more.

 

Have you been able to entrust your family to God’s care no matter what happens to you? Here’s a conversation I had many years ago with the Lord.

They love me and I love them so very much.

I love them even more than you do.

I know You love them, but I want to take care of them.

I love them even more than you do.

I know You love them, but they need me.

I love them even more than you do.

I don’t want to entrust them to You, Lord. I want them to be entrusted to me.  I…I…I…

            I love them more than you do.

 

It’s time to walk by faith and not by sight. God loves your loved ones even more than you do.

 

Mar 23

Encouraging a Depressed Loved One

 

The word “encourage” means to inspire or fill someone with courage, spirit or hope. But how in the world do you encourage someone who is depressed?

To answer that difficult question, I’d like to share some thoughts from the book New Light on Depression by David Biebel, D.Min. and Harold Koenig, M.D.

“Family members, loved ones, and friends should encourage depressed persons—to get up in the morning, to go out to dinner, to go to a movie, to exercise with them, to do the things their depression is preventing them from enjoying, and to seek professional help if they are not doing so already. Once depressed people get out and start moving they often feel a lot better. Encouraging, however is not the same as forcing, manipulating, or cajoling, nor will arguing about it help much…Here, again, discernment is crucial so that your suggestions are made in the right way at the right time, to ensure the greatest likelihood that they will be accepted.

“One way to encourage a depressed friend to get out (and to get help) is to find a good depression support group and invite your loved one to attend it with you.” [1]

Biebel and Koenig identify “four helping patterns” they have seen Christians employ with their depressed family and friends. These are:

  1. Judging (“Your problem is caused by sin or lack of faith”)
  2. Giving advice (“Cheer up—things could be worse!”),i
  3. Identification (sympathizing so much that you get sucked into the pit of depression, too) and
  4. Empathy (suffering together with the person).

According to the authors “Only empathy really helps.” [2] Empathizers deeply feel the other person’s pain, without making it their own.

“The empathizer goes and gets a ladder, puts it in the pit, and climbs down to be with the depressed person until he or she is ready to climb out,” the authors say. “The key difference is that the empathizer has a goal in mind—not just to feel the depressed person’s pain, but to also act in a sense as a redeemer, willing to pay whatever cost there is in order for the other person to be healed…

“If you are really going to help your loved one through and beyond depression, the only way is to lay aside your rights, by choice, with the goal of serving that person’s best interests until he or she emerges into the light of day again.” [3]

Got a ladder? Put it down in your depressed loved one’s pit, climb down with them and pray for them until they climb out.

 

[1] David B. Biebel and Harold G. Koenig New Light on Depression: Help, Hope, and Answers for the Depressed and Those Who Love Them (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House), 2004, 233.

[2] Ibid, 246.

[3] Ibid, 248-249.

Mar 16

That’s Not Fair!

 

Remember when you were a kid and indignantly informed your parents: “That’s not fair!”

They probably responded with some important information for you: “Life’s not fair.” Their response only made you madder!

Nobody who’s being treated unfairly wants to hear it. It’s a logical response to a heartfelt emotion. But the longer we live, the more we realize how true that statement is. Perhaps life has been unfair to you or your loved one recently or perhaps for a very long time. Either way, life has disappointed you. Maybe if you’re really honest you’ll admit you even feel disappointed by God.

I have another truth I’d like to share: Don’t confuse life with God.

In Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment with God, he writes about a man named Douglas whom he interviewed because he thought Douglas might feel a great disappointment with God. Life, as Yancey describes it, had been very unfair to Douglas. While his wife was battling advanced breast cancer, Douglas was in a car accident with a drunk driver and suffered a terrible head injury that left him permanently disabled, often in pain and unable to work full-time.

But when Yancey asked this victim of unfairness to describe his disappointment with God, Douglas said he didn’t feel any and instead told Yancey the following:

“I have learned to see beyond the physical reality in this world to the spiritual reality. We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair,’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life—by expecting constant good health, for example—then I set myself up for crashing disappointment.

“If we develop a relationship with God apart from our life circumstances, “ said Douglas, “then we may be able to hang in there when the physical reality breaks down. We can learn to trust God in spite of the unfairness of life.”

Cancer is very unfair. Even if you “did” something to “get” it or didn’t do something not to get it, it’s still unfair. Maybe you are a smoker diagnosed with some smoking-related cancer. It’s still unfair because many smokers never get develop a disease from their habit (only about 20-percent get lung cancer). Maybe you quit smoking 10 or 20 years ago and you still have been afflicted. Hardly fair.

Perhaps you didn’t get regular mammograms, PAP smears or PSAs and now you have cancer. Guess what, it’s still not fair, because lots of people don’t get those screening tests and they don’t get cancer. Besides some people get them faithfully and the cancer isn’t even detected! That seems even more unfair.

Maybe you are overweight or out-of-shape or didn’t get regular physicals. Your diagnosis still is not very fair because you know many others in your same circumstances with great health. Or perhaps you received the ultimate insult in being diagnosed with cancer in spite of taking the best care possible of yourself and doing everything right not to get sick.

Go ahead and say it.

It’s not fair that I have this.

It’s not fair that my loved one has this.

It’s not fair that this has happened to us right now.

Say it, but don’t be confused that life should be fair because God is.

Life is not fair, but God is not life.

Yancey says that “Every time a believer struggles with sorrow or loneliness or ill health or pain and chooses to trust and serve God anyhow, a bell rings out across heaven and the angels give a great shout. Why? Because one more pilgrim has shown again that he or she understands that Jesus is worth it all. God is faithful.”

There’s a law firm that advertises on the radio by spotlighting people who have had awful, unfair things happen to them and then hired a lawyer to try and rectify the situation. The commercial concludes, that you, too, should call this law firm “when life hands you moments you just don’t deserve.”

I  think I  have some even better advice: When life hands you moments you just don’t deserve, put your trust in the Lord, because even when life is unfair, God is faithful.

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