February 5, 2019. Yesterday was World Cancer Day. A chief purpose of having such a day on the World Calendar is to raise awareness of the disease among individuals, and by this to promote early detection. The founders of the day also hoped the day would be one more way to pressure governments to work more assiduously to prevent, treat, and control cancer.
It’s a relatively new day on the world calendar, only established in the year 2000. World Tuberculosis Day was established decades early in 1982. The late addition of World Cancer surprised me. Maybe it does you, too. Then again, this may be due to the fearsomeness of cancer. We dare not speak it’s name because it’s so threatening. It usually brings death through a withering process. It takes its victims bit by bit. It shows its scars. And when it doesn’t end in death, its treatments for those who suffer it are withering, too. And survivors must battle anxieties over cancer’s recurrence.
This all sounds grim, doesn't it? But what kind of faith would we have if it didn’t teach us to face reality, all realities, whether grim or glorious. Paul the apostle didn’t know what we know about cancer. But he knew that things go out of existence. Creation withers away and our bodies are part of the creation. So Paul spoke of the whole creation as “under futility.” The creation he says, groans. And yet, new things happen, too. Things come into existence. God is not unknown, not locked up silently in heaven. God has acted powerfully and openly by raising Christ from the dead. If we keep our eyes upon the resurrection of Christ, and his promises of renewal, we won't be blown off course.
Landing in bitterness is one way of getting blown off course. It’s understandable and we should have every bit of empathy for those who land there. But keeping our focus on Christ allows us to act hopefully and to love as we go. With this focus, those suffering cancer—or any disease for that matter-- will find courage to face it, and to count on life after death. Those tending to them will find new depths of compassion and care, even in the midst of extreme difficulty. And all of us facing our own death may come to trust what Paul says in this way: For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”
It’s the perspective of faith.