Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When "damned" isn't a swear-word: a few words about cancer

Some words are irredeemable. For some words, there is no context in which they are not offensive and wrong, and surely under the condemnation of Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4.

"Damned" is not one of those words. It's a janus-word; it can turn either way. If you're throwing it at an uncooperative computer program, or a stripped screw, or a car, or (worst of all) a person, I think it falls under that condemnation. Christians should never use it thus.

However there is a sober Christian use: to describe the reprobate, the dead who are under God's eternal sentence of condemnation. Then it is a substantive, and it is appropriate: the damned, people justly without hope forever.

Or it is properly used as a simple adjective to describe such a person or fate. The KJV uses some variation in 15 verses: damnation (11 verses), damned (3 verses), damnable (1 verse). Each translates a Greek word for "judgment" (i.e. krima, krisis, katakrima, etc.).

And so I have said (for instance) "damn cancer, anyway," and meant it. When I do, it isn't a pique. It's that I hate cancer, a lot. I see it as yet another dark, death-dealing fruit of the Fall. When Adam heard God warn him that, if he were to eat the forbidden fruit, t tāmût — "You will surely die" — he had no idea the black, teeming, swarming hordes of pestilent miseries that lay behind the words.

Or so I hope, charitably. But I've often wished that I could flash back in time, and show him. Show Adam a montage of what was lurking behind that shiny, delightful-looking fruit. Show him what his moment's disregard of God, his attempted twitting of his Creator, would bring on himself and all his children.

Would it have mattered to him? No clue. I've known enough people to walk into (and persist within) absolutely ruinous, idiotic sin, completely heedless.

So I see cancer as a result of Adam's sin, of the Fall. And I see cancer as having no part in the new heavens and the new earth. When God deals with sin and its effects, He will deal with cancer.

My first memory of cancer was a little seven-year-old boy named Todd, who lived just down the street from me. Little Christian boy, and I was a new Christian myself. He had cancer. Horrible, just horrible; heart-breaking. He died in 1975, and his mother actually wrote a book about it.

Then I remember a friend's dad, lung cancer again. And others. There have been minor bouts in my family as well.

The worst of course was my dear father. Walking into work today, I spoke with a man older than I, who talks on the phone with his 91 year old dad every morning. Older than I, but his dad still lives. I really envy him.

Now, were my dad alive, he would be 103. Bet he might have made it, too. His was a long-lived family, and Dad was in very good health at 86.

Until that damned cancer took him.

My dad died of bone cancer, after months of painful mis-treatment under the misdiagnosis of arthritis. "Heart-breaking" is a pale description. I had dreams for months and months after his death. Cancer is such a vicious tease, such a robber, such a heartless, cruel villain.

The pastor of the church we're attending has a special ministry to cancer sufferers; a fellow in that church recently learned he has bone cancer, and is clearly and quite understandably scared.

So yeah, I feel about cancer as Joni does about her wheelchair. In her terrific talk at the DG conference on suffering, Joni speaks of finally seeing Jesus, of thanking Him for what He taught her through that wheelchair, and then saying, "...and you can send it to Hell now."


And He can damn cancer there, too.

Before I leave this topic, however, I'd be remiss not to say one more word. Perhaps you have cancer; enough people stop by this blog from all over that it is possible.

What you need is life, life that no cancer can take away. There is only one way to find life, one source of life, and that source is Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him.

Learn how to find that life in Jesus, and come to Him. Because whether cancer lies in your future or not, death is a certainty. Only a fool faces death unprepared.

Don't be that fool.


Aric said...

Thank you for sharing. I especially liked how you ended - with a reminder of life! The gospel is truly the most precious thing. Happy Thanksgiving.

SandMan said...

Amen and amen!

The only redeemable quality I can think of for cancer is that it makes me long for Heaven all the more.

Hope that you and your family have a truly enjoyable Thanksgiving.

LeeC said...


CR said...

DJP:And He can damn cancer there, too.


Family Blogs said...

Great post Dan. My Dad died of bone cancer too (5 years ago), and 'damned' is absolutely suitable.


DJP said...

I'm so sorry. My sympathies.

Colloquist said...

Both of my grandfathers, my father, my only male cousin, and my father-in-law. Damned cancer. Three of the five, I am certain, knew Christ, and therefore have received the ultimate healing. My husband and I profoundly miss the influence these godly men would have had, yet know that God has His purposes for bringing them home so early. I can't wait to introduce my dad to his grandkids.

But yes. DAMN cancer.

Solameanie said...

Thanks, Dan. Good word.

I lost a beloved uncle to cancer this summer. My fishing buddy of many years. It was like losing my father all over again.

rwt said...

My wife has cancer now. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; she had surgery and chemotherapy. We just learned about a month ago that her cancer has returned. She had surgery last week and she will require another round of chemotherapy. Not very pleasant.

However, we have seen the hand of God in what has happened. Many have prayed for her and her second surgery was far better than what the doctors said would happen. They were surprised. She was able to be a witness to them of God's power.

She also was able to share Christ with her nurses; one even asked for more information about the gospel. Paul said, "I endure all things for the sake of the elect." Perhaps God used this illness to introduce someone to Christ.

We don't know why these things happen, but we know God has good purposes. Cancer is one of His tools to accomplish His will.

Last week, I read a commentary on the Last Supper. In it I saw something I hadn't considered before. Jesus gave thanks for the bread as He said, "This is my body which is broken for you." And He gave thanks for the cup as He said, "This is my blood which is shed for you." He was thankful to God knowing what sin was about to do to Him.

What He did for us on account of our sin saves us from the ultimate suffering of damnation that we rightly deserve and I think it helps put our own suffering into perspective.

Stefan Ewing said...

I agree with you Dan: cancer is exhibit number 1 in the curse of the Fall.

We just prayed for the cancer ministry in our church this very morning.

Not only does it ravage its victims (and "victim" is the right word) physically, but of course, also psychologically, and spiritually as well in their walk with God, as they try to come to terms with why this is happening and its ramifications.

It touches all of us, too. Is there anyone who doesn't know someone who has cancer or (prayerfully) has had it in the past?

Lord Jesus, come quickly!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

My husband, Kerry, would tell you that during his college years he somewhat neglected his faith. After graduating, he prayed that God would "get his attention."

Shortly after that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.


When I met him he was in the throes of his chemo and radiation. He had no hair on the back half of his head and weighed about 140.

He joined a church. Mine! And a Bible Study.

And he got better. :0)

I'm not sure if either of us could say that we're thankful for the damnable cancer, but we're very thankful for what God brought about because of it!

In fact, awhile after we got married, and he'd been cancer-free for a few years, the doc removed his Port-a-Cath.

We made it into a Christmas tree ornament and I'm thankful every time I see it on the tree.


DJP said...

Thanks, Becky; very true.

Your thoughts lead me to another.

Most anyone would embrace the idea of a pain-free, disease-free environment. Then you say, "And Jesus is the center of it all," and eyes probably glaze over. They might say, "Yeah, well... whatever."

To which I say that that whole notion, that Heaven could be Heaven without Jesus in the middle of it, is what caused the misery we live in right now.

Take that attitude to Heaven, and Heaven couldn't be Heaven anymore.

Aaron said...

All of your stories really bring a tear to my eye. God Bless you guys!

RWT: I'm going to pray for you right now and really try to remember you in regular prayer. It would be helpful if we could know your name and perhaps add you to our facebook accounts.

rwt said...

Sir Aaron: I updated my blogger identity so you can see that information. While I have a Facebook account, I rarely use it. Thanks for your prayers. Please also pray that we will see people come to know Christ through this experience. Just this week, a woman whom I know confided that her husband has cancer. She is so disturbed that she can hardly talk about it. We plan to share the gospel with her in the next few days.

Anonymous said...

I have less experience than many, but I am thankful for cancer in one instance anyways.

My uncle, a hardened, bitter and unkind man (at least to his wife), would have nothing to do with God.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer and given 3 months to live. 3 years later he caved, can repented, 8 days before facing judgement.
I saw him about 4 or 5 days before he died, emaciated and week. He looked terrible, but I was glad to see him.

So...that's a pretty big qualifier for this one time.

Still, I hate cancer. I'm just glad God uses whatever he wants to get his will done.

Susan said...

I lost one of my elementary school friends two years ago to two different strains of acute leukemia that simultaneous ravaged her. It took only about three months (or even less) for the leukemia to claim her life. In the initial stages of her illness I had tried to share the gospel with her, and she came so close--but when I told her that she needed to stop believing in her Buddha because there is only one true God, she hesitated and stopped short of trusting in Christ. Soon after that, my dad became seriously ill (not cancer), and I was running around taking care of him, so I didn't have time to visit my friend again. The day my dad was due for surgery, I received news that my friend had passed away. I don't know if she finally did believe--from what I was told, it didn't sound like she did, but one really never knows.

So, yes--damn cancer, but most of all, damn unbelief.

Anonymous said...

I second my cousin, Rabbit. Her male cousin was my brother. Taken by damned colon cancer in 1989. Left a wife and a 2 year old son.

DJP said...

Oh goodness, that's rough. So sorry, both of you.