“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
The first time I spoke with my pastor about my diagnosis, I told him that I was concerned about God's will for my life. He instantly responded with confidence and authority, "God's will is for your children to keep their mother.” I remember thinking to myself, “Okay... that sounds really good.” Like a little child who had just been re-directed by her loving father, I eagerly received my pastor's words and clung to the goodness of God. A good and loving father would never choose cancer for his child.
Like many people, I have wrestled to understand God’s will and the heart-wrenching problem of suffering. Theologians have debated such topics for centuries, producing a labyrinth of thoughtful texts far beyond my comprehension. I wasn’t looking for a trough of literature to validate my child-like faith, but when cancer visited, I needed something firm to grab hold of.
So, I searched the Scriptures for answers to my basic questions and discovered them hiding in plain view: Our heavenly Father has spoken to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:2) who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3). Now, pause here, and think about that for a minute. Reread that sentence and really soak it in until you have a clear picture of it in your mind…
It means that God doesn’t just speak to us through Jesus; Jesus Himself is the word of God (Hebrews 1:2; John 1:1). What Jesus says and what He does reflect what our Heavenly Father believes and what He wants. God’s will is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. And guess what else the Scriptures tell us plainly? Jesus always healed people. In fact, sometimes He even raised them from the dead (Mark 5:35-43; Luke 7:11-14; John 11:38-44). Jesus never made people sick. So, the best conclusion I can make from the scriptures is that God’s will is for health and life--not cancer and death!
When I reflected on the brief but profound conversation with my pastor, I could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit resonating through his words, enabling me to surrender my questions and become like a little child who recognized her helplessness and embraced her Father. The truth I discovered in his Holy Word affirmed my faith and calmed my tension.
God did want my children to keep their mother. To be sure, God wants all children to keep their mothers. We can’t deny the reality that some moms don’t survive cancer, but we can’t let our questions about the unknown mysteries of God keep us from believing what is known about God: Our Heavenly Father loves us. He cares for us. He has compassion for us, and wants nothing but the best for us. He wants us to have life--the full life Jesus came to give us--a life that includes joy and the fulfillment of our mission on earth.
It is true that believing the promises of God is a risk, and the risk of disappointment is not a trivial matter. But if we don’t take that risk, we allow the enemy to govern our mindset and pilot us on a hopeless journey through the kingdom of darkness. Rather, we have strength by the Holy Spirit and confidence in the cross to point our compass toward the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus revealed His Father’s will in the most basic prayer He taught us: Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. There is no cancer in heaven (Revelation 21:1-4).
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Joellen Putnam is the founder of ACTIVATE THE CURE, a prayer ministry for those who are impacted by cancer. She is also a cancer survivor who lives in Connecticut with her husband as well as her daughter and son (when they are home from college).