Casualties of War

I’d like to think it was because my most recent blog mentioned my father’s fight with lung cancer back on 1993. Maybe it’s because of my surgery scheduled for next week. But I know the reality of it. I’ve been thinking about cancer this morning, and most especially how unfair and arbitrary it seems to be. And the reason I have is because of news I got last night.

I have a friend who has struggled with health problems for quite a while. Last night I learned that she had a primary diagnosis: cancer of the liver. This young woman is a brilliant, vibrant young woman, and I am speechless even now as I consider the news. And of course, the obvious question is, why her? Why does God, or Fate, or the Devil, or Mother Nature pick out what always seems like the most vivacious, most talented people to attack with this century’s most notorious plague?

That’s not to say that cancer is an automatic death sentence. Far from it. My mother struggled with various forms of cancer for a decade or more, and lived to be 83. One of our professors here has struggled with cancer twice, presumably receiving a death sentence the second time around, only to have doctors pronounce him cancer-free. But miracles are called miracles simply because they don’t happen that often. They’re not something you can count on when the going gets rough.

My roommate at college had a younger brother who was so talented and brilliant that he put the both of us to shame. He fought for five years with cancer of the optic nerve. They removed his eye, then did radiation and chemo therapy. He had a wife who adored him and a two year old son. And in the end he died. His last words to his wife were, “Don’t let the Devil get you down.”

It’s easy to fall back on clichés and platitudes. The most common one in this situation is, “We’re involved in the Great Controversy. Disease is a natural result of sin. As long as we live on this sinful earth, people will get sick. People will die.” And I know. I’ve used those very words myself. But that doesn’t answer the very arbitrariness of it all.

One does have to understand, however, that clichés become that way because they are used so much. And they are used so much because there is always some truth to the words. So I can’t immediately discard those words.

But I have another thought. It comes from I Corinthians 13, there at the end: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” A lot of people use that verse to say, hey, we’re human and we don’t know everything. God does, and when we get to heaven He will explain everything to us. And that’s true. But I have another slant on that.

All we know in our material existence is what we see and hear and smell around us. That’s the basis of the scientific method: if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. But if you are a believer, you have to believe that there is more to the universe than what can be measured by our meager instruments. How do you measure faith? Or the power of love? Or hope? I have seen these things move mountains, yet I doubt very much that there is any laboratory instrument that could measure any of these things.

And so I say to you that what we are experiencing as humans living on this earth is only a small part of our potential existence. God knows that, and He has been trying to convince of that fact for a long time. Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, death shouldn’t be something to be afraid of. Because it opens a whole new universe of possibilities. Death, at most, is a speed bump.

Mind you, I am speaking in metaphysical, philosophical terms. And the visceral part of death still gets to me. But I am trying to understand God when He tells us not to be afraid—of anything. And I suspect that He knows a lot about it.

Cancer—and the process of fighting it—is serious business. It’s a battle that many of us will be faced with some time in our lives. But if you believe in the spiritual, if you believe in the power of Jesus Christ, if you truly believe, it should become a little less scary.

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