There are no words in any language that adequately express the emotion felt when hearing the phrase: “There’s a large mass”, no way to express the feelings that wash over the heart and mind when these words are spoken over the body of a two-year-old boy.
But, I know I’m not the only one who has heard words like this and Chase isn’t the only one to carry cancer like this.
How many times have I heard other stories?
Have you heard them too?
The friend whose breast cancer was gone for thirty years and then relapsed…
The small child who had every advantage that modern medicine could offer and still stopped breathing…
The parents and family and friends with empty arms and an un-fillable void in their lives…
Cancer is a bully – a vicious beast robbing us of our health, resources, relationships, and perhaps most frequently: answers. Nurses look puzzled, doctors shrug, and all people – from every possible religious and cultural background – weep, pray, and go through various rituals to beg for answers that will bring peace and change, and most especially, healing. As if somehow, understanding the unfolding horror will make it suddenly more bearable.
I honestly don’t remember the feeling of an answerless void when Chase was first diagnosed (those first days are more full of terrible shock than anything), but rather, after a few months of treatment when some unforeseen complications occurred. We traipsed back and forth to the hospital, sometimes out for only a few hours before being forced to go back in, and Chase grew weaker, more weary and more frustrated with all the people and procedures that surrounded him and seemed to define him.
Sometimes it isn’t the shock that causes the anger and questions, but the prolonged agony of high stakes and high stress. I can accept a minute filled with uncertainty or difficulty, but weeks? Months, even? Um, pass… Day after day of staring out the window from the oncology floor, hearing the same words from nurses and doctors, being talked to every day without significant progress. And even as I’m writing this to you, I stare down the calendar at a bone scan for Chase, decisions that could lead to secondary cancer concerns, surgery to both of his eyes for some treatment effects, and random “neuro” days where everything is a one-hundred-percent-you-and-what-army type struggle. These were and are the moments that leave me completely overwhelmed because they come without explanation or expiration.
God, I know you are good, but I don’t see it right now, so please God; life doesn’t have to be perfect, but please let things be other than what they are! I can’t handle this!
So what comes when there are no answers? No delivery? No knight in shining armor on a white horse? Is there anything besides irony in attempting to “answer” life questions that are pretty much guaranteed to have no answers or earthly solutions?
For me and my questioning and often angry heart, I find peace in looking to God through the book of Job. That Job, he had every earthly right to ask why…and he did. But then, instead of solving the problem as Job saw it, God told him to prepare himself and take some questions like a man. And then He asked Job where he was when the breath-taking wonders of the world were created.
What? Why? Did that in any way bring back Job’s children or heal his body?
No. He still lay wasted and bereft, but in those God – questions, the paradigm was changed. Instead of giving an explanation for the things he could see, God challenged Job with a view to things he couldn’t even begin to comprehend.
I really don’t think this was a rude subject change or an unfeeling bypass of terrible pain, but rather a holy and wholly loving motion to open Job’s view beyond his circumstances. His pain was both real and undiminished, but it was also only one part of the whole picture.
This is where the story of Job blesses and teaches me in my frustration. Job didn’t get the relief he sought at the time he asked. He didn’t even get the answers to the questions he’d originally posed, but he saw God and He was enough for that moment.
I find that I catch tiny glimpses of this as I connect with others in pain and suffering. I would not wish cancer on anyone, but the lessons I’ve learned, friends I’ve found, and the opportunities for gospel encouragement and yes, even joy, are beyond anything I could have ever comprehended. This cancer brokenness is only a small facet of a massively unfathomable plan that’s is being lived out. In fact, my whole life is only a small facet of this amazing plan.
Sometimes the only way to answer the question is to change it.
Sometimes the only way to accept the circumstance is through the knowledge that The Day for no tears or pain is coming and it isn’t that day quite yet.
Until then we cling to the promise the God is for us and that His directions for our lives and this world are things that will sometimes only dimly be seen.
But one day, we will understand as we are completely and lovingly understood, and until then, I cling to Job’s answer as he stepped out of the pain in blind faith and said: “I know you can do anything and no one can stop you… I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 42:2,5)
For, at some times and on some days, the only way to handle the issue with no answer is to look for God.
And this, we never cease to do in desperately needed, freely given grace…moment by moment.
Read more of Chase’s story in Chase Away Cancer: A Powerful True Story of Finding Light in a Dark Diagnosis.
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