Don’t Waste Your Cancer – A Witness

IMG_1098(Part 11 in a 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#11 –We waste our cancer if we fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

I remember one especially dark day several years ago when I was so weak from treatment, I could not lift my head. I was fearful of the future, the life of a vegetable, or death. I ached that others were caring for me, meeting bodily needs as if I were a baby. I could do nothing for myself.

“How does this glorify you, God?” my thoughts led me. “I’ve told you my one wish daily is to glorify you. So how do you think I’m going to do that today?”

I don’t ever claim to have heard God audibly, but the strong sense in my soul was as clear as words, “You have already.” Just being willing to do what he desired brought glory to him. My laying there, willing to do what physically I couldn’t do, brought him delight. That day, the greatest way I could serve him was to lay there, semi-conscious, and gain strength.

So much of this journey has been a witness of his truth and glory. It’s not my story but his story in and through my life. The lives touched have not been by my strength or cleverness. I’ve been too sick to sugar-coat anything. I’ve been too weak in my will to force any pretense. But through his strength, I have born witness to his grace and comfort in my life.

It was fitting that John Piper ended with this point, and for me to follow suit. Our whole lives are a witness to how we have lived. They expose the principles and values, hopes and dreams, on which we have lived.  As we get closer to the end of  life, we have one last brief opportunity to make a last statement – our witness

I pray my last statement will be consistent with my life and will give glory to God.


Don’t Waste Your Cancer – Sin

IMG_1098(Part 10 in a 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#10 –We waste our cancer if we treat sin as casually as before.

Sin is a word that is “politically incorrect” these days. We call some indulgences or bad choices  “diseases” (alcoholism, drug abuse) and certainly they become diseases that need to be treated or they will take a life. We hesitate to call some lifestyles behaviors sin lest someone be offended. It’s a word we tip-toe around.

And we probably should, when it comes to thinking about the lives of others. Strong words are used in the Bible about judging others. It’s not for us to say what separates a person from God — that is between them and God.

But cancer (or anything that makes us pause in our rush to live) gives us the opportunity to look at our own life and sin within. Piper says, “Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin.” It puts life into perspective. Things I once enjoyed that were not of God seem trivial now. He goes on to say, “Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer…Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?’” (Luke 9:25).

Since time is of the essence, so is how I spend my time. I want to spend my time on things that will last — memories and mementos of love to those who will live on; words of encouragement and hope for those who will need it; experiences in nature that reflect the nature of God; words in poetry or prose that encourages hearts. I have so much to do, I can hardly think about doing things that don’t please the Lord!

And yet, sin does creep in just like it has my whole life. I’m tempted to waste time feeling sorry for myself. I’m tempted to believe in “cures” rather than God’s timing.  I’m tempted, especially when I’m tired, to watch to much TV where crimes are solved and relationships mended in an hour (how unrealistic!). Sin offers an easy way to get out of my difficulties for a moment, relieving me from facing the challenges before me.

My faith has taught me to face life head-on. I can dance around issues in my life, but why? Why should I not face them when I can, by faith, figure out the source of sin and meet that need in a way that glorifies God.

And for sins that are entrenched and ever before me? I keep taking them on one by one, bringing them to Jesus who paid for them all. He forgives me, not based on my goodness, but on his. In that truth, there is great relief. Anything I have given up in this world has been well worth it for the grace I have received.

How do your trials work with you to help defeat sin? (comment below)


Don’t Waste Your Cancer – Grieving

IMG_1098(Part 9 in a 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#9 –We waste our cancer if we grieve as those who have no hope.

There is a grieving that goes with realizing our bodies are mortal, that life will end. When you have a disease that could easily take your life, there is a keen awareness of mortality and losses. Just the last few days I’ve reflexed on some of them:

  • Soft kisses from my lover brushing my cheek
  • Freshly mowed grass along the highway
  • Lake water lapping onto shore
  • Squeezes from an adult child, torn between leaving and staying
  • Text from a friend; she misses me
  • Hillsides brimming with crops to feed a nation

There is so much that I will miss, and I grieve it. Dispite descriptions of pearly gates and streets of gold, right now I’d pick a snow covered mountain and another Christmas with family.

Some people don’t understand or share my grief. I’ve been told I’m “negative.” Others are not living my life; they cannot feel it slipping away. At times, I’m very alone in grief and it makes it more intense. It’s as if I’m walking around naked but no one will talk about it. I know it; they know it, but it’s unmentionable.

Sometimes people skip over the current grief and jump into the hope of heaven. That is really difficult. It feels like we are ignoring nakedness and jumping to a wedding dress. Right now, I’m naked!

It’s when someone enters into my state of grief, we can begin to hope together.

And I don’t grieve as someone who has no hope. John Piper talks about 2 Corinthians 5:8 and 2 Thessalonians 4:13 – wonderful verses of encouragement. My greatest hope is in seeing Christ face to face. I know what he has meant to me here on earth, through his Holy Spirit. He has given hope and faith and love far beyond what I think I would have known without him. Even in the midst of my human grief, his Spirit comforts me like a deep, fluffy comforter I can snuggle down into. I have a hard time envisioning how I would be handling this if I did not know Christ.

And I have hope for the future, no doubt. I have hope for healing, temporarily in this present life as well as in eternity. But I do bristle when people breeze by the pain of the present. I am very aware of the fear of the pain of dying. There is anxiety in trying to do things right, to maximize time. There is separation in death, even if it is only for a time. I don’t know everything about eternity. And there are things about earth I don’t want to forget.

John Piper said it succinctly: “There is a grief at death.” I trust that we can meet each other honestly in that grief. In fact, there is something even holy about it. As Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn.”(Matthew 5:4) A level of relationship is revealed through our mourning, loving someone/something so much that we feel overwhelmed, out of control, with a sense of separation and loss.

It’s only when we love enough to really mourn, can we be comforted.

We mourn from many losses. What gives you hope in the midst? How does it help when others identify with your grief?


Don’t Waste Your Cancer – Affection

IMG_1098(Part 8 in an 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#8 – We waste our cancer if we let it drive us into solitude instead of deepen our relationships with manifest affection.

You may have noticed that I have disagreed with John Piper on several of his points, or at least, struggled with them. But this one – he hit the nail on the head!

I’ve struggled with relationships while dealing with cancer.

There are so many voices in my head. I’m an introvert by nature, so it’s natural for me to struggle in the midst of people. Cancer, knowing that my time is limited, thinking about a future without me for my husband, children, grandchildren makes me feel even more. As much as I hope, I know death always wins in the end. And in the end, there will just be one person – me.

And there is so much focus on me. It’s easy to feel, “poor me,” and lean in to the sympathy of others. Then there are the “bucket list” thinkers, challenging me to have goals I have no control over accomplishing.

Pain makes me turn inward, curling into a ball, careful not to move least I hurt. Focus is on survival, bringing the world inward, rather than reaching outward.

So it goes against nature to begin reaching out, and yet, that is where true comfort lies.

Connecting with people I have known for years gives me perspective. They have been with me through hard times and good. They know my strengths, my weaknesses. They know how to encourage me and when to just be silent. They know my hope…and my fears.

Connecting with people I haven’t known well is more difficult. I have limited energy and want to focus my time on those I love. And yet, God calls me to glorify him with uniqueness he has placed in me. I’m still using skills in driving projects within Cru, although I always make sure there is a co-leader for those times “chemo brain” sets in or treatment gets more aggressive. And, although it is emotional hard at times, I have new relationships with new friends because we have something in common – they have diseases that are taking their lives. It’s not a ministry I every wanted, but am receiving.

Connecting with people I love has been, surprisingly, the most difficult. When things go well, I fear this may be the last time with them, and I want so much more. When they don’t go so well, I long to make it better, to fix it, because this might be the last memory they have of me. I struggle between being overly intense and overly casual. There is so much to say, and so little time. But it’s not just my desire to say things, but also their ability to hear. Even in writing this, the tears flow…

John Piper says, “That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.”

Is there pain in your life that makes you retreat into yourself? I encourage you to reach out to others, relationships who know you, new friends, loved ones, and share that pain. If you want to share it with me, comment below.