I’m Sick of Praying for People With Cancer…

I know the title of this blog may be a little misleading. I do not mean to say that I’m fed up with people who are dealing with cancer, and I certainly do not want to imply that I am tired of praying. What I am saying is that I pray for no fewer than ten people a week, all of whom are struggling with some form of this disease.

I’ve had enough of it…..Cancer, I mean.

According to the American Cancer Society’s latest data, 1,529,560 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2011. That’s just about evenly split between men (789,620) and women (739,940). For those who have cancer of any system or organ, it is estimated that 569,490 will lose their lives to it. Again, the numbers are fairly evenly split between males (299,200) and females (270, 290). Be aware that this is in the United States ALONE.

Over half a million people will pass away this year because of this malady. Yes, that’s nearly 570,000 people, which is equal to one tenth of the population of Atlanta. Some cases might have been brought on by poor lifestyle choices or work environment, but many more are simply caused by genetic and environmental factors. People who have done their level best to take care of themselves and have shied away from any and all behaviors that can tempt this disease to draw near can feel ill, head in for a visit with the doctor, and come out diagnosed with this disease.

That’s because cancer doesn’t care who you are—male or female, rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, conservative or liberal. You can be five, fifty, or one hundred and four when it decides to show up at your door. Whether you worship God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the almighty dollar, cancer can and will take residence somewhere in the amazing body the Lord has blessed you with. It is one of the few diseases that knows no prejudice. It has no agenda other than causing havoc in your body and putting a strain on patients and their loved ones.

Who said equality was impossible?

If you divide the projected number of new cases by 365, you’ll find out that, on average, 4,190 people will find out that they have some form of cancer each and every day in this country. Today, 4,190 people will start a journey that will take them from second opinions to treatment options and from offices and work stations to the chairs where they’ll spend hours getting chemotherapy or radiation. For some, there will come a day when their own comfortable beds, covered with linens still redolent of laundry detergent and their spouse’s shampoo, will be replaced by the stiff confines of a hospital bed and impersonal sheets, starched and bleached until they’re brittle and scratchy.

Life as they’ve known it will be over.

For some people, their bodies will be weakened and their immune systems as vulnerable to attack as a village once was to the war machine of Rome. For others, their hair will do an impersonation of Elvis and “leave the building,” so baldy jokes will be made and colorful scarves bought by the dozens. 5K walks will take place, and ribbons of every color of the spectrum will be donned by friends, families, and co-workers to show support and raise funds for research.

For some, survival parties will eventually be held, and the countdown to the one-year anniversary of the happy date will begin. For others, a more somber gathering is the end result as friends and relations are left to try to understand what happened and to breathe a sigh of relief because the person who came under cancer’s tyrannical grasp and fought so valiantly has gone to a place where it can never harm him or her again.

No soul is safe, no system immune. The tongue can play host to it just as easily as the prostate or the breast. The lungs serve as its dwelling place along with the brain, the skin, the colon, the stomach, and even the reproductive organs responsible for creating life. It travels from system to system, organ to organ, as easily as a family station wagon cruises the highways and byways of the nation on a cross-country vacation. No paperwork is required; no border systems are in place to check its progress.

I’ve lost two grandparents to this disease as well as friends and students. I name some here to tell you they were real people with souls who breathed and walked on this earth. They were not numbers or statistics. I loved them all and still do today.

***

Betty Hill, my grandmother, loved to watch boxing. She cooked a mean plate of eggs, worked harder than any woman I ever knew, and apparently talked as rapidly as I do.

Leonard Hill, my grandfather, fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II and was a deacon, a Mason, and a Gideon. He loved feeding friends and family, had a fondness for dogs, and was an amazingly generous tipper.

Catie Carter, one of the brightest and most beautiful girls I had the privilege to teach, loved pink and took pride in keeping up with her homework no matter what. She approached everything with humor and love, and everyone who knew her is better off for it.

***

Today, people I love continue to fight the cancer in their lungs and their prostates, in their bladders, their blood, and their bones. And I pray. I hate it, but I pray. Why? Because James 5: 13-16 tells me:

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Praying for someone who is ill, especially if he or she does not get well, is one of the hardest things to do because it’s easy to feel like God doesn’t answer that prayer, no matter how fervently it’s offered. If you’re reading this and you’re angry with God or feel like He’s cruel and unjust, I can understand. I’ve felt the same way.

However, what I’ve come to understand is that God didn’t intend for this disease to exist. He created a perfect world without sickness and death, and it was we who lost it because of sin. What He does is allow it to occur so that those who are ailing, and those who stand by them through it all, can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and attain the reconciliation that comes with accepting Him as Savior. One day, we can all know the glory of the body we were intended to have. One day, we can see those we lost again in a place where separation is no longer a possibility. One day, cancer will be a foreign concept, an impossibility no longer cause for concern. But until then, it is our burden to bear together.

Reader, I serve a Savior who raised a man from the dead four days after the fact (John 11:1-45). I serve Jesus Christ—He who walked on water, who gave sharp eyes to the blind and nimble legs to the cripple, and who, with His death, tore the veil between me and my heavenly Father clean in two, making it possible for me to be reunited in fellowship with Him forever.

As much as I might pray for it, I know God’s will is not that we all be spared from cancer. Some of us will have to walk that road in order to be brought to a place where true healing can occur. When our bodies betray us, our spirits begin the search for answers and find the Almighty had them all along. As one who God allowed disease to touch for His glory, I echo the words of the apostle Paul, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).

My sickness led to my salvation, and that is why I would not ask for it to be removed from me were it even possible. My thorn in the flesh made me humble, dependent, and wise in the ways of the Father, and I am well in soul though I am weak in body. So I continue to testify to the goodness of God, to worship He who is already in my tomorrow, and to pray that His will be done in all things.

***

If you have cancer (or any other disease that is affecting you physically or spiritually), you are in my prayers. Post a reply, and let me know your story. More importantly, keep fighting! Keep following Dylan Thomas’ advice and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Life is precious, and we have so much to do before it’s over.

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8 thoughts on “I’m Sick of Praying for People With Cancer…

  1. Life is precious and everything in it (even the challenge of a health issue) can teach us something of value. I’ve learned that first hand.

    You write very well and I appreciate this post. A dear friend of mine just died of lung cancer yesterday. It was her time. She was ready.

    1. The post was spurred by my great uncle’s diagnosis. He’s had cancer off and on for years, but it has apparently moved into his bones. I don’t know what that means, or what his prognosis is, but I’ve just had so many folks with cancer problems in my life lately that I felt led to write this. I cannot think of a single family that hasn’t had to deal with his crappy disease in some way or another. However, I’m trying to focus on the spiritual truth of it all. I’m glad reading it helped you a little bit. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and to comment. I always enjoy your comments!

  2. Thank you for posting this. I have been a believer and follower of christ for some time now, and my Grandmother who was more of a best friend to me recently passed away because of lung cancer. After she passed, i began to lose my faith more and more each day. And this post just shows that there are people out there, like you, who actually care what us who have cancer, or have lost loved ones to it, are going through. And to add that you are praying for us, really touches my heart. thank you so much. God bless

    1. Thank you SO much for leaving this comment. It made my year!

      Firstly, let me extend my condolences for the loss of your grandmother. It’s never easy losing someone you love, no matter the cause, and it is easy to get angry when it seems to be too soon. However, God uses all things for His glory, even things like cancer that seem unjust and somehow even cruel. We just cannot understand it because we do not apprehend the world and time the same way He does.

      I will continue to pray for people with cancer as well as those who love them. May God heal your heart a little each day and draw you close to Him. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Never forget it!

  3. I have a dear life long friend namned Merle who lives in Pa. He is in his mid 50’s, a christian and was diagnosed with 4th stage lung cancer. We are all believing for his miracle to be completely healed of this cancer. He has such a strong faith. As of this writing he is now at 103 lbs and is asking that our prayers be kicked up a knotch so to speak. I still have hope and know
    that Jesus Christ our savior is the great healer and Im believing for it. I wont give up. God Bless all of you who are going through this.
    Linda-

    1. I’ll add Merle to my prayer list as well. Please keep me posted on his condition. A friend of mine named Trevor was also diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and it is a few treatments away from complete healing! Great doctors, chemo/radiation, and most of all, prayer…anything is possible! If God be for us, who can be against us?

  4. Thanks for writing this article! I stumbled on your website coz I am really confused how I should pray for my dad who has been fighting for cancer for half year! Today we found out regardless of the chemo and radiation , the cancer still spread to his liver from lung.
    I feel regret that healing has not been the thing I pray for. Knowing that lung cancer is one of the most spread disease I didn’t pray for healing. I have been praying for the peace in his heart while he is fighting this deadly disease . I am thinking, had i Been praying for healing, would God actually have stop the cancer from spreading?! How should I pray for someone who has cancer?!
    Should I pray for God’s miracle on him?! Did I not have faith that if it’s God will , he will be healed?! I regret of how swallow my thinking was.. I was so negative!
    I am visiting my dad next month. I would really like to pray with him together. I am praying God will guide me and help my dad to realize God never forsake us. My dad said he had been praying but it doesn’t seem it worked! I think he has lost his faith too.
    Thank you for your post!!

    1. You’re welcome. I know illness is so hard to deal with, but God gives us tasks according to our strength, which is something He will never stop developing. He just loves us too much to leave us where we are, spiritually speaking.

      I just lost my great uncle James to cancer a month or so ago, and it broke my heart. However, I know where he is. I will see him again, and where he’s waiting cancer can never, ever touch his life again. He laid down a heap of crowns at the foot of God’s throne, and right now, he’s celebrating with all of heaven. I cannot wait for that reunion.

      Trevor had lung cancer–stage four. However, his situation is far from hopeless. He is actually in remission and is still receiving chemo treatments to finish off the tumor he nicknamed “Bill” (as in “Kill Bill.”) The strange thing about prayer is that you can’t simply pray for one result and then be dismissive of God when you don’t get that one answer you think is right. His wisdom is perfect, and His will will be done, no matter what we do. He is using this for your father’s good and for yours (and likely for the good of someone you’ll never meet or know was impacted by you or your family during this trial). All we can do is pray that God’s will would be done. We can ask for strength, for patience, peace, and for insight and wisdom….God will ALWAYS grant those things to His children. Prayer doesn’t “work” in the end, praying “works on us.”

      Tell you father that God uses adversity–especially that–to accomplish His good purposes in us. This is not punishment; he didn’t do anything “wrong” to “deserve” this. God loves him (and you and me and all people) so fiercely that He gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want, for the purpose of our sanctification. Becoming more Christlike is never easy, but my goodness is it worth it!

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