This is an outstanding testimony from Tony Snow, President Bush’s Press Secretary, and his fight with cancer. Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow announced that he had colon cancer in 2005. Following surgery and chemo-therapy, Snow joined the Bush Administration in April 2006 as press secretary. Unfortunately, on March 23, 2007, Snow, 51, a husband and father of three, announced the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen,- leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy. Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 30, but has resigned since, “for economic reasons,” and to pursue ” other interests.”
It needs little introduction; it speaks for itself:
“Blessings arrive in unexpected packages, – in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases – and there are millions in America today – find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God’s will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence “What It All Means,” Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations
The first is that we shouldn’t spend too much time trying to answer the “why” questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can’t someone else get sick? We can’t answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.
I don’t know why I have cancer, and I don’t much care. It is what it is, a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.
But despite this, – or because of it, – God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don’t know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.
Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.
To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life,- and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many non believing hearts – an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live fully, richly, exuberantly – no matter how their days may be numbered.
Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease,- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, – but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance; and comprehension – and yet don’t. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.
‘You Have Been Called’. Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet, a loved one holds your hand at the side. “It’s cancer,” the healer announces.
The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. “Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler.” But another voice whispers: “You have been called.” Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter,- and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our “normal time.”
There’s another kind of response, although usually short-lived an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.
The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing through the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes ( Spain ), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.
There’s nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue, – for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.
Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.
We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us, that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God’s love for others. Sickness gets us part way there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two peoples’ worries and fears.
‘Learning How to Live’. Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God’s arms, not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love.
I sat by my best friend’s bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was an humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. “I’m going to try to beat [this cancer],” he told me several months before he died. “But if I don’t, I’ll see you on the other side.”
His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn’t promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity, – filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, – and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.
Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don’t matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?
When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up, – to speak of us!
This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.
What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don’t know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God’s hand.”
They say there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes. Some people evade their taxes, but no one evades death. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, this world has known death. Romans 5:12 tells us “Wherefore, as by one man (Adam), sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.” The same chapter goes on to show us that as one man, Adam, brought death to the world; so one Man, Jesus, through His death and resurrection, has brought life to those who trust Him.
When do we die?
We were born dead in sin. Every human being born into this world is born spiritually dead as a result of the curse of sin we inherit from our father Adam. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes our plight as sinners; spiritually dead and under the power and influence of Satan. Eventually we die physically just as our first father died physically.
Death is our enemy.
Dress is up, if you will, and refer to it as “a normal next step of life.” Death is still not a pretty sight. For many, death is a painful, lingering experience. Thank God for the dear hospice people who so lovingly help us and help our dying loved ones pass through the experience of physical death. We vainly try to mask death as a friend, but Paul describes death as our enemy in I Corinthians 15:26.
Death is like a swarm of killer bees–without stingers.
Because of Jesus’ bodily resurrection; Paul in I Cor. 15:55-56 explains to us that death has been swallowed up in victory. For the Christian, death is a victorious Home-Going! For the Christian death is likened to being chased by a swarm of killer bees who’s only terror is the buzzing sound they make as they surround us. Christ has removed the stingers.
Satan thinks he has scored a victory when we Christians experience death and are buried in the grave, but because of Christ’s resurrection, our resurrection is guaranteed and so Paul mocks the grave with the words, “O grave, where is thy victory?”
When do we receive eternal life?
For the Christian, eternal life begins the moment we are born again through faith in Christ. For the Christian, death is like falling asleep in this world and instantly waking up in the presence of Christ. In II Corinthians 5:1-5 Paul beautifully describes death for the Christian as the dissolving of his old body and the putting on of new glorified body. He clearly states that to be absent from our dead physical body is to be present with the Lord. The body sleeps until Christ returns to this earth to call us from our grave. The soul never sleeps. The unsaved soul goes immediately to hell to await the final judgement when his body is resurrected from the grave to be reunited with his ever-living soul, to be cast into the Lake of Fire described in Revelation 20:11-15. David in Psalm 23 describes death for God’s children as a shadow and God promises to be with us as we pass through the “shadow of death.”
I thank God for saving me when I put my trust in Christ as a nine year old boy, and for the joy I have experienced for over sixty-five years walking with Him every day. Proverbs 4:18 describes it so beautifully. “But the path of the just is as a shining light that shineth more and more (brighter and brighter) unto the perfect day. I’m not walking towards the sunset, but towards the Sunrise. Come join me in that walk by trusting Christ as your Saviour and learning to know Him through His Word.