Steve, Cancer, and a Loving God

Originally written OCTOBER 2005
I just met a man named Steve. He has been sitting behind me in church off and on for the last couple months. He is an asian man with the biggest smile I think I have ever seen. He speaks in a hoarse whisper, and doesn’t sing much beyond a gravel-throated attempt. But he always smiles.
Last week at church as I sat there before service waiting for it to begin I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked back. It was Steve.
I turned around and said hello and asked him how he was. He smiled that smile and said he was great. That was the end of it for a moment.
I looked forward again but felt a compelling urge to turn around and talk to him again, this time with a little more depth.
I asked him how he was really doing. He then proceeded to tell me about himself. He said he had cancer, throat and lung. Then he thanked Jesus for it. He must have been healed, I thought. I asked if he was. No, no, not at all, he answered.
Five years ago the doctors gave him six months to live. It was then that he gave his life to the LifeGiver. And he hasn’t looked back. “I was a very, very bad man,” said he, without going into detail. “It was the cancer that made me see Jesus.”
But Steve is not physically healed. He has finished with all the chemotherapy and radiation therapy; there is nothing more medical science can do. When I patted his back I felt nothing but bone. But this man loves Jesus like few I have ever met.
I believe the Lord will give some people a horrible illness like cancer, but for a reason…
I don’t pretend to know the reason behind every illness - or why some evil men live long lives while some children get cancer - I can speculate but I don’t know. But we know the Lord is willing to do just about anything to wake somebody out of a spiritual coma.
And that includes giving the person some horrible disease like cancer.
An analogy might help here: If my child was carelessly walking into the path of an oncoming bus, I would not hesitate to yank or push my child put of the way. Might I break her arm? Yes. Might she break a rib falling to the ground? Yes. It will probably be a painful experience.
But, is she alive? Yes!
For some people drastic measures must be taken in order to wake them up to their spiritual condition, but, as strange as this sounds, I believe things like this happen because He loves us. It may be hard to see this if you or a loved one has some terminal illness - and I’m not saying that this is the reason he or she might be sick - but we have heard enough stories like Steve’s, about how some people with terminal diseases actually thank God for them because they then, for the first time, seriously reflected on the meaning of Life.
And some give their lives to the Lord and are with Him now.
But they might not be with Him in eternity if the Lord had just watched them wander into the traffic.
Unless the Lord intervenes Steve will probably die of his disease. But he is a man at peace with God, and with others. His current mission while the Lord allows him to live is to tell others about the love of Jesus. This man who has suffered greatly at the hands of this terminal disease is telling everyone he can about the love of Jesus.
Steve hasn’t been healed physically, but spiritually he is alive and well.
[note: I have not seen Steve since I originally write this.]
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