Coping with Terminal Illness

Coping with terminal illness by facing five difficult questions

The bad news, it’s cancer

When cancer strikes, our kneejerk response is to ask God for a miracle. Naturally, we go to a phase of hopelessness, denial, anger, acceptance, and maybe back to denial. The truth is, cancer is the second leading cause of death linked to DNA. Many have to live or die with it.

The good news, recovery rate is improving

The cancer death rate dropped 27% in the last 25 Years, and five-year survival rates increased, credited to medical breakthroughs and technology.

In the Bible, King Hezekiah pleaded to God to extend his life, and God granted him 15 years more. Likewise, there are countless testimonies from Christians who continue to live miraculously with late-stage cancer; doctors could not explain.

Isaiah 38:5 
Go and say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.”

1. Am I ready to face God?

We have to face the fact that cancer eventually leads to death. Therefore, the question is not “why God,” but “when”? Death is an appointment with God; it’s never late or early.

Hebrews 9:27
It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.

As sinful enemies of God, we take nothing when we die, except a fearful expectation of God’s judgment. But with a repentant heart, by receiving and believing who Jesus is, God receives us as His children. He overlooks our ignorance because of Jesus’s sacrifice. (Acts 17:30)

Daniel 12:2
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

Death is an appointment with God; it’s never late or early.

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2. Are you asking for a miracle, or are you putting God in a box?

While we must believe and not doubt, many Christians put God in a box. The more important prayer is for “God’s will be done.” His will is always perfect, not ours.

As John Piper puts it, “You will waste your cancer if you do not believe God designed it for you,” and that’s not easy to take. However, if you claim to be God’s child, you must also humbly accept that His “perfect will” often comes with trials and discipline. (Hebrews 12:6)

Hebrews 12:7-8
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.

The more important prayer is for “God’s will be done.”

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3. Are you listening to God, or do you want God to just listen to you?

We often don’t “feel” God hears us, but feelings have nothing to do with it. The truth is, the LORD hears our faintest cry—He created our innermost being! However, our sinful and desperate hearts often fail to listen.

While God may speak to us in dreams or through the Bible, God also talks to us in pain. It is in difficulties God’s voice speaks the loudest. Even Jesus frequented “quiet places” to hear His father’s voice. Take time to be quiet; go to a quiet place, and wait upon the LORD.

Psalm 34:15
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry…

It is in difficulties God’s voice speaks the loudest.

How to talk with God.

4. Are your loved ones emotionally and spiritually ready?

Beverly Hills 90210 star Shannen Doherty has stage 4 cancer. “The unknown is the scariest part… but peace can be found; joy can be experienced,” she said.

In 2020, she recorded video messages to leave behind. What our loved ones want to hear are words of encouragement—not regrets; laughter—not tears; and a strong faith that trusts God’s will. And faith comes from Jesus!

Writing farewell letters is difficult, but you can turn these into heartful treasures and help remove bitter resentment should doubt and sorrow find your loved ones.

Hebrews 12:2
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of faith.

What our loved ones want to hear is a strong faith that trusts God’s will.

How to cope with the death of loved ones.

5. Have you thanked God for your cancer?

The Apostle Paul was the epitome of suffering and tragedy. Many tried to kill him; he was imprisoned, often hungry, and had “torn in the flesh.” He would rather die to be with Jesus. But instead, Paul embraced suffering with joy, and it began with a thankful heart.

Scriptures tell us to rejoice even in suffering, and to say “thank you” means we humbly accept God’s will. Only then can pain truly set you free.

The Bible tells us always to be ready (Ecc. 9:10). Instead of moping, ask God how to use the time He has given you. Remember, whatever sickness or pain you have, nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:31-39)

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ.

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