Children, Cancer, and Christianity

June 11, 2015

Today, I told my five year old daughter that my uncle died of cancer and we would be attending the funeral tomorrow. She knew Marv and got to see him just a few weeks ago when we visited Wisconsin. Though he was a tough, strong, brave man, you could tell he was nearing his final days. It was so hard to see him like that.

He died last week and I have avoided telling Kayla that he was gone. It is the first person that she knew personally who died and I was still struggling with my own emotions. How do I tell a five year old such tragic news with grace and compassion?

Our conversation went like this, in the car on the way to the doctor’s office:

Me: “Kayla, I have to tell you something. Remember Uncle Marv, who we saw a few weeks ago? He died the other day.”

Kayla: (gasp, big eyes) “Oh no!”

Me: “Yes, I’m really sad about it. He went to heaven to see God. His funeral is tomorrow.”

Kayla, very earnestly: “We should have prayed more for him!”

How do you respond to that? I sat there quietly, with tears welling up in my eyes, because I too had been thinking something similar. What if I had prayed with more faith? What if more people would have prayed? What if I truly had believed more strongly that he would be healed?

We know that it doesn’t make sense. We know that the “what ifs” are not worth thinking about. God heals, sometimes miraculously! Just yesterday, I watched a beautiful video of a NCU professor’s wife, Jane Grenell, and her healing from stage-four skin cancer. She had a death sentence and she walked away from it. Our God is a healer and he is ALIVE!

And yet.

Yet, he doesn’t always heal. People die. People suffer. And what I will teach my daughter is that the enemy is the one who steals life and kills innocents and destroys health. We have a very real enemy. God did not kill Marv or take him, the enemy of our soul did.   But God is the one who will comfort my aunt as she sleeps in a too-quiet house. God is the one who will whisper peaceful reassurance to his kids and grandkids who miss him. God is the one who Marv saw when he took his last breath and his heart stopped beating. God is the healer. God is our peace. God is our comfort. God is in control. And He came that we may have abundant LIFE.

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