Ben has been the pastor of a little church in a small town for several years. Recently, he began thinking about a move back to his home state of Tennessee for a fresh start. But he was troubled about the decision. A move would uproot his wife and children—take them away from their home, neighborhood, friends, and school.
But it would also give him an opportunity to start something new. And that idea appealed to him. He wanted something fresh, somewhere else—a change. A pastorate in Tennessee sounded inviting. He prayed and thought about the possible move day and night.
Then one night he had to go to the hospital where the emergency room staff ran a scan. When the doctor came in, he said, “Ben, you have cancer.”
Ben’s world rocked with shock waves. I’m in the midst of a major decision about a move. How can this be? It didn’t seem real, but then the pain came. It was real.
I have cancer. I have to wait to meet with the oncologist. But I still need to prepare a sermon for Sunday. I’ll just stop thinking about a decision to leave, and all the cancer stuff, and prepare my sermon.
Ben opened his Bible to read John 15:1-5, the passage where Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.”10 Ben planned his sermon to address the problems of the people. This will help them get it together and handle their stress. I’m weary of the turmoil. They need to attach to Christ, to abide in Him and to follow Him. It would help us all if they would.
He scanned the page in his Bible: “We who are strong … bear with the weak … not to please ourselves … to build others up … for their endurance, encouragement … hope … a spirit of unity.”11
What’s this? This isn’t about the vine and branches. He took a quick look at the top of the page. I’m in Romans 15:1-5, not John. This is about me—about me and the church! I, the strong, ought to bear their burdens, not to please myself but to build them up, to present the Scriptures for their endurance and encouragement, for their hope and for a spirit of unity.
Ben bowed his head and thanked God for leading him straight to Scripture that he needed to read, for bringing His divine purpose back into His weary servant’s line of focus.
On Sunday, I need to tell my church about the cancer.
With his perspective realigned, Ben thought about how his congregation would respond to his news. They would pray for him and his family. He thanked God again. Motherly Miss Mae would bring him cookies every day, probably some soup too, or her specialty, chocolate pie. Little Katie with cerebral palsy would bring him hugs and dandelions.
The Sunday school teachers would help the children make construction paper cards, sing songs, and recite Bible verses. Tyler and James would check to see if repairs were needed at the parsonage; they would enlist the men’s group to help. And oh, they would be all about cleaning the garage, which he had begun but couldn’t finish now. Bryce and Melanie would bring him books to read, his favorite chips, and sun tea. Mr. Easley and Mr. Brock would offer to take care of Sunday and Wednesday services if needed. The Bible study groups would support him and his family.
They all would pray, pull together, and continue to present the message of Christ to others.
Lord, Ben prayed, thank You for reminding me of my purpose. Thank You for this little church of believers and for allowing me the privilege of leading them. Thank You, that they are no more perfect than I. Imperfect though we are, Lord, we are Your people. Thank You for Your love through them to me. I belong to You, Lord, and I belong here. Amen.
As we battle cancer, we may receive a reminder of our purpose, or we may discover a new one.
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It may seem strange to find or be reminded of our divinely appointed purpose in the face of serious illness, but God can use any circumstance for our growth. Have you ever had an experience like Ben’s? We’d love to hear from you.
by Venita McCart
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Venita McCart, founder of Faith Force Cancer Support Ministries – faithforcecancer.com, has connected with hundreds of patients since 2005 through group meetings, personal contacts, writing, and speaking. She develops support groups and materials to comfort and encourage cancer patients and their families. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.