In the days since a cancerous tumor was lifted from my chest, I’ve thought a lot about this earthly body, the one God created for me nearly 60 years ago. These days, I am certainly aware that my body and I are on the downhill side of life.
If I’m lucky (or maybe not), I could spend another 20 years in this sack of bones, muscle and skin. No doubt this recent encounter with exploding cancer cells will not be my last health issue, nor was it my first. As a friend and I joked recently, we’ve all been dying since the day we were born.
It helps to remember that this body, this “temple” of heavenly design, is not my eternal vessel. It is a disposable wrapper, serving a purpose and giving a visible image to the soul God set inside when He first knew me in my mother’s womb. To borrow a notion from my husband’s favorite conservative radio personality, I have a body “on loan from God.”
A wise little girl awakened in me thoughts about our heavenly bodies years ago when she described the day she would be able to walk into Jesus’ arms. This little one, now a grown woman, hasn’t been able to walk or stand unassisted for more than a few seconds since birth. A neurological defect took that ability from her, but in its place God set a sweet spirit and blazing faith that have carried her more miles than I’ll ever walk. Brown eyes snapping, little Gertie told her mother’s friends that she couldn’t wait until she gets her new body in heaven, so that she can run with the other children…….and stand beside Jesus.
Yesterday, a dear friend who is walking his own journey with cancer asked me how I’m seeing life these days. “How has your perspective changed?” he said. I know that his has. A beloved husband, father to six and “Papa” to four grandchildren, he knows what he will leave behind should cancer take him from his earthly home. I’ve seen him cherishing each day with his family. And I’ve watched him grow closer to his Lord and Savior.
This friend pointed me to words of another who has tasted the word “cancer” on the tongue, and who is anointed by God to speak hard truths full of the Holy Spirit. In his book “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”, author and pastor John Piper says this:
“We will waste our cancer if we don’t hear in our own groanings the labor pains of the new creation.”
Piper points out that “glorious freedom is coming” — freedom from sin, from pain, from these earthly bodies that will fail us.
“Don’t misinterpret your own groanings. Don’t waste the witness of your own cancer,” says Piper. “The aim of God in our cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.”
So, I’m reminded that God doesn’t waste anything, that this cancer is part of His plan for me, and that He will use it for good…..is using it even now. Today, that good is to draw me deeper into His Word, to cause me to lean into Him for strength, to turn toward those who love me enough to walk alongside in this journey. And, to set my eyes on the day I can stand perfect and whole beside my heavenly Father.
I got the answer I prayed for yesterday — the tumor is gone and no cancer cells were left behind. I will be writing my own answer to a bigger question in the days to come: How will I choose to spend the days I have left walking on this earth? If I take John Piper’s advice, I’ll choose not to waste this thing that God has allowed in my life.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal
weight of glory beyond all comparison” 2 Corinthians 4:17
I’m counting on that “glory beyond all comparison.”