The Problem of God, Evil, Cancer and My Nurse

It is just over nine years ago now that I was laid up in my hospital bed at OHSU in Portland, OR; I was being treated for an incurable, rare, and highly aggressive cancer known as Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor sarcoma (DSRCT). The prognosis of this particular cancer is almost always imminent death (within two years of being diagnosed); there is no actual protocol or treatment for this cancer, so they often use a closely related protocol that is used for Ewing’s sarcoma. I was enduring this treatment with hopes of debulking my tumor (and lymph node) enough to make my tumor operable. It was in the early stages of this treatment that I was assigned a young nurse who would administer my chemo-cocktail every now and cycle. She was an upbeat person, and took special care of me. She noticed that I had my Bible next to my bed, and that I was often reading it; she said she believed in ‘the power of positive thinking,’ and that she encouraged patients to find that positivity from whatever source they could. This was dissatisfying to me, and my wife (who sat with me through it all). So, I told her I wasn’t attempting to wish myself better, but that I was entrusting myself to the living God who had risen in Jesus Christ for me and the world. She said she had problems with believing in a God who would allow someone like me, and so many of her other patients in the cancer ward, to suffer the ravages of cancer that she was surrounded by each and every day. She asked me how I and my wife could continue to believe in a God who ostensibly has the power to heal people, or not allow such sicknesses at all, and then doesn’t in fact heal or prevent such things. My response was that He already has come and healed the world from it all, even from death. That we simply must walk by faith rather than sight in the current moment, and know that God is drawing people to Himself in the midst of all the pain and suffering that WE have brought upon the world through our choice to go our way rather than God’s (as first initiated by our parents Adam and Eve). I told her that even though God didn’t cause all the sin and suffering in the world, but that we did; I told her that because He is a gracious and loving God, He freely chose to enter into that world for us, assume our humanity, and take all of that pain and evil with Him to the cross. I told her that He killed all of that evil and heinousness, and that the capstone of that is that He didn’t stay dead but that He rose again. That He ascended to the right hand of the Father, and from thence He always lives to make intercession for all those who will inherit eternal life. I told her that this is how I continued to believe in this God; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. She took it all in, and we didn’t see her again tell another two cycles later. Next time I saw her I asked her if she had considered what we had talked about. She said she did, and that she could now believe in this God, and in fact did.

Some philosophers and theologians speak of Theodicy (the supposed problem of God and evil). But there is no problem, not for God. The problem is from our below perspective, and our false expectations for God to operate per our terms that we project upon the concept of God we think ought to be rather than actually is. God doesn’t answer to our questions. Instead He presents us with the questions that we ought to ask of Him, and in those questions He has provided the answer He has decided for us in Christ. We walk by faith not sight when we allow God to be the all in all; when we submit to His No to our sin, and then His Yes to our justification in and through the accomplishment of that through the assumed flesh of Jesus Christ for us. At the end of the day this is the reality that will prevail; the glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

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