I belong to a generation for whom the word 'cancer' was usually just another term for 'death sentence'. Yet of course this can be far from the truth today, such have been the advances in medical research etc.
Nevertheless, when recently receiving this diagnosis myself, and with major surgery set for as early as Monday 6th March, well, I'd have to admit that it came as a bit of a blow, and especially to my nearest and dearest. But on the other hand, I knew I was unwell, and whilst I wouldn't actively welcome suffering, adversity in all its many forms is bound to assault each of us from time to time. And of course as a Christian I will never be exempt from even the worst of circumstances. After all, becoming a Christian has never been, and will never be, the key to an easy life, far from it.
Ever since our forefathers ignored and rejected our Maker in order to go their own way the world has been subject to disease, decay, degeneration and of course, death. Yet it's only natural that the storms of life should threaten to confuse, disorientate and defeat even the most stoical of us. But over the years I've learned that when receiving some crushing discouragement or bitter disappointment I mustn't trust my natural instincts which would almost certainly lead me into doubt, distress and despair. No, as a Christian I must remind myself that any and every form of suffering that impacts my life has first to penetrate His will and purposes for me. And although it can sound rather glib, I must remember that...
'All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.'
Or, in the comforting and reassuring words of CH Spurgeon...
'God is too good to be unkind, and He's too wise to be mistaken.
And when we can't trace His hand, we must trust His heart.'
It's often very tempting for each of us to respond to adversity by asking, 'Why Lord?', when perhaps the more realistic question ought to be 'Why not? Yet when facing suffering I'm sure it's much more positive and constructive to ask, 'For what purpose Lord?'
Though a difficult truth to accept, all that God permits to befall us, no matter how intense the pain may be, is really for His ultimate good in us. But it can also be for His ultimate good in others. Often it's rarely only about us but also about others seeing the power of God working in and through our human frailty. We can often learn lessons in the school of adversity that we can learn in no other way. Or, in the wise words of Joseph Parker...
'When this world's account is summed up, we shall find that we owe more to grief than we do to joy, and that sorrow has been the veiled angel of God come to teach us some of the deepest lessons which can ever be learnt by human students.'
Of course it's only as we acknowledge our weaknesses that we can know His special help... as the Lord promised the Apostle Paul, as well as all who are true Believers...
'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'
2 Corinthians 12:9
But the key to proving his best in personal experience, rather than just abstract theory, is summed up by the following lovely verse given to me recently by a very dear friend...
'Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.'
1 Peter 5:7
And of course this is why Christians, such as I, are like tea-bags. No, not because we're holy... but because our (His) true strength is shown when we're in hot water! PTL!