It’s been 4 years since my mom died from cancer.
We will forever be able to remember events from that summer tagged with, “that’s the summer that we lost mom.” It’s kind of like an experiential bookmark in time that creates an easy to access memory. It’s the kind of thing that forever splits time into before and after. Everything will be remembered as either being before we lost mom or after.
They say that time heals and I think that is true. Although I wonder if it’s God that is healing and time is the technique that He uses. It is God after all who created time. It would certainly be intriguing to consider that a God who exists in a place that knows no time would use something He doesn’t need to aid a healing process.
Like others who have been affected by cancer, I have suddenly become more aware of it. I’ve realized that almost everyone I know has dealt with or are currently dealing this disease on some level or another. I was always aware of it, but in a purely cerebral academic kind of way. I have since come to be aware of it in a quite personal way.
As a Pastor I have had a front row seat to Parents who looked on helplessly as cancer stole their child. I have seen children in suspended animation as cancer slowly and mercilessly killed their parent. I’ve watched it destroy the financial stability of families as they fought to pay for treatments that our healthcare system holds out of reach.
I can say with certainty that I hate cancer. It is evil.
Cells in the human body are constantly dividing and multiplying as the body needs them. When the body makes too many of these cells that it doesn’t need, it can result in forming a mass or tumor. Sometimes the mass is benign, and sometimes it’s malignant and with that it’s medical bingo: cancer. The cells in the cancerous mass begin to steal the nutrients from the body in order to support its rapid growth. This is why sudden dramatic weight loss is often a symptom of an advanced cancer.
As it is stealing the nutrients and growing, it begins to break off and invade other parts of the body destroying the areas as it grows and invades. The mass can release substances that destroy the surrounding tissue. As it grows it can begin to cut off and destroy the surrounding organs. The ultimate result without treatment is that it kills the host that it has been stealing from and destroying. This is very inconvenient because the host is your body. It sounds kind of scary, but Jesus said in Matthew to not be afraid of what can kill the body but not the soul.
It’s not lost on me that stealing, killing and destroying is the job description that Jesus gave to Satan, whom He called “the thief” in John 10. Is it any wonder that this is such an evil disease? Is it any wonder that 25% of the population will contract it, or that it is the leading cause of death for people under 85. In the fallen world we live in, the fact that a disease emulates the very entity that brought about the fall seems more than coincidental.
Right after Jesus said that the thief came to steal, kill and destroy He followed with “But I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly”. I’d be lying if I told you that I wanted that to mean life in my mom’s physical body. I’d be lying to say that I was disappointed that it didn’t work out like I wanted. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that I misunderstood Jesus’ point.
On the surface it might seem that Cancer actually won, that Satan actually “one upped” Jesus. But beneath the surface, in the deep places that God often inhabits, I have learned something very poignant. Jesus, in fact, “one upped” cancer. I prayed fervently that she wouldn’t die. But in essence I was asking God to keep a promise He didn’t make. He never promised that any of us wouldn’t die, what He promised was resurrection.
There are times in life that we cheat death, that we avoid death, that we prolong the dying process, but ultimately our physical bodies will at some point give out. What Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15 as our “tents” will be folded up and put away. He said that just a like a seed falls into the ground, our corruptible bodies will go into to the ground, but will be raise incorruptible.
Death is not defeated by not dying. It is defeated by resurrecting.
My mom at some point will come up out of that creepy little cemetery in a long forgotten town called Bostwick, Nebraska and will live in a real literal body right alongside all those who call on the name of the Lord. Just like you and I, she will have life and have it “more abundantly”.
To be clear, I believe that Jesus was talking about here and in heaven when speaking about this abundant life. But, can you think of any life more abundant than one that where cancer or any other disease cannot steal, destroy or kill? That’s the promise of resurrection!
And as for Cancer; John writes in Revelation that death, Hades, and Satan himself will be thrown into the lake of fire forever. For those of us who have been and will be affected by cancer or any other disease, on that day we’ll be able to look back with perfect clarity and tell the stories of how we made it through and celebrate perfectly the perfect work done at the cross.
John also records that the saints were gathered around the throne saying “righteous and true are your judgments oh God”. Or in other words, “right on God, every judgment you made, every circumstance I went through, you were right on”. I envision it to be much like the war stories that soldiers tell with a sense of reminiscence and dignity, with a sense of pride that comes from a hard fought battle that was won.
On the surface it seems like the chips might be down for this world, for our Hero Jesus. If it were a movie, this would be the part of the story where it looks like all hope is lost, but the part of the story where the hero rides in and saves the day is just around the corner. This is the tense part of the movie where you’re on the edge of your seat not even sure if you want to look at the screen.
It might serve you and I well to read the end of the book from time to time. It really does turn out fantastic. Jesus is going to return with ten thousands of the saints. His Will is going to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. I’m not sure if my mom had ever ridden a horse this side of heaven, but that is one thing I can not wait to see.