PASTOR'S PEN: Cancer, mortality and faith that sustains

When Bill told me the news last month, it was stunning. I wasn’t prepared to hear that my good friend had been diagnosed with cancer.

All of us have been impacted by cancer, some more than others. I lost my sister, Diane, to lung cancer a few years ago. Over the course of my years serving as a pastor, I’ve seen the devastating impact of various forms of cancer as people I’ve known and cared about have lost loved ones — or as church members themselves afflicted with cancer have passed away.

Bill, who lost his wife, Sue, to cancer several years ago, was taken completely by surprise. He had some other health issues at age 65, including diabetes, but he never suspected cancer.

The doctor did a routine examination of Bill’s colon and discovered a tumor. A subsequent biopsy confirmed the grim news.

The good news is that it looks like it’s early enough for treatment, thankfully. But there is still some uncertainty. Bill has an appointment next week and he’ll learn more about where he stands at that time.

This column is not inspired by Bill’s cancer, however; it is inspired rather by my friend’s reaction to it.

I’ve known Bill for about 10 years or so and we’ve become pretty close. The first time I ever met him was in the home of a mutual friend near Lake City. We hit it off right away. In the course of our discussion, I asked Bill about church and about faith in God.

He came from a pretty rough background that included being part of a motorcycle gang as a younger man, but he was surprisingly open to the Lord. He spoke of a number of times when he should have died and it seemed that God had spared his life.

He had survived a near-fatal head trauma when he was 3. He had survived a head-on car accident in Cadillac very early one morning that took the lives of the two people in the other vehicle. He had been shot at before. He had also been involved in two significant motorcycle accidents, either of which could have claimed his life.

But he had survived all of it, albeit with some fractures and damaged body parts to show for it. I told him that fateful day 10 years ago perhaps God had spared his life all those times just so that Bill would have the opportunity to find eternal salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Bill responded and we prayed together that very day, Bill confessing his belief in Jesus while asking the God of Heaven to forgive his sins and to adopt him into God’s family.

In the years since, it’s been a great blessing to me personally to see Bill become involved in church and to slowly grow in his faith. He hasn’t been perfect by any means — who of us is? — but I know his faith is genuine.

And I discovered last month just how genuine.

When Bill told me about his diagnosis of cancer, he did so without any sense of fret or worry. None in the least. Why? Because Bill is ready to meet his Savior and go home.

“If God wants to spare my life, that’s OK, but if not, that’s OK, too,” he said. “I’m ready to leave this world and be up there where it’s so much better.”

My friend Bill has made his peace with the Lord. He knows his sins have been forgiven. He knows that Jesus the living Son of God has granted him eternal life, just as the Word of God promises.

Bill’s current address is a senior apartment complex in Manton. It pales in comparison to his future address, though. If this cancer turns out to be the vehicle God chooses to transport Bill to his eternal home, it’s all right with Bill.

If not, then Bill understands the journey is only being delayed.