The two words no parent wants to hear.
A little over two weeks ago my friend Amy shared a rare post on Facebook asking for prayers from her friends. “Today we heard two words that no parent ever wants to hear in the same sentence: your child’s name followed by the word, ‘cancer.'” Since that moment, Amy and her husband, Brad, have been through an absolute whirlwind of doctors visits and emotions. All their grand plans are now measured in moments, their home made up in hospital beds.
As cancer goes, Hunter's diagnosis is about as optimistic as they come. Accute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is very treatable when caught early and has a remarkable cure rate among children. But you and I know that there is no such thing as "good cancer." Those are two words that just don't go together.
Yet despite the obvious oxymoron, when I walked into Hunter’s hospital room last week, it did not feel like a bad place to be. In fact, it felt like a very, very good place to be. The tubes and monitors and an endless stream of interruptions from hospital staff and doctors were juxtaposed against the calm smiles and honest laughter that filled the air and settled onto the shoulders of all present. If you stood still enough and watched long enough, you could even find the most unexpected of emotions: joy.
You see, Hunter has something remarkable that is far more powerful than any disease. Leukemia may have rooted itself in the marrow of his bones, but he has something greater buried deeper still, sewn into the very fabric of his soul: faith. Hunter has it. His parents have it. The thousands of people surrounding them in prayer, hash-tagging #fearless - they have it.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things not seen. The Christian faith confidently hopes in the future because its foundation is found at the foot of the cross. Jesus, God in the flesh, took on the weight of all the worst that this world has to offer and buried it with him in the grave. Then he rose again, proving once and for all that words like sin or death or hatred or jealousy, or even cancer, have no power over Him. And when we place our faith in him, this crucified, buried, and risen Savior, those things have no power over us, either.
Just to be clear, cancer sucks. Faith does not tie a pretty bow on a horrible disease and ignore our suffering. Faith isn’t putting lipstick on a pig and trying to pretend to the situation isn’t ugly as sin. Amy, Brad, and Hunter - they don't see the good in cancer...but they do see the good in God. And they see God with them even through the cancer. That’s faith.
Faith, hope, and unexpected healing.
We don’t know what turns Hunter’s journey will take, or how and when it will end. It’s been just two weeks since the diagnosis and he’s already seen a week of intensive chemo, a chest tube inserted to deal with an unexpected pneumothorax, a blood clot in his shoulder, and, oh yeah…cancer in his bones. We pray for healing. I invite you to pray with us.
Though I don’t know what tomorrow holds for this family, I do know this: if you were to visit Hunter in his hospital bed one day, you will be the one who finds healing. Spend time with a family stretched to their limits, yet who exude peace and joy. Do that and try not to be changed. It’s not possible. Your soul will be filled, your spirits lifted, your hope fixed on heaven, and your knees brought to the foot of the cross.
Joy and cancer. Those words just don’t go together, except by faith.
Dan is a pastor, author, and speaker. He is the founder and lead contributor for My Ordinary Faith and currently serves as a Campus Pastor for Southland Christian Church in Georgetown, KY.
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