Don’t waste your cancer…or any other pain

Those are the words penned by author-pastor John Piper on the eve of his surgery for prostate cancer in 2006. My cancer prayer support group often discussed one of Piper’s ten ways we can “waste” cancer by allowing it—instead of God—to be foremost in our lives.*  

Probably the cancer survivor who most often expressed not wanting to waste his painful, unplanned circumstances is my friend Bert, diagnosed in 2003 with stage 4 prostate cancer at the age of 68.

Bert and wife Joan at our support group 2009

Bert’s cancer was not operable, so he underwent eight weeks of radiation and eighteen months of hormone shots to try and slow its course. The radiation went fairly well, but the shots, which “turned off” his male hormones gave him severe hot flashes.

“That gave me a greater appreciation of what women go through in menopause and I sure don’t want to go through childbirth!” Bert quipped to our group.

Because Bert’s father and grandfather both had faced cancer, he wasn’t shocked to get his diagnosis.

“I was surprised and concerned, but I had a peace about it,” he recalls. “I remember thinking that I could go home and feel sorry for myself—but I would still have cancer—or I could use it to show people that I’m not afraid to die. I’ve decided I will use cancer to share and encourage other people.”

Despite being told by doctors that he should expect the cancer to return,  eighteen years later at age 86, Bert continues to be in complete remission. A few years ago he moved to Florida where he still shines for the Lord–co-teaching a weekly Bible study, mentoring two men and providing lots of TLC for Joan, his wife of 62 years, who battles multiple health issues.

“I like to ask people ‘where is your hope?,’” he explains, “and I like to share with them that my hope is in following Christ.”

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.
When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

John Piper, Chancellor of Bethlehem College & iSeminary

I cannot imagine how many people Bert has encouraged because he chose not to waste his cancer and refuses to allow anything but God to be foremost in his life.

But it’s not just cancer we can waste, is it?  It’s any pain–physical, emotional, mental or spiritual–that becomes our focus instead of God.

Piper says that “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 21:12 -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.”

Will you pray with me today?

Heavenly Father, I wish I didn’t have to face this struggle, but because I do, I’m asking You to help me not to waste it. Please take these painful, unplanned circumstances and turn them into an opportunity for me to show others that You are worth more than life itself. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

*(You can read his wonderful essay at https://www.desiringgod.org/books/dont-waste-your-cancer) 
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