Question:

I was at work today and my mom sent me a text telling me she was diagnosed with stage two cervical cancer. A text telling me she has cancer! A text! Now I'm home, and she is sleeping, so I can't ask her what they are going to do.

I really, really am doubting there is a God because there's too much death. I get people die, but this is what I don't get: Why do people like my mom, get sick like this? Young? Too young to die.

This is not OK. None of this is OK. If my mom dies, I won't be able to handle that. I know eventually she will die, but it can't be soon. How can people sit there and talk about a "loving and just" God while things like this happen every day?


Answer:

I'm really sorry to hear this. I hate to hear someone having to suffer cancer and the current treatment of cancer.

Probably little that I say will be acceptable to you because, after all, it is your mom who has the cancer. It understandably clouds your view because of the emotions it raises. It is why your mom sent a text. She is grieving, so she didn't want to face the storm of your reaction to the news on top of her own.

Whether a person rejects God or accepts God, it doesn't change the fact that people die. Some die young, others die old and on the surface there doesn't seem to be an apparent reason. The question of the existence of God doesn't change the facts, but if God does exist as the Bible states, then it does give an explanation of why it happens. Atheism gives no answers. Technically an atheist just shrugs and says random events happen, including random deaths. The fact that you want an answer as to why tells me that you are not an atheist.

Death exists in this world because sin is in the world. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). Even though not everyone dies directly because of his sins, no one can avoid death because everyone sins. "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

Even though it was man who sinned and brought in death, God intervened to offer eternal life to people willing to accept His offer. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:14-17). This world is not intended to be permanent. It is a temporary stopping point on the way to eternity. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable" (I Corinthians 15:19).

However, one thing needs to be remembered. God made the world perfect, without suffering. It was man, listening to Satan, who corrupted the glory of God's creation. To blame God for our mess is to place the blame on the wrong person. This world will end. "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail" (Hebrews 1:10-12). But God hasn't forgotten His people. There is a perfect home waiting for the faithful. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:3-4).

One reason God brings a person home early is to decrease that person's suffering. Some of the diseases brought in by Satan's deception ruin a person's quality of life. Sometimes an early death is given to spare a good person from having to see the horrors that result from the evil of other people. "The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness" (Isaiah 57:1-2). We might not know what suffering God is sparing a person from facing when the person dies sooner than we had anticipated.

I doubt we could determine the reason a particular person dies sooner than we expect. We don't have access to all the facts. But we should trust that God is looking out for the best interests of everyone involved.

It is scary to realize that your mother has cancer, but it doesn't mean she will die from the cancer. Many cancers are treatable today. There is roughly a 60% chance that your mother will live for more than five years, so we will pray for the best outcome.

I guess I'm just scared. They are taking out her uterus next week and then chemo and radiation. They say chemo makes you really sick and I don't want to see her like that. I don't want her to go through any of this. She's normally really happy and talkative but lately she's quiet, and sad, and looks like she's going to cry all the time so she stays in her room. So I've been doing everything (which I don't mind).

I've been thinking a lot. Then yesterday I did this thing on a social network where I asked people to send me questions that I'd answer publicly. One of the questions was something along the lines of: "If you were on a flight from Honolulu to Chicago and the plane caught on fire, who would you call and what would you say?" I've been thinking about this for hours. I want to say, "I'd call my parents and I'd apologize for being difficult and a fool and not living up to their standards or making them happy," but the other part of me wants to say: "Why apologize? I can't change the past, there is no future, the plane is going to crash and everything will end. So I'll just turn off my phone and wait for the impact."

I think what I'm trying to say is: my mom's cancer is like a plane crash. There's nothing I can do to change the outcome in the end, I have no control over it. I'm starting to realize something needs to change within me, but I know it won't make a difference in whether she lives or dies. So, is apologizing futile? Or do I just move on from here and try to make the "impact" not as horrible? I don't want to have regrets if she does die. I don't want to have regrets, period. And I'm scared that's all I'll be left with.

It is perfectly fine to be scared. But don't let your fears drive you. Courage is acting despite your fears.

I'm glad you are taking time to help her out. She has a lot to process and her own fears to wrestle with.

In regards to your question, you are focused on this world only. Life doesn't end at death. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable" (I Corinthians 15:19). Of course you can't change the past, but you can change the future. However, the first step in changing the future is to acknowledge the past was wrong. If you don't think the past was wrong, why change?

But also your second option is focused solely on you, as if you are the only thing that matters. The first option would tell your folks that they are so important to you, that they were what you wanted to think about just before the end. That is important to people. To know that their teaching wasn't totally wasted on you would also be an amazing gift to give them. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).

Yes, you need to change. You are correct that it won't change the outcome of whether your mom lives or dies, but you know, it would make her feel better about her own life to know that she has a son she can be proud of. If you agree you've been wrong, tell her, but even better show her that her efforts didn't go to waste. You know, I don't think you'll regret improving yourself. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:10-11).