Can there be an up-side to cancer? Occasionally a cancer survivor or warrior will run into a friendly acquaintance, or a good friend who is barely acquainted with your circumstances. You may hear: “At least your cancer is not incurable.” Or “At least research and treatment has come a long way”. “Now you can retire!” (believe me, cancer illness is NOT a good way to retire). Or someone may say: “Now you can relax and let others take care of you.”
These comments were not mean-spirited. When some folks discover you have cancer, they feel they need to say something. They are speaking with their hearts and out of concern.
Yet, buried in those thoughts and comments may be some real treasure.
God would not that anyone should suffer. I also believe that He does not punish His children when they stumble, by striking them with a serious illness.
However, perhaps God did have a plan for you that would not be accomplished until you were forced to slow down. Take a break. Really rest. Or, perhaps your illness allowed you to examine your level of compassion and grace, your walk with Christ, or to have more time for meditation.
These are truly the up-side to time-off during a serious illness storm.
Down-Side Turns Up-Side
When I discovered I had breast cancer, I never dreamed that this crisis would happen to me. I could not believe God would allow that. Or that He would pile on another trial in that already stressful season in our lives. It took only a little while for me to answer my doubt with: “Why not?” God is God, and we cannot understand the depth of his love, his sovereignty, or His power.
My faith faltered. It was cut off at the knees. I forgot to cry out to God. His voice was lost to me. I forgot what he’d done for me and my family in the past.
Fast forward some months after my cancer surgery and recovery. I was facing chemo and radiation, and I was frightened. I knew I needed God’s steadfast love and plan. He was abiding with me all along and had never left my side.
The up-side to this journey through cancer is that it brought me closer to Jesus. Chemo treatments indeed allowed me time to rest. Really rest. During those times, I prayed more and meditated more often and more deeply on God’s words of truth.
It brought me closer to my children and to my husband. There is no sweeter commune between spouses when critical illness takes over your physical life. Children and grandchildren take more time to know you as a person; more than knowing you as the parent or grandparent.
Up-Side = Joy
An up-side to a cancer (or other illness) journey is that true observation that you hear from others: A serious illness “causes you to appreciate everything around you much more intensely”. Of course, you are much more grateful for the loves in your life. In addition, you have a heightened sense of wonder; of living things, of color, of fragrant scents, of delicious food, of the heavenly sounds from children’s laughter, bubbling brooks, of bird-song; for it all.
An up-side to cancer is that you become more acutely aware of others who are suffering as you are. More certainly, you are more aware of those who are suffering more acutely than you are. Even while Paul suffered trials and pain, he was intent on glorifying God. His words to others encouraged them to keep on with the message and the task, and as Peter told them: “endure for a little while” until the time they would live with Christ Jesus. Christ’s compassion for us teaches us to be compassionate for others, teaches others to be open and compassionate as well. The gift that keeps on giving.
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.” I Peter 1:6
Up-Side Opens Doors
Sometimes, the up-side to such an event as cancer opens new doors. You fall in love with your family again. You may meet new friends. New opportunities occur to share your testimony. You may find a new talent. There are treasures in the colors, sounds, tastes, and fragrances you are now enjoying. More motivation and inspiration to try something you have left undone because of your past busy-ness present themselves. You may learn new things as you rest and meditate.
All in all, the up-side to cancer is that they offer new beginnings. They may come in various ways. But they remind me of the one new beginning that is the most important: The one of re-birth, given to me freely by grace. Jesus said: “You must be born again.” John 3:7
Jesus says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
The up-side to the down-sides of cancer is a new life! It is the deepest, most delectable, most life-giving, new beginning you will ever experience!
April Boyer © 2017