Trusting Christ with Childhood Cancer

You know those moments that are seared so deeply in your mind you’ll remember every detail forever? Several months ago, I experienced one of those moments.

It was shortly after we’d managed to get the kids down for bed. On a normal night, my wife and I meet in the kitchen; catching eyes and smiling over whatever antics the kids pulled to delay the inevitable end of their day. Then, the house is silent. That silence marks the beginning of mom and dad’s time to read, decompress, and rest up for the next day of fun. But this night would be different.

As I heard my wife’s footsteps I looked up and saw her walk through the doorway to the kitchen. Suddenly she broke; holding up the doctor’s report in her hand. The tears streamed down her face. I pulled her into my arms as she explained, “Something is wrong with Timothy…” Her words hit my heart like a freight train. The “C” word had crossed my mind a few times while we waited for test results on over a dozen suspicious spots that had appeared on our 3-month old son’s body, but nothing prepares you for this moment. After reading through the report, it was real. Timothy, our little guy, has cancer.

On our journey so far,  more answers seem only to lead to more questions. A wave of different emotions come and go, but overall, one thing remains constant — God’s goodness.

I like what Randy Alcorn says in his book, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil. He writes on page 289, “We define good in terms of what brings us health and happiness now; God defines it in terms of what makes us more like Jesus.” He goes on to explain something that every person suffering in pain would do well to remember:

As a young Christian I believed that going to Heaven instead of Hell was all that mattered. But as I read the Bible, I saw that to be called according to God’s purpose is to be conformed to the character of Christ. God’s purpose for our suffering is Christlikeness. That is our highest calling. If God answered all our prayers to be delivered from evil and suffering, then he would be delivering us from Christlikeness. But Christlikeness is something to long for, not to be delivered from.

What Randy is saying here is simple to read, but so difficult to do. Yet, it is the perspective a Christian is to have. God grows us, shapes us, sanctifies us, and brings us to the end of ourselves through suffering. All the while molding us into the image of His Son — Jesus.  This doesn’t mean that we should be excited about a cancer diagnosis, or hoping our child suffers. But it does mean that we should not be so obsessed with our relief that we miss out on the lessons God teaches us along the way. Suffering brings us closer to God, and through suffering He accomplishes great purposes.

To encourage you as you face trials in your own life, here are 3 ways we can pray as Christians in the midst of pain:

Pray for God to be glorified above all else

You may have heard the story of James Montgomery Boice who got up one Sunday to talk to his church about terminal cancer that left him with only one month to live. Many had asked how they can help and his response was profound:

Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you’re free to do that. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles – and he certainly can – is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. But above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though he could have. Jesus said, “Don’t you think I could call down from my Father ten legions of angels for my defense?” But he didn’t do that. And yet, that’s where God is most glorified. 

Like our faith heroes who have gone long before us, this is a great anchor to all of our prayers for healing and relief.

Pray for healing while submitted to the will of God

Like any parent, we want Timothy to live to be 100, have lots of grandkids for us, and live happily ever after. But the reality is, we may pray for healing now and God’s timing and purposes may be different than our prayer. God is within His divine right to use our son’s for whatever “good” He decides to use it for (Romans 8:28). What if his cancer is used to spark gospel-spreading relationships in the cancer clinic? What if our son dies younger than we’d ever wish? What if our faith is tested beyond anything it’s ever been through? Even through the tears and pain, as Christians, we accept God’s will when it’s all said and done. Just when we want to throw in the towel and say, “That’s crazy!” We do well to remember that’s exactly what Jesus modeled.

As the most righteous man to ever live, and the divine Son of God, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane right before suffering on the cross. At that moment, He models one of the most vulnerable prayer sessions we witness in the Gospels. Matthew records, “And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

In a day where faith healers put on elaborate shows and posture boastfully; claiming to have the power to rebuke all kinds of cancer, far too many scoff at prayers for “God’s will to be done.” In many circles, praying “Your will be done” kind of prayers are seen as weak faith.

Well, Jesus prayed that way. It’s never a bad idea to model His method and trust God with the results.

Pray for perspective when tempted to pout

I remember walking into one of our first appointments and feel pretty sorry for myself. After a brief wait in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), we heard our name called and walked down the hallway. My pity party was short lived as I caught eyes with a young girl wearing a bandana and sitting with her mom. She was several years older than our son and had obviously been going through chemo. Fast forward to a recent appointment where two mothers were telling my wife that their little ones have chemo on Christmas Eve, and the other on Christmas Day. Talk about a shot of perspective. Everyone is going through something. We benefit greatly from reminders like that.

One of the great challenges as Christians is to look beyond our circumstances and maintain an eternal perspective. To put it bluntly, we can often miss opportunities to minister (and mourn) with others because our eyes are fixed on ourselves. No matter how dark a day may seem, we do not suffer in earthly despair as if we have no eternal hope! Furthermore, God has called every one of His followers to be witnesses for the gospel (Acts 1:8). What better way to be a witness than to point people to find comfort in Christ and their Lord and Savior?

Lastly, a word to those who feel like they’re just trying to survive another day, let alone help anyone else: Don’t feel pressure to look perfect when you’re enduring a trial, but do feel pressure (the good kind) to look to Christ. Your anxieties and pain belong at His feet (1 Peter 5:7), and He promises peace beyond human comprehension to those who come to Him with prayerful, thankful, dependent hearts (Philippians 4:6-7).

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Recommended Resources: 

If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God by Joni Eareckson Tada

5 replies
  1. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    I know the fear and heartache. When the doctor emerged from the OR and told us that our little 7 year daughter had kidney cancer and they had to remove the affected kidney and a great deal of surrounding tissue, it was a horrible and cruel shock because the doctors believed and told us that it was a benign tumor. I went to the chapel and prayed for her complete recovery but that we would love her for as long as we were allowed to keep her. She is now 53 and undergoing follow up meds and doctor visits from surgery, chemo and radiology for breast cancer. I have prayed the same prayer to God and it is in His hands. She beat her first cancer – this is a non-related and separate kind. There is much hope, especially if you trust God.

    Reply
    • healinginhim
      healinginhim says:

      Thank you for such a Christ-honouring post. The Lord has allowed many heart-wrenching trials in my life. I’ve never questioned Him as to why but have only been concerned that He be glorified. So very often, others will turn from Him or scorn Him for the pain allowed in this world. The very fact that God saved me is all I have ever needed as reassurance that He is watching over me!
      Sharon – My brother was not given much hope when a raging infection and then leukemia attacked him in late 1989 … One specialist had him in the grave, while an elderly Christian specialist smiled and said it’s not over til it’s over. Back then my brother had four very young children. He has now been blessed with several grandchildren.

      PRAYING.

      Reply
  2. Zach San Miguel
    Zach San Miguel says:

    Hinn family,

    My family is on our knees praying for healing for Timothy and also for God’s will to be done. Thank you for sharing this article, for your work in the ministry, and for preaching the truth. Grace and peace to you.

    Reply
  3. Robin
    Robin says:

    “Maintain an eternal perspective.” “My grace is sufficient for you.” “Not as I will, but as you will.” These truths all came to be reality for our family last year as we waited to hear whether our son would survive a motorcycle accident. As I look back to those moments God was glorified in many ways but of course never enough as He deserves far more than I give. Thank you, Costi, for this beautiful understanding of why we suffer….to be made more like Him. May the Lord give us strength and comfort and peace and joy to endure for His sake.

    Reply
  4. So Loved
    So Loved says:

    “Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us…” 2 Cor 1:9-10
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and your heavenly perspective. I am so sorry to know that your child has cancer. I pray the Lord comforts you and restores him. It is definitely right before the Lord for us to pray for healing, for He is God –who creates and raises the dead! In 2000 I was diagnosed with stage 3 Lymphoma. After calling for the Elders re James 5, I refused conventional treatment and went alternative. In 2003 it cleared and never came back. In 2016 I was diagnosed w stage 4 Lymphoma (a different kind). I had a broken C-4, cancer tumors 3 places on spine, a tumor in each lung, tumors in abdomen and cancer growing on outside of my ribs & hip bones. One rib kept breaking. After having neck surgery with a new C-4 installed, I called for the Elders re: James 5, and went to Stanford. Their Oncologists said they had nothing that would work for this rare form of Lymphoma (not the old one returning but a new cancer). They also said that since this was my second cancer, I did not qualify for any clinical trials. R-Chop & EPOCH were offered after they told me those regimes would not work on this rare Lymphoma. I refused all of it & went to another country. That hospital in another country did not think they could help me either, but did try. It kept advancing! Yet, I remained surrendered to the Lord. I would love to go to heaven and be with my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, even today! (I keep meeting Christians who don’t want their promotion). I bought my plot at the cemetery and had my headstone planted on top of it. I was looking forward to heaven, but dreading the increase of pain I was already living in. The Body of Christ fervently prayed for me. It was suggested that I use a monoclonal antibody by it self. My Oncologist refused, saying it would not do anything. Finally after I continued to live a year after diagnosis, the Oncologist reluctantly agreed to give it to me. In October 2018 CT scans were done– the Oncologists said the cancer is gone and is in remission. God has been merciful to me! Nothing done would have killed or removed all that cancer. No human or treatment can be given credit for restoring me. The Lord has answered our prayers for more time. He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or think! By the way, some who think they can heal wanted me to let them pray over me (I live near Bethel Redding). I would not permit it! I didn’t want any human to take the credit for whatever God would choose to do in the matter. I thank the Lord that our trials are an opportunity for Him to bring glory to Himself. Even if we will be promoted to heaven at the end of the trial. Heaven would be a blessing, a gift, a huge reward for enduring suffering for the praise of His glory!
    Praying the Lord heals your precious one. IF Father takes him home, praying his heavenly reward is great!!

    Reply

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