Cure Magazine is a free magazine and website for those dealing with cancer. They describe themselves as “combining science with humanity, CURE makes cancer understandable.” We’ve received it for nearly five years, and it frequently has articles that are useful and helpful.
Recently, though, they explored the issue of faith and its role in the lives of cancer patients and survivors.
It reflected the culture’s understanding of religion:
- People with ‘faith’ were treated respectfully, but God was referenced generically or as a higher power.
- There was not one mention of the conflicting truth-claims of different religions.
- There was not one mention of Jesus.
- Religion is just one ‘frame,’ and the frame you choose “matters less than the opportunity to find a safe place to go inward and see what is in your heart – what truly matters to you.”
Contrast that with how Joni Eareckson Tada has been communicating about her new issue with cancer, including this encouraging news from yesterday:
Joni’s surgery was completed successfully yesterday evening, and she is resting comfortably, preparing to begin the rest of her course of treatment in the next few days,” Mazza said. “She is appreciative of all the prayers on her and her husband Ken’s behalf and is grateful to God for His sustaining grace and extra measure of strength during this time.
She has Stage II cancer and will require chemotherapy. Please continue to pray for her.
Her journey with cancer is new. But her message about God and his sovereignty remains the same:
Of course, I believe that God can and does heal and I covet your prayers to that end. Most of all, please pray that God will pour out grace-upon-grace on Ken and me. We’ll be posting regular updates on “Joni’s Corner” here on our website – also posted here you will find an article called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” by John Piper and David Powlison, both of whom are cancer survivors. I can’t begin to describe how encouraged I’ve been just reading their insights – I’m sure you’ll say the same after you read it. We join you in resting in the assurance of Psalm 62:5-6, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”
Note the differences between how Cure Magazine deals with faith and Joni’s response to her cancer diagnosis, even in the above paragraph:
- God is personal and powerful.
- We look outside ourselves for comfort and meaning – to God and to his word.
- We can find encouragement from the experiences of others who are anchored in the word.
- Joni doesn’t mention Jesus here (but often elsewhere!); John Piper and David Powlison certainly do in Don’t Waste Your Cancer.
Faith in Jesus is wonderful. Faith in faith is less than useless; it will destroy. Joni knows that, so she helps us by being clear on who God is rather than offering a generic statement about faith.
I’ll let Pastor John and David Powlison have the last word, from Don’t Waste Your Cancer:
6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
John Piper: It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.
David Powlison: What is so for your reading is also true for your conversations with others. Other people will often express their care and concern by inquiring about your health. That’s good, but the conversation easily gets stuck there. So tell them openly about your sickness, seeking their prayers and counsel, but then change the direction of the conversation by telling them what your God is doing to faithfully sustain you with 10,000 mercies. Robert Murray McCheyne wisely said, “For every one look at your sins, take ten looks at Christ.” He was countering our tendency to reverse that 10:1 ratio by brooding over our failings and forgetting the Lord of mercy. What McCheyne says about our sins we can also apply to our sufferings. For every one sentence you say to others about your cancer, say ten sentences about your God, and your hope, and what he is teaching you, and the small blessings of each day. For every hour you spend researching or discussing your cancer, spend 10 hours researching and discussing and serving your Lord. Relate all that you are learning about cancer back to him and his purposes, and you won’t become obsessed.
Lord, please, let none of us waste what you have given us, for your glory and for our good!