Why won’t God just take this away?


My big sister just got a haircut.   Big news, I know.  “Stop the presses,” right?  Really though, it is kind of big news.  She cut off all of her hair (think Duran Duran circa 1981) and bleached it so that she could dye it.  She dyed it pink because she wanted to do something dramatic before it all falls out.  It’s all going to start falling out any day now since she just had her first round of chemotherapy this past Friday.

See, for the past few months my oldest sister has been walking down the path of a breast cancer patient.  Since her diagnosis she has been to doctors, getting scans, having surgeries, and now she’s in the treatment phase.  She’s relatively young, in good health, and we have absolutely no family history of cancer, much less breast cancer.  This was completely out of the blue.  She has three young daughters whom she home schools, a husband who has faithfully been by her side every step of the process (even when he has to take off work to make it to a doctor’s appointment with her), and, well, a life.  She’s a busy woman, but her cancer doesn’t seem to care.  Cancer has a distinct way of messing with your plans and flipping your life on its head.

But it’s not just cancer that makes people’s lives topsy turvy and my sister is not the only one who is fighting a battle against difficult circumstances. Other handicaps and illnesses do their fair share to disturb life plans and things like wayward children, financial difficulties, unemployment, and marital struggles heap sorrow after sorrow on an already weary heart.  In a world where life often seems to be one trying circumstance after another it is no wonder that so many people are praying for peace in their lives and begging God to lighten their loads.

I heard a story once about an art competition where artists were given the task of depicting “Peace”.  There were dozens of entries that soothed the soul just to look at them.  There were a number that showed rolling green hills dotted with a few sheep or horses.  There were many showing babbling brooks or rushing rivers and almost all of them were set against the background of a bright blue and partly cloudy sky.  One had a young girl sitting in a field of flowers while another had a boy snoozing under the shade of a large oak tree.  There was a beautiful quietness and calmness that radiated out of these paintings.  But it was not any of these that won the award for having the most peaceful scene.

The winner showed a dark, angry sea against a dark, ominous sky.  The waves swirled with no real sense of direction and were beating heavily against the large rocks on the seashore.  At the top of a rocky cliff there were trees being bent and broken by the gale-force winds and lightning streaked across the black sky.  There was an overwhelming cold and frightful feeling to this painting.  But in a deep crag in the rocks there was a small bird settling in for the evening.  It was nestled deep enough in the rocks that it had no fear of the wind and high enough that the waves were not a concern.  There the bird sat in the side of that rock face waiting out the storm.

What an impacting picture of peace!  As much as we desire the circumstances of our lives to be quiet and serene with green valleys and babbling brooks, often the fiercest storms reveal our true security in the Lord.  It is in the hardest times that we are provided the opportunity to cling to the rock and know that we are safe.  When our lives seem to be completely restless and overwhelming, that is when God grants us His deepest peace.

As I watch my sister go through the difficulties of surgeries and treatments and I consider how this cancer has affected her life, her husband’s life, and the lives of my precious nieces it makes me ask God, “why?”  Or actually, I probably ask more often, “why not?” Why won’t God just take this cancer away?  Why didn’t He keep it from spreading to the lymph nodes?  Why doesn’t He make this whole process easier so my sister’s family doesn’t have to do acrobatics to accommodate this cancer?  The funny thing is that I have never heard my sister ask these questions.  I’m sure she has pondered them in her own private times with the Lord, but she has come to a very sincere place where she is no longer seeking a change in her circumstances and a calming of her storm.  Instead she is resting in the safety of Christ.  Here are some of her words she wrote to remind herself of the security she finds in the Lord.

“By the grace of God you are being carried forward. By His granting of peace you are rising above the pull of your flesh that says you ought to be a pile of mush by now. Don’t listen to your flesh, don’t listen to the voices around you saying you’re insane to not be upset over these things. Don’t listen to your pride that thinks you’re holding yourself together on your own power. It is God and GOD ONLY who is doing this.”

That is peace that passes understanding.  May we all find such quiet stillness in the cleft of the Rock as the storms in our lives rage around us.  May we settle in and rest until morning.

You will keep in perfect peace

him whose mind is steadfast,

because he trust in you.

Trust in the LORD forever,

for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

~Isaiah 26:3-4

-Abby Hoff

5 Responses to “Why won’t God just take this away?”

  1. 1 Cheri

    I too am a breast cancer survivor. I received my diagnosis in June 2009. Three surgeries, 6 rounds of chemo and 38 radiation treatments, I am on the upside of the journey. I didn’t ask the question “Why” but always said that it was just my turn to have something that God allowed. That led to the question, “why not me?” I faced my stage 2a breast cancer head on, giving all the glory to God in the small victories. I grew stronger in learning to abide in the Lord as I was forced into being more solitary than I preferred and sometimes too wiped out to even pray. God was THERE in the hole with me and I felt His presence every day! I know that the pain in the journey has taught me to trust Him more and I have learned how all-sufficient His grace is for me! He has the bigger picture for my life; He is the Sovereign God. Through everything, He is on His Throne! And if cancer returns and my life comes to an end, He is STILL on His Throne!! God is sooo good!! And as John Piper says, “don’t waste your cancer.” God has a plan!!

  2. 2 Robin

    Thankyou so much for the story..I too am going through battles and storms right now..Your story is an inspiration to me….sometimes we tend to focus on the bad and not the good that is all around us..My husband is an alcoholic and i almost lost him a couple of months ago..Since then he has found peace with God and I also have. so in the midst of all this turmoil with alcohol and the battles..something good became of this stuggle..We both give our lives to Jesus Christ…God bless you and your family and may you find peace within the rock also….

  3. 3 Becca

    Beautiful. It’s amazing to me how people can remain so strong while they are ill, and yet feel that peace and those of us watching them get sick is so difficult. I saw my Dad through 3 rounds of chemo for each time cancer was found in his bladder. I watched him atrophy and nearly die with MRSA 2 times. And then through 2 strokes. While he pushes forward, headed to the bathroom, relying heavily on his walker, I want to sob, he just says “I’m ok, just out of breath” when he really has congestive heart failure. Thank you for sharing your sister’s grace and beauty through your writing. I will keep this story with me for a long time and say my prayers every time I think of it.

  4. 4 Sue

    My mother pasted away in March 2009, she to battled with cancer. In 2004, she had a stroke that she never recovered from. I pretty much took care of her on my own. I am the youngest of seven children. Everyday I cried and asked god why. When the cancer came she begged me to let her die. I didn’t want to lose her and I lost faith. Why would god let her suffer. Why won’t he answer my prayers and ease the pain. She was a single mom Of seven kids who struggled to support us. I am needing that help now to let god back into my life and open the door for my children to learn about him as well. My boyfriend off and on for the last year is a non believer. His father pasted away from cancer just 7 months after my mother. It has been hard for both of us but harder for him. I ask him where do you believe your father is?? But I don’t get an answer. I tell him that I know my mom is with my brother who pasted away from cancer 13years ago and the rest of my family in heaven looking down on me and my children daily watching over us. I know mom is healthy and happy and is walking on her own. I know that one day I will join her again. But first I need to surrender to Jesus Christ and for some reason I am fighting it.

  5. 5 sarina

    thank you for sharing that…

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