Cancer Doesn’t Have to Kill You

Cancer is something I think everyone has dealt with on one level or another. Either we know someone who has battled cancer and overcome, love someone whose life was cut short by cancer, or have even battled cancer ourselves. It’s something we know all too well.

The thing about cancer is it’s really sneaky. Granted, sometimes you can see it via an external tumor. Sometimes you can feel it, you can feel that lump. But more often than not, it’s beneath the surface. It’s hidden. And it’s not until you get an examination that it’s revealed to you. Only when you become aware of that cancer can you begin to seek restoration and healing. The thing is, if you’re not looking for it, you won’t find it. So many people are walking around with cancer and they don’t even know it.

Just because you don’t look for it—or ignore it— doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent.

Cancer is like sin.

The Bible says in Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (ESV, italics added for emphasis). All of us have sinned. All of us have cancer. All of us are dead men. Sometimes we can see the results of that sin externally. Sometimes we can feel it, in our soul, in our spirit, that something is amiss. But more often than not, it’s beneath the surface. Hidden. But if we ignore it, or don’t acknowledge it, it doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. It may start out small, but if we ignore it, it only grows. It grows until it takes over and eventually kills us, spiritually, or even physically.

But there’s good news. Jesus died for us, so that we didn’t have to. That’s grace. We received life when we didn’t deserve it. It was our cancer to deal with, and He dealt with it for us. In Romans 10:9, it says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (ESV, italics added for emphasis). But here’s the thing. As with any gift, we have to accept it in order to enjoy it. We have to agree to be treated by the Doctor. If we don’t accept it, it’s not ours. Healing can’t happen without treatment. And treatment can’t happen without acceptance of that treatment. And even after we’ve healed, cancer has a way of sneaking back into our lives. However, with regular Doctor visits and examinations, we can catch it, acknowledge it, and deal with it at the onset. But again, if we ignore it, it’ll grow. It always grows.

My prayer for anyone who happens to read this is that you would acknowledge the cancer in your life. Acknowledge it and accept the free gift of life and grace that is found in Jesus. He loves you. He always has and He always will, and He wants nothing more than for you to be set free. Cancer doesn’t have to kill you.

When a Student Teaches Me a Lesson in Humility

Today was one of those days that “frustrating” doesn’t even begin to capture what it actually was. I have a student that was being extremely stubborn. She has made it a habit to do something that will potentially harm her. Since we have noticed this behavior, we have tried to redirect her, tell her why we don’t want her to do it, we give her consequences, etc. We have told her that we’re telling her this because we don’t want her to get hurt. Her response is to show us everything but gratitude and understanding. Instead, she either laughs at us and continues to do the behavior, or she just gets mad and starts to rebel. Leaving work today, my frustration level was as high as it’s ever been.

Then God spoke.

That’s you. You can be stubborn but I love you still. You rebel, but I love you still. You make light of my warnings and continue to disobey, but I love you still. I know what’s best for you, even if you don’t see it in the moment. I love you.

To say I was humbled is an understatement. I’m human and I frustrate so easily. However, I serve a God that loves me regardless of how I act. It doesn’t mean He approves of what I do, but He loves me unconditionally. There is literally nothing I could do to make Him love me more or less than He already does.

Because of this, I want to love Him through my actions and words even more.

Gosh, He’s so good at humbling me. It’s frustrating. Ha.

When God Lets Us Walk Away

walking away

A few days ago, I was reminded of a story from Uganda. A lesson I learned. A lesson I’ve had to learn often. Two years ago, summer of 2013, I and 9 other people were in the middle of Uganda. We were working with an organization called A Perfect Injustice. While we were there, we worked between Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and a village called Bombo for 5 weeks. In Kampala, we worked in the streets. In the slums. We fed kids, did devotions with them, taught them, and played with them. The boys in the slums were given the opportunity to move to the orphanage in Bombo when they were able to demonstrate an ability to abstain from drugs, violence, etc. for an extended period of time. They were counseled and before long, they were given a ride to the orphanage.

While we were in Kampala, we got word that one of our favorite kids from the streets, Abdul, would be going to Bombo. We were thrilled. We knew that he would no longer have to fear for his safety every night, as danger lurked around every corner. We knew he would no longer have to beg for food, beg for money. He would no longer have to hide. We could hardly wait to go back to the orphanage to welcome him and celebrate with him. A couple days later, we started the drive back to Bombo. While we were still about 20 minutes away or so, we saw a kid with a backpack walking toward us on the street. It was Abdul.

David, one of the missionaries we were working with, stopped to talk to him. He talked to Abdul for maybe 10 minutes and walked back in the van. We drove off, and Abdul continued his walk. We asked David what was going on, and he told us that Abdul was running away back to the streets in Kampala.

Why didn’t we just pick him up?
Why did David just let him keep walking?

Before anyone asked out loud what we were all thinking internally, David answered. He said that he didn’t pick up Abdul because the boys have to make the decision to stay at the orphanage. He’s brought kids back who have run away before, and they just keep running away. It has to be their choice. The kids have been homeless, living on the streets for so long, that they often don’t know how to handle security. They don’t know how to deal with safety. It’s unknown to them. The unknown is oftentimes scarier than what they know, even if what they know is terrible. At least they know what to expect. It isn’t until they choose to come back and choose to stay that they really start to make progress.

We were crushed. We knew that Abdul was making the wrong choice. If we could, we would just pick him up and bring him with us because we know better than he does. We know what he needs more than he does. And in that moment, in that moment of pain and hurt, I got a glimpse of God’s heart for His people.

God has brought so many people out of some terrible stuff. He has rescued us from our own demise. He offers us security. He offers us unconditional love that so many of us have sought to find in other things and other people. He has given us everything we need. Yet, so often, we run away from it. We go back to what we know. We leave the safety and security of all that He has given us, all that He offers, to go back to what we know, even if what we know is terrible for us. At least we know what to expect. And though He longs for us to return, He doesn’t force us to do so. He has given us free will to choose. It’s the most loving thing He could do for us. When we choose to love, that love is more authentic than if we were to be forced into it. Like the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32, He longs for the day that we choose to return. And whenever we do, He runs to us with open arms, ready and willing to accept us unconditionally.