Everyday Talk about Cancer & Other Bad News

Parched earth

God placed our first parents, Adam and Eve, into a world that was good, very good. There was no disease, no human rebellion, the ground was receptive to crop growth. There was no air pollution. There were animals who submitted to the rule of God and man as they came before Adam to be named. There was no marital discord between the first couple. This was creation. This is what Adam and Eve rejected when they thought they had a better way to live than to follow God’s command. Sadly, this was also the choice that you and I and every other human would have made had we been in their place. In short, Adam and Eve paved the way for the Six O’Clock live, local, breaking news. By choosing self-determination over following God, bad news became a daily reality for man.

In spite of this reality, we continue to be surprised by bad news. Because of sin, our world is broken. The Bible tells us this again and again. The impact of sin is so great that even the creation itself groans with us at the bad news of sin. (Romans 8:18-25) So, it is important that our everyday talk about bad news is consistent with biblical reality. Bad news of every sort is part and parcel of a fallen world. Bad news should not be unexpected.

Talking about bad news is part of what Deuteronomy 6:4-7 is commanding us to do each day. We must explain to our children where bad news ultimately comes from. We must also tell our children that no matter how many advances are made in science and technology, there will always be bad news until Christ returns. There is good news to be sure. Jesus Christ has given us this hope. But the ultimate good news, the only good news that really matters, is based upon a hope that cannot be seen. This is because as Romans also teaches us, hope that can be seen is no hope at all. These realities must be part of our everyday talk.

Some bearers of bad news get our attention more quickly than others. When a doctor says I have bad news, we tend to pay special attention. On April 1, 2010, a neurologist told my wife Ruth, as we sat in his office, that he had very bad news for her. He pointed to a picture from an MRI that showed a large gray mass on left side of Ruth’s brain. He believed it was a tumor, but that we would need testing to determine how bad it was. As he said, it was bad news.

My wife is someone whose everyday talk and everyday thoughts have been centered on the loving sovereignty of God since she was a young child. She believed that not only was God in control of things, but that he was a good, loving, and gracious God. She believed that God’s goodness was something that was proven by the truth of Scripture, not by the content of one’s experience. So, from the first moment that we found out about this brain tumor her everyday talk reflected that reality. Because of this belief, we were not devastated by this bad news. We were blessed to be able to get in contact with Duke University and the doctors at their brain tumor center. From Duke we learned that Ruth’s tumor was a Glioblastoma Multiform (GBM), the most lethal of all brain tumors. We found out that GBM patients had a life expectancy of 14-16 months – very bad news.

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