Dan and I first met one another in a Sunday school class ten years ago. We had both been through painful divorces, so starting over was a bit scary. Still, it wasn’t long before we knew that we were meant to marry. It was a whirlwind romance! All too soon, we would find out that even the best of marriages can be invaded by fear and guilt, especially when you are facing cancer. This is a story I’ve shared before. It bears repeating because fear and guilt are things that most people struggle with, including those of great faith.
Our friend, Rick
Back in 2009, The bus company that Dan worked for offered health insurance to its employees, but the policy premiums were too expensive for any of them to afford. Like Dan, his friend and co-worker, Rick, didn’t have health insurance. Rick began to have headaches that wouldn’t go away, and soon developed a strange lump on his sternum. When he finally qualified for a government health insurance policy in early 2009, he went to the doctor. But by then, it was too late. He had stage IV melanoma. He died just three months later.
Dan and I were planning our wedding,
In the midst of the joyous plans, the fear that Dan would one day get cancer, overwhelmed me. What if I lost him? I couldn’t handle the thought of it. I had never in my life experienced a love like ours. What if it was too good to be true? What if he died as Rick did? After all, Dan didn’t have insurance, either. I chalked it up to having just watched what Rick went through. Still, one day as I was vacuuming my living room floor and thinking about our future together, I began to have a panic attack.
Christians aren’t supposed to panic.
Christians aren’t supposed to have anxiety. Right? I had always been told that Christians aren’t even supposed to fear. After all, it says, “Do not fear,” over and over again in the Bible. In fact, it’s said that it appears 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year. Knowing this only compounded the problem. I now felt both fear and guilt.
But, I was afraid. I did have anxiety. I was panicking.
Thankfully, I’d fallen in love with an amazing man. When I called him at work, he stopped everything and prayed for me over the phone. He prayed that God would calm my nerves and soothe my heart and give me peace where there had been panic. This was a man worth marrying. so for a time, I put aside my fear and guilt.
We married that fall in our church.
Each of us brought three children to the family. Dan’s were grown and living on their own, and mine were still very young. My daughters quickly thought of Dan as their dad and after we had been married for two years he adopted them, legally.
Our daughter Samantha was so small when we married. She was immediately attached to Dan, thanking God every night for giving her such a wonderful daddy. Her only question was why God had taken so long to bring him to us. She was also very scared that she would lose him. Her biological father left. While she didn’t understand how that could happen, she knew that it was possible to lose a parent and that it could happen again.
She would frequently quiz us about what would happen if we ever had a fight. We assured her that in a good marriage, even if you disagree, you don’t fight. There is a big difference between the two. As time went on, she found out that this was true, and she became more assured in the steadfast love of her dad. She knew that she would always have him.
Three years later, doctors diagnosed Dan with lung cancer.
Lung cancer? How could he have lung cancer? He was healthy. He’d never smoked. I had no idea that 15% of people who get lung cancer have never smoked, and there are many more people who haven’t smoked in years, even decades. Still, it didn’t make sense.
I remembered how afraid I was before we got married. Did my fear, bring this upon my husband and our family? Over the years I reprimanded by people in the church. “Don’t say that [whatever my concern was] you’re bringing a curse upon yourself.” These memories played through my mind like a movie. This is rooted in theology often termed “name it and claim it.” More recently, people have begun to term this, “manifesting.”
This fear and guilt formula is a Christian form of Karma
While I didn’t really ascribe to that particular theology, I had heard it enough times to feel guilty. After all, I’d been so afraid of the very thing that was now happening. Is that what brought this about? As irrational as it was, guilt plagued me for quite some time during my husband’s diagnosis process.
Does God really look at our fear and guilt like that?
Does God wait for one of His children to name their fear, just to visit it upon them? That would be like my child saying she’s afraid of snakes, only to have me put a rattlesnake in her bed. Or, me knowing she’s afraid of spiders, and putting her in a room full of Black Widows. That may sound extreme, but it’s no more so than cancer. If God is a better parent than I am (and surely He is), then He doesn’t work that way.
Saint Luke makes this same observation in his gospel.
“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13 KJV)
I think it’s true that we do need to watch the things that we say. The words we use are indicative of the condition of our heart. And, the things that we say affect those around us.
“With the tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)
We can do great damage without words.
When we speak to our children we can build them up or tear them down. When we speak to our spouse we can build them up here them down. This is why we speak life rather than death.
Fear and guilt are both experiences (whether rational or not). When we feel fear, we need God’s loving help, as well as understanding and support from family and friends. So, did the fear I felt, all those years ago cause my husband’s cancer? No, I was simply a woman in love. Love makes us feel vulnerable,
Parents worry about their children. That’s why we take precautions to protect them. Those worries don’t cause scraped knees and hurts that come even later in life as the children grow older and go out into this broken world. In fact, when God or His messengers said, “Do not be afraid,” in the Bible, they were assurances, not reprimands. It is time to disentangle the fear and guilt that people often associate with cancer.
Perhaps, all those years ago, God had been speaking to my heart through my fear, to let me know what I would one day deal with? Was He allowing me to prepare? Did he want to see my reaction to such a thought? Was He seeing if I could handle it?
I don’t know. But I do know that my husband’s cancer wasn’t a reaction on God’s part to my fear. My Father in Heaven is better than that.
What Are YOUR Thoughts?
Have you experienced fear and guilt associated with a cancer diagnosis? How did it affect your faith? I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker