And Then There’s Cancer

“God must have a better plan.”
“God always works things out for the best.”
“You can’t out-give God.”
“God always provides.  Look at the birds and the flowers.  He’ll take care of your needs, too.”
“God always comes through.”
“God’s timing is perfect.”
“God never gives you more than you can handle.”

They’re the fairy tale endings of the Christian faith, the trite promises and pat religious phrases we find ourselves spewing out simply when we don’t know how else to explain it when life is hard and overwhelming and scary.

Like when there’s cancer.

Like when there’s starvation and bloating hunger in villages where there simply is no food—not in anyone’s home, not in a local church running a food pantry, not at a grocery store where you can beg for a loaf of bread from other shoppers.

How do we dare make life sound simple, flowery, and easy when it’s not?  This is the conversation I had with a friend this week.

A few days later, in a sanctuary filled with mourners, corporately grieving the loss of a beautiful Christian woman to breast cancer, a few stood up to share their memories and thoughts about her life.  The rest of us passed tissues down the rows and echoed sniffles.

One woman stood and said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  In one of their last conversations together, sitting across from a woman so ill from the cancer recurrence filling her lungs with fluid and sapping strength from her limbs, they agreed that they felt beaten down by the promises in Scripture.

They knew death was near and they did not think they’d see the healing, deliverance, restoration, and happy ending they had so longed for, they had prayed for, and that the “happy filter” of God’s promises would make you expect.

So now what?

I remember the moment also when I sat by my dad’s death bed.  He was decrepit, a large man shrunken down to frail bones.  He was living in a sick shell of a body.  Once so witty and smart, boisterous and just plain big in his personality and manner, now he was a trapped soul, mostly in a coma, no longer in control of his body or mind—totally dependent on others, mostly unaware, mostly unresponsive.

I believed and I still believe that the God who could call Lazarus to step out of a tomb, throw off grave clothes and come to life again could have healed my dad at any time, even when death seemed imminent, as in any second near.

But He didn’t.  God chose not to heal that time.  He chose not to heal the woman we remembered at her memorial service this weekend.

What then?

In tears, the woman sharing at the memorial service said that when they felt totally beaten down, like their faith had just been battered and bashed, her friend facing death said, “Then we must pray and ask God to make us more tender.”

Please make me tender, Lord.  Use these times of sadness and the seasons we don’t understand, the moments when faith is so hard to stand on and the promises of Scripture seem too simple to hold true, please then make my heart tender again. 

What other response can there be at times but bitterness?

It’s something I’d never considered before, but both Paul and Peter urged believers to be tenderhearted:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).


Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).

This tender heart so often develops when we ourselves feel broken and beaten down and we are made soft and receptive in the process.ephesians4

If our faith depends on quick answers to prayer and fairy tale lives with superficially happy endings, we’ll be hardened to the needs of others, uncomprehending when they share out of their pain and unmoved by compassion when we see their brokenness.

Not only that, but if our faith doesn’t depend on the Rock of God and His character, but instead stands only on happy (and often misquoted and taken out of context) Christian catch-phrases, we’ll watch the wind and waves of the storm demolish and destroy our houses on the sand (Matthew 7).

We don’t necessarily need enough faith to calm any storm, to walk on the water in the midst of a tempest or sit unmoved and unafraid when our boat seems ready to sink. We just need enough faith to stretch out our hand to Jesus as we sink and cry out, “Lord save me” (Matthew 14:30).

Even that is enough for Jesus to hold us up out of the waves.

Let’s be honest today.  It’s not always easy to sing, “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.”  Sometimes it’s downright difficult.  It’s murky and hazed over and difficult to see.  Sometimes it’s desperately painful.

But we don’t have to have all the answers.  In fact, we don’t really need to say much of anything at all.  Certainly, we don’t have to pretend that it’s easy or shrug mourning off our shoulders with little more than, “it’s all for the best.”

Instead, we can ask for God to make our hearts tender, soft and pliable in His hands because of the pain we’ve endured.  And we can reach out one desperate hand and cry out, “Lord, save me.” Sometimes, that’s all we can honestly say and that’s enough.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Take Two: Kaleidoscope Moment: An Eternal Perspective


Friends, tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of my dad’s death, so today I’m going to share with you my post about his passing from last year’s anniversary. I hope it’s a blessing to you!

Kaleidoscope Moment 2: An Eternal Perspective

Posted on March 29, 2011


On this day six years ago, my dad died of malignant melanoma.  I miss him, but I’m okay.

Mostly I miss him in unexpected moments throughout the year.  Like when I hear Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (his favorite) or some jazz music.  Or when I visit the firehouse with my daughter on a field trip (he was a firefighter).  When I see a really good drummer (my dad was the best) or watch the military band concerts on evenings in the summer (he was an Army musician).

I miss him when we look through pictures and my daughters ask me all about him.  I’m sad because the last year of his life, he was so sick and really didn’t look the way I remember him best.  Those pictures are strange distortions of someone I knew and loved.

I miss him, but I’m okay.

His death was one of those kaleidoscope moments for me.  God took my perspective with the patterns I was used to seeing, and shifted it a little.  He showed me something beautiful.

Up until that moment, I had believed in heaven.  I heard the stories in Sunday School and saw the pictures in my Beginner’s Bible as a kid.  We sang songs at church about heaven and I believed what I sang.

But, when my dad died, heaven was suddenly real.  Not some hazy and nebulous concept we teach at church, but a real place where my dad now lived.  The outer shell that we buried in that casket was most definitely not him anymore.  Suddenly, when I envisioned what heaven would be like, I personally knew someone who was there–a face in the crowd that was waiting expectantly for me to join him.

My mom chose this verse for my dad’s funeral bulletin:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV).

For the first time, God taught me how to have an eternal perspective.

I had a friend in college whose mother had a degenerative disease and was ever so slowly worsening.  It was difficult and devastating, but I have never in my life met anyone whose eyes were more firmly fixed on heaven than my friend.  She saw heaven as the soon-to-be home for her mom—a place where her mom would be healed and whole and hurting no longer.  She would talk about heaven in casual conversation and she didn’t care about earthly possessions, worldly success, or what other people thought of her.  Instead, her eyes were fixed on the unseen and the eternal.

I forget sometimes to keep an eternal perspective and then God nudges my heart and holds the kaleidoscope back up for me to see the pattern of beauty He created in the light of eternal hope.

I get angry about something stupid and forget that little petty annoyances mean nothing in the end.  I worry and fret about the small details of my life and forget that in the grand scheme of things, they really don’t matter. I long for a bigger home or at least new carpeting and forget that this world really isn’t my home and what I have here isn’t going to last.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

When your feet are planted in heaven, you can quit chasing status in this world.  You can live with a godly sense of abandon because you aren’t attached to possessions or even your own life.  You can take risks, although nothing God calls us to do is really risky by eternal definitions.  You can follow Him without fear.

The other day I took my daughters to a festival we have in our town.  We toured the booths, saw some skits, watched the parade and then headed home.  When she got to the car and realized we weren’t paying $5 per child for a 2-minute pony ride, my daughter bawled.  She cried most of the way home, saying, “You don’t understand me or what I like and what is important to me.  You never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give me the things I want.  I’m not going to eat or clean my room or do anything at all until you take me back to ride the horses.”

We arrived home and she sat in time-out.  I checked my emails and other messages and found an updated post for the little girl named Kate McRae that I’ve been praying for.  She’s seven years old.  She has metastatic brain cancer.

My daughter climbed into my lap, face still a little red from tears, and asked me about the little girl whose picture was now on my computer screen.  I told her all about Kate.  How she’ll be losing her hair because of the treatments she has to have.  How she has to take medicine that makes her terribly sick so she can’t eat.  How she can’t be with her brother and sister and can’t go to school.  How she has to live far from home and stay in a hospital.  How her body is weakened by the radiation treatments to her brain.

Pony rides didn’t seem so important anymore.  God turned the kaleidoscope and changed my daughter’s heart by revealing a new perspective, an eternal one.

Paul wrote:

Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:17-21, NIV).

How would your life change if you lived as a citizen of heaven in the here and now of earth?

Would you be more bold in your faith?  Invest more time in worship and prayer?  Build into your relationships more?  Whine less about the things you have or don’t have?  Abandon the pursuit of earthly status in order to gain heavenly reward?  Spend less time worrying about the things you can’t control?  Love people more and be willing to overlook more of their faults?  Be more thankful?  Enjoy the little blessings in life?

So much of my attitude about life, so many of my everyday reactions are tainted because I lose that eternal perspective.  That’s why I need reminders like today.  Reminders that “this world is not my home; I’m just passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King