When I Was Diagnosed With Cancer:
My first friend came and expressed his shock by saying,
“I can’t believe that you have cancer.
I always thought you were so active and healthy.”
He left and I felt alienated and somehow very different.
My second friend came and brought me information
about different treatments being used for cancer. He said,
“Whatever you do, don’t take chemotherapy. It’s a poison!”
He left and I felt scared and confused.
My third friend came and tried to answer my “whys?”
with the statement,
“Perhaps God is disciplining you for some sin in your life?”
He left and I felt guilty.
My fourth friend came and told me,
“If your faith is just great enough God will heal you.”
He left and I felt my faith must be inadequate.
My fifth friend came and told me to remember that,
“All things work together for good.”
He left and I felt angry.
My sixth friend never came at all.
I felt sad and alone.
My seventh friend came and held my hand and said,
“I care, I’m here, I want to help you through this.”
He left and I felt LOVED!
This poem written by Linda Mae (Palmer) Richardson, Executive Assistant of Victory in the Valley, relates her experiences after her diagnosis of metastatic malignant melanoma. It also speaks to us about the issue of how to offer comfort to those who are hurting.
The apostle Paul knew first hand about suffering. He suffered abuse by enemies of Christ. Beating. Stoning. Imprisonment. He also suffered the sting of false accusations. And he suffered from some kind of physical “thorn in the flesh.”
He not only sought God’s comfort but offered comfort to those who also were in dire need of comfort. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, he speaks of comfort five times and affirms that our merciful Father is the “God of all comfort.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5)
The word “comfort” means to call to one’s side. To summon. To plead the cause of another. In a general sense, it refers to a helper, a succorer.
William Hendrikson commented on this passage saying, “Out of compassion flows God’s comforting love. God has tender love for those who are hurting and he comforts them in their hour of need. Whatever the hardships may be, God proves to be near to his saints and reassures them with his all-encompassing support.”
Jesus used the word to describe the Holy Spirit and his work. He is the intercessor that pleads our case in prayer before the throne of God. But the work of comfort is also assigned to those who are led by the Spirit. “Comfort one another” is a frequent exhortation in scripture.
We so desperately desire comfort. In times of sickness. Suffering. Rejection. Disappointment. Loss. Failure. Sin. And death. Believers ought to be people of compassion and offer a measure of comfort to those who are hurting. We are called to emulate God’s goodness. Grace. Mercy. And comfort.
Probably every reader has been touched by the dreaded news, “It’s cancer.” If not, personally, certainty you’ve had to deal with a family member or close friend who’s battling some form of this disease. When faced with this difficult challenge, we not only need the God of all comfort, but we need comforters.
Many of us have suffered the heart-rending agony of having a loved one snatched away in the prime of life. We know the grief and suffering. We’ve lived the hurt and the heartache. The brokenness. The loneliness. Though it may be years removed, there is still a hole in the heart. An emptiness. A gnawing, nagging pain. And we know the longing for comfort. And fondly remember those who stepped up to offer comfort during a tough time.
While flowers are fine, a card is nice and a meal is appreciated, there’s nothing like just being there. Our presence shows care, concern, and compassion.
Without God, the promise of the gospel, and the people of God, it’s difficult to imagine how one copes with such suffering.
However, someday God will completely heal our hurting heart. Someday He will replace the emptiness we often feel with fullness. Someday He will soothe the soul. Someday God will wipe away all tears.
Until that day, be God’s ambassador of comfort.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman