As most of my closest friends already know, doctors have recently diagnosed me with cancer. Unbelievable. I certainly never thought it would happen to me.
Although this is supposedly a highly “treatable” form of cancer, that’s not particularly comforting. In the old days, cancer was virtually a death sentence, which has caused me to reflect on some insightful words from the apostle Paul:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV).
Paul wasn’t dealing with a cancer diagnosis at the time, yet his overwhelming circumstances and tribulations felt like “the sentence of death.” While Paul would write elsewhere of God’s faithfulness in providing a way of escape during times of trouble or temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), here he admitted that the trials seemed “far beyond our ability to endure.”
You see, cancer isn’t the only circumstance that can feel like a death sentence. In Paul’s case, he encountered severe persecution and countless other hardships (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). For you, the problem may be a job loss, insurmountable financial pressures, divorce, or addiction in your family.
I’m really glad Paul honestly shared about his tumultuous circumstances and inner turmoil. It’s somehow comforting to know that the mighty apostle – God’s man of faith and power – had his own dark days. Yes, Paul knew how to pray, but sometimes he experienced the Lord’s sustaining grace despite a “thorn in the flesh” that refused to immediately go away (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Thankfully, Paul learned an incredible lesson amid his apparent death sentence: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
What a great message for us when we encounter overwhelming challenges in life. The purpose of our trials is to teach us to rely upon the Lord instead of upon our own strength and ingenuity. Even if it seems we’ve been given “the sentence of death,” we have nothing to fear: Our God even raises the dead!
No matter what you might be facing today, I hope you experience the joy of knowing you have nothing to fear. How liberating!
In my situation, I know there’s a Name far above the name of cancer (Ephesians 1:19-21). For that reason, I have no need to fear cancer, chemo, or even death itself (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Actually, since the days of Adam and Eve, all of humanity has been under a death sentence – it’s just a matter of time (Hebrews 9:27). However, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:53-57). As believers, we know a day will come when we’ll be “absent from the body.” But that’s okay, Paul says. When that day comes, we’ll be “present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Like the three Hebrew young men who faced the prospect of a fiery furnace, I’m confident that “the God we serve is able to deliver” (Daniel 3:17-18). Isn’t that good news?
Paul’s conclusion ended up being remarkably similar:
[God] has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:10-11).
Paul’s confidence of victory over his present and future trials was partly based on how God had faithfully rescued him in the past. Can you relate? If the Lord has helped you overcome some previous “death sentence,” He can surely do it again.
It’s also beautiful to see Paul’s recognition that the prayers of his friends would play a huge role in His expected victory. In recent weeks, I’ve never had so many people praying for me – and I know they’ll share in my victory when it comes.
Although I don’t fully know what lies ahead for me on this health journey, I’m sure God will be with me every step of the way. And if you are passing through a dark, shadowy valley during your own journey today, let me assure you of His presence with you as well (Psalm 23:4).
The Bible warns that this life will not be trouble-free, even for believers (John 16:33). But although you may have to pass through deep waters or fiery trials at times, Isaiah 43:1-3 says to fear not!
Of course, the natural human response is to desire immediate deliverance from our difficult circumstances. That is certainly my preference as well. I know that God is a supernatural God, and He can change things in a mere moment.
However, in spite of my desire for speedy relief, I have an even greater desire that my journey will reflect the heart of Jesus. His soul was troubled as He neared the cross. But instead of praying for an escape plan, He said, “Father, glorify Your name!” (John 12:27-28).
May that always be our quest, for there’s no greater victory.