Cancer, A Theology of Suffering, and Missional Living-Part 2

Recently, Miriam and I have been reading the Metaxas biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy together. Early in the book Metaxas writes about the death of Dietrich’s older brother Walter during World War I and the effect it had on the Bonhoeffer family. The legacy of faith passed on to Bonhoeffer by his godly mother, Paula, can be seen by her choice of Walter’s funeral hymn Was Gott tut, das ist Wohlgetan (What God Ordains is Always Good) by Samuel Rodigast. One stanza says this,

What God has done, it is well done. His will is always just. Whatever He will do to me, In Him I’ll ever place my trust.

As Miriam was reading these words an email arrived from my mother. A couple of weeks back I wrote about my mother’s ongoing battle with cancer and how her cancer has made her more missional. (You can read that first post here.) This second letter builds upon the first and further elaborates what God has been teaching her through her trial. Her words are eerily similar to the truth that Rodigast’s hymn proclaims. Below is the transcript; she’s granted me permission to share this.

Dear Eric and Miriam,

A year and a half ago I was beginning to sense an unsettling presence of discontentment in my spiritual life. While studying the life of King David I was totally awe struck at his GREAT FAITH and how God displayed His awesome POWER. I seriously searched my heart: Lord, I am afraid I have little faith! Although not consciously aware, wasn’t this in fact a prayer for trials. How will I ever know I have faith unless my faith is tested.

This is what I am learning: you can depend on the fact that God often sends trials in order for us to discover our gifts. His goal for me is not merely discovering them, but the real growth is understanding and experiencing the comforts of His divine grace in the midst of my Holy trial. I call this a Holy trial because my cancer is God’s perfect design for me. He designed this test/trial to suit me. Something had to challenge me to trust Him and so it is with certain assurance that the Lord will either deliver me quickly or He will sustain me through this trial for as long as He desires to test me. The supernatural confidence, patience, and perseverance He has given me PROVES the power of Divine Grace. “I have tried you in the furnace of affliction,” Isaiah 48:10. I can confidently say; let affliction come, God has chosen me. Sickness may intrude my life, but I have a remedy close at hand: God has chosen me. Whatever may come my way, I know: He has chosen me.

This is what I have learned: If it were not for experiencing the storms in life I would never know for sure that His work was true and strong. If the powerful winds never blew I would not know how firm and secure the Holy Spirit’s work. Therefore I choose to remain steadfast and immovable even in the midst of my difficulty. C.H. Spurgeon said, “I truly believe if one desires to glorify God, one has to be prepared to come to terms with the fact he will face many trials.”

Thank you Lord, may my momentary light affliction bring great honor to the gospel and be a testimony to your word. And so “great faith” will venture ahead. I choose to keep my eye continually focused on Him, to let my heart be full of Him and to let my lips speak of His great worth. He is infinitely worthy, infinitely good, and infinitely just. When I pillow my head at night I give thanks for what He is going to do and I rest in perfect peace, perfect joy, and unwavering faith because my hope and expectation is in Him. As my sovereign Lord awakens me morning by morning may I not leave His presence until I thank Him for His new and fresh mercies. “Great is your faithfulness” to me, Lamentations 3:21-23.

Growing in Him,


Mom, thanks for modeling a life of faith for the next generation. You are a living example of Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-5.

Rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Your hope will not put you to shame! May you know more of Christ today than yesterday. Love you Mom! Continue to live sent!

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