I mentioned about this time last year that my Mum was not well. Well, she’s been on chemo pretty much since then and, despite the side effects of the treatment, she’s been doing pretty well. However, in around November she started getting a bit unsteady on her feet. We initially thought it was another side-effect of the chemo, however the symptoms didn’t stop – so last week, she went for an MRI scan. Apparently, the first place lung cancer goes is the brain, so the oncologist was a bit concerned.
We hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t be the case… however, she got the results back on Monday. The cancer has indeed spread – she has secondary tumours in her brain. She will need radiotherapy in order to treat; unfortunately due to the tumours being spread out they won’t be able to target it. The treatment should begin in the next couple of weeks.
It’s been a bit of a shock, to be honest – although I guess it’s always been on the cards, since she responded so well to the chemo (the original lung tumour disappeared) I didn’t really believe it was going to be the case. Obviously the outlook is not good at this stage, although of course we need to remain hopeful!
One thing which I mentioned at the time which I still feel now is the place of God in all this. I certainly feel a lot more calm about it than by rights I should do. The past few months have provided an opportunity to reflect on the role of suffering from a personal perspective, and my opinion hasn’t changed.
- There is something wrong with creation. My Mum’s illness is not something which is good, right and natural. It’s an alien intrusion into this world. Right from Genesis 3, creation has been “subjected to frustration” (as Paul puts it in Romans 8:20). The world is not as it should be, and death and suffering are part of that. We rightly weep at these things, for they are not part of God’s original good creation.
- That said, God has promised to renew creation. All those who believe and trust in Him will be renewed. Revelation 21:4 says, “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Paul says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
- God has proven this ultimately through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The ‘firstfruits’ – he has risen from the dead, and in turn at his return those who believe in Him will rise also like him.
- In the meantime, until that day, we know that suffering is not in vain. Paul says, again in Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Although it’s hard to see at the moment, God has a purpose – there is no purposeless suffering. And it’s a great comfort to know, whether Mum dies in 1 year or 100, it will not be the end. This life is merely the beginning.
Frankly I don’t know what I would do without faith at the moment. If suffering was ultimately meaningless and death the final curtain call, I think I’d be beside myself. As it happens, I can trust in my heavenly Father, the trustworthy creator and redeemer.