The title of my latest book, Facing Cancer with Faith, may mislead people into thinking that it will only be of interest if you have cancer or if you have faith.
Admittedly, it is written very much from a Christian viewpoint, and therefore if you’re not Christian and are not interested in hearing anything about Christianity (not even out of curiosity) then you probably won’t want to read this book.
However, there are two reasons why I think it’s worth considering reading the book even if you don’t have any experience of cancer – and in fact these are really general reasons why Christian (auto)biographical writings can be helpful. I’ll list a few of the biographies I’ve found helpful at the end of this post. You may prefer to read those rather than Facing Cancer with Faith.
The first reason is that, as I have learned, suffering and hardship is ‘where the rubber hits the road’ as far as faith, and our view of life in general, is concerned. And this applies equally whether you’re Christian or not.
If you’re a Christian, the way you react to suffering proves whether you really believe in a loving God, a powerful God, a God who is our Father, who through Jesus Christ has given us a certain hope of eternal life that outweighs our present troubles. The apostle Peter speaks of suffering as proving the genuineness of our faith.
If you’re an atheist, the way you react to suffering proves whether you really believe that human beings are just random collections of atoms and that good and evil are relative, self-invented, concepts (“Life’s a piece of s**t”, according to the Monty Python song). I would argue that if you get upset about hardship then you are showing that you think it really matters, and therefore you don’t really believe life is meaningless and random.
Even if you’re not going through tough times, challenging yourself by thinking about someone else’s response to tough times will help to confirm what you really believe.
The second reason is that, as I found through writing Facing Cancer with Faith, suffering and hardship focuses our minds on what is important. And that happens in several ways:
- Biblically, thinking about suffering always seems to come back to the gospel of Jesus Christ – suffering is God’s punishment on sin, and at the heart of the gospel is the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to save us from sin.
- Meditating on the suffering of Jesus directs our minds to the reason for his suffering and death – to conquer our sin and give us eternal life in a perfect world without suffering and death. It directs our minds to the fantastic and certain hope that we have.
- Thinking about how God wants us to respond to suffering makes us think about how we ought to live life every day, whether we are finding life hard or not. And we find that what God wants of his people is holiness. As one friend put it, “God wants my heart, and not just my hands.”
Whether we are suffering or not, whether we have cancer or not, God wants his people to be focussed on these things. These are important things. The strange thing is that we don’t tend to pay them much attention until we’re facing hardship.
For me, the way the Lord forced me to think about these things was through cancer (and going back further, through unemployment amongst other things). What I am hoping is that through reading my story and my reflections, which are in Facing Cancer with Faith, readers would find their thoughts turning to the things that are most important, that they would be encouraged (or incited) to turn to the Bible to find them for themselves, and that they would turn to Jesus in every phase of life and in all its ups and downs – whether they are currently in an up or a down phase!