I believe in God. I believe in prayer. I believe in miracles. So why would I say they make me nervous? Well, they especially scare me when I wonder if I’m experiencing one myself.
Three months ago, on my birthday, an oncologist confirmed that I had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood that develops in the bone marrow. It can ultimately destroy bones, kidneys and lots more. The doctor told me that day, “Don’t be frightened; it is incurable, but treatable.”
You hear lots of stories about people’s reactions when they hear they have cancer. The doctor was very encouraging, so why did I sit there in stunned silence? Why did I cry off and on for the next few days?
My Indian friends immediately told me that God was going to heal me. As I said, I’m a believer, but inside I felt like saying, “Maybe you didn’t hear me; this is cancer. It’s incurable. Pray for a few more years. Pray for side effects of the chemo to be minimal and bearable. Pray for… But healing? from cancer?
I have met lots of people who tell me they were healed. Some I prayed over myself and saw God’s healing power first hand. I know one person that may have been brought back from the dead. So why do I get nervous when people pray for healing for my cancer?
The first thing that pops into my mind is: I’m not worthy. Why is that when something bad happens to us we immediately think we’re being punished? Throughout the last twelve years I’ve been through debilitating depression, necrotizing pancreatitis, a life-threatening disease that kept me out of action for months. God taught me so much about his unfailing love. So now something new happens and I go back to the old script: I’m not worthy.
Then there’s the mystique about the “C” word. There are many diseases that are incurable, but treatable. So why are we so traumatized by the word Cancer? My doctor told me this week, “Harry, there are two questions that everyone of my patients wants the answer to the minute they get their diagnosis: ‘What stage am I in?’ and ‘How long do I have to live?’” Funny. Those were my first two questions, but I at least kept quiet. Maybe I didn’t want to know.
People around the world tell me they’re praying for my healing. I still don’t know what to think. Then, after two months of chemotherapy the doctor says, “This lab test you got at your local lab is a mistake. It shows no cancer. Those labs in the suburbs can’t attract the best techs. You need to have this test re-done here at the Cancer Hospital. If this result were true, I’d be a magician.”
So I got the test re-done at his hospital; then re-done again at his hospital—same result. “No M-band is present.” So two days ago the doctor said, “Well, I guess something miraculous has happened. This value doesn’t return to zero this fast after only two months of treatment.” I timidly asked, “Would you call this remission?” He thought a minute and said, “Let’s continue to increase your chemo for another couple of months. If the result stays the same, I’ll call it remission.”
So I should be jumping up and down and shouting to the heavens: “I’m healed! God healed me!” But I’m nervous—almost scared. What if the dreaded M-band reappears as soon as I go off chemo? What if I have to tell everyone who is so sure I’ve been healed that it was a false alarm? Where’s my faith? Where’s my confidence in the One who made me, whom I love and serve?
So there it is. Good things are happening to me. I’ve had only minor side effects from the chemo that increases every month. Four units of blood along with my hemoglobin improving through the treatment has gotten me back into the normal range (albeit at the low end), and my strength has largely returned. I’m feeling good, doing the work God has called me to do. I have a terrific wife who loves and cares for me. And yet I have this nagging feeling, It can’t be true.
The hymn writer* in the early 1800s wrote:
O, for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe!
That’s what I want Lord: faith. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). I am 68 years old. Chances are getting stronger that something will get me to my permanent, eternal healing in the next 10-15 years. Paul calls our bodies “earthly tents (2 Cor 5). Well the warranty on this tent is near the expiry date. I want to live every day for him until he calls me to himself and exchanges the tent for a mansion. I can have a little faith in the good things God is doing in my body now. The old hymn writer finishes with this verse:
Lord, give me such a faith as this,
And then, whate’er may come,
I’ll taste, e’en here, the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.
* William H. Brathurst, Psalms and Hymns, 1831.