No one wants to ever hear that word, let alone have it spoken as their own (or their loved one’s) diagnosis. But what if someone told you that cancer was not a curse, but a gift? That cancer, endured with knowledge of the truth, will bring more good than harm?
That’s exactly the intent of John Piper in his 15 page booklet titled, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.” John Piper doesn’t want us to see our cancer as a curse, but a gift from God’s good hand. Yes, a gift. The book’s description says it this way:
On the eve of his own cancer surgery, John Piper writes about cancer as an opportunity to glorify God. With pastoral sensitivity, compassion, and strength, Piper gently but firmly acknowledges that we can indeed waste our cancer when we don’t see how it is God’s good plan for us and a hope-filled path for making much of Jesus.
Below are eleven ways John Piper says people are tempted to waste their cancer. I hope that, as you read them, you are sobered and nourished. Sobered to the reality of God’s sovereignty in our sickness and nourished by God’s intent for our sickness.
We waste our cancer if we don’t hear in our own groanings the hope-filled labor pains of a fallen world. Labor pains mean that something wonderful is coming. That’s what our cancer means. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians
We waste our cancer if we do not believe it is designed for us by God. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it, or not. If he does not, he has a purpose.
We waste our cancer if we believe it is a curse and not a gift. The diseases we still bear are not a curse. They have been transformed from a punitive pathway to hell into a purifying pathway to heaven. We are not cursed.
We waste our cancer if we seek comfort from our odds rather than from God. The aim of God in our cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.
We waste our cancer if we refuse to think about death.
We waste our cancer if we think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ. God designs to deepen our love for Christ. Cancer does not win if we die. It wins if we fail to cherish Christ.
We waste our cancer if we spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God.
We waste our cancer if we let it drive us into solitude instead of deepen our relationships with manifest affection.
We waste our cancer if we grieve as those who have no hope.
We waste our cancer if we treat sin as casually as before. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer.
We waste our cancer if we fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ. Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do…So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.
Cancer is a bad thing, but God is a good and wise God. In His hands, even the most deadly poison becomes medicine. Even the most terminal sickness becomes the road to eternal health. As James said when he was talking about suffering, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17). That includes cancer.
You can download the booklet for free here.