Unexpected Blessings from Cancer

Purpose in Pain

We’ve all heard the saying, there’s no gain without pain. Henry Ward Beecher takes it a little deeper: “Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things.” The Bible describes numerous instances involving pain or discomfort. Most precede a blessing. Consider the demon-possessed, the blind, the lame beggars, lepers, and the woman with a hemorrhage. Jesus healed many with these afflictions. A modern-day analogy would be that of a woman in labor. Without the pain of labor, there would not be the blessing of a precious newborn. The question to ponder, then, is how do we work through the pain to get to the gain? Let’s consider five ways in which God uses pain to bring about gain.

1) He directs us. Pain has the ability to move us in a new direction, perhaps towards a new mission or ministry. Corrie ten Boom is someone whose pain was redirected. She never planned to be captured and confined within the barbed walls of a Nazi concentration camp. Yet God used her pain and anguish, and still uses her wrenching testimony to convert the cold-hearted, to show forgiveness to the unforgiveable, and to demonstrate godly love and mercy in impossible situations.

I, too, am an example of being redirected following my cancer journey. I wrote a Bible study on cancer (www.confrontingcancerwithfaith.com) and developed a ministry I call Ewe R Blessed Ministries. Not only have I been able to share my story and my writings, but God continues to propel me into exciting areas through my writing. I was deeply touched by an email I received recently from a bone marrow transplant survivor with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She said, “I’m sure you are completely unaware of all the lives that have been comforted and touched by the words the Spirit led you to write. Praise be to God for His mighty love for His people. My friend and I are echoing praises of how the questions you ask and the information you shared is helping us to deal with the emotional side of our cancer journey.” I am truly humbled to know how God’s redirection of my life has brought blessing and glory to so many. Hallelujah!

2) He inspects us. What do problems reveal about you? The tea bag analogy applies here. If you want to know what’s inside a tea bag, drop it into hot water. The same is true for people. When pain comes into our lives, we see what is hidden deep within.

Another analogy from the Bible comes to mind – the refinement of gold. As heat intensifies during the refining process, the deeper impurities surface to create a dross that must be skimmed away. Sometimes the hurt that comes out of us may not escape any other way than when God is working in us and pressure is applied. We may learn valuable lessons we would not otherwise learn. “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6-7).

3) He corrects us. Some lessons we learn through failure. God may postpone His intervention to allow us time to exhaust every other possible avenue until we finally realize without doubt or reservation that we are totally helpless without Him. In those instances, pain turns us back to the Father. “For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines” (Hebrews 12:6).

4) He protects us. At a breakfast meeting before a Super Bowl game, Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy spoke about his son Jordan. He told how Jordan, who has a rare congenital condition, would reach into a hot oven with his bare hands and pull out a pan of cookies. He would burn both hands and his tongue as he joyfully devoured the freshly baked cookies, never feeling a moment of pain. Coach Dungy learned through his son the powerful message that pain can be used to prevent us from being harmed, sometimes by something more serious. In other words, God may permit us to suffer to keep us away from sin. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result” (Gen 50:20).

5) He perfects us. Christians are called to make a difference in this world; it may often be through suffering. Trials build muscles of fortitude allowing pain to serve as a character builder. Remember the familiar verse in Romans 5? “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”

Following the production of his film The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson stated in a television interview, “Pain is the precursor to change. That is great news.” Why would he say that? I’ll tell you what my once-persecuted Sunday School teacher had to say. His response dumbfounded me, but after letting it sink in, he is right. He said pain and suffering is where glory is found. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

God never wastes our suffering. Glory awaits.

Much of the material in this blog was taken from my book “Confronting Cancer with Faith.”

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