Cancer is bad, and there are many other bad things in the world.
So, if God is good and God is powerful, why does God allow bad things to happen?
There is no final, easy answer to that question, but there are answers. The basic answer is that God made a world with many possibilities for growth and change.
God let the world be free to develop. God built into the world a lot of freedom for different things to happen.
God took a risk that bad things could happen by accepting some limits on God’s own freedom in order to have a dynamic, creative world.
The world is not a wind-up clock that only does one thing. It is not even a computer with efficient programs. It is a big, complicated, constantly changing, sometimes messy world.
Within that world God works for good, but God does not micromanage everything that happens in the world.
Take the human body, for example. It is human, and humans have the freedom to do many things.
We can pollute the environment. We can eat too much of the wrong things. We can neglect our health. We can take in harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
There is a lot of cancer that is caused by our actions. In the case of prostate cancer, there is reason to believe that diet is one factor involved.
Populations that eat more red meat, for instance, have more prostate cancer. That is not the only cause, but it may be one cause.
The causes of cancer are numerous and hard to pin down.
Among the many causes of cancer are genetic factors. Our bodies work from instructions built into our genes, and sometimes genes go wrong. They get broken or damaged, or they spontaneously go in the wrong direction.
That’s bad, but it may well be the area where cures for cancer will be found. Some have already been found.
By the way, a good thing that happens along with the bad is medical science. Tremendous progress has been made and is being made in diagnosis and treatment. Researchers and clinicians devote their lives to fighting this disease.
There are also organizations and agencies that offer help. The rise of hospice care has brought comfort and help to cancer patients. Out of the bad experience of cancer can come the wonderful experience of people supporting each other.
So, God made a world in which bad things can happen, but God works in the world and even takes on the risk and the suffering that freedom brings.
The Bible also indicates that things have gone wrong in the good world God made.
Some think that this is the result of human sin, humanity’s fall from innocence, affecting the whole creation, and God is working in the world to make things right. Not only human beings, but also the whole creation needs redemption.
In Jesus, we learn that God suffers, and when we suffer, God suffers with us. This means that our suffering has meaning.
It does not separate us from God. It does not destroy our nature as God’s beloved children, terrible though it may sometimes be.
How does this help me as one who is dealing with cancer?
Will God help me? How should I pray for myself and for others? Can I find the strength needed for myself and for my family?
How do I deal with the losses that come with sickness? Can I face the possibility of dying with faith, courage and hope?
I have already said that I believe God loves me and is with me. I also believe God helps me and that I can pray for this help.
Some Christians believe that God will remove our sickness if we just have strong enough faith. I do not accept this idea. The Bible does not support it.
I do believe God works for our good and that we can ask God to help us.
Sometimes this help comes in the form of a cure, often it does not. God does not usually step in and overturn physical processes.
I wouldn’t rule it out. Occasionally, unexplained cures or remissions happen, but I don’t expect God to take away my prostate cancer.
I believe that there are some things God would want to have happen and my prayers can help to make those things happen.
I pray that God will make the treatments effective and that God will guide the doctors who are working to help me.
I pray that God will give me strength to keep on and that God will ease any pain I may experience. I pray that God will strengthen my faith and support my family.
I pray that God will give me more days and years of active life. And I pray that when my life comes to an end, I will rest secure in the surrounding presence of God.
As for death, I do not fear it.
I am apprehensive about the possibility of pain at the end, but that is part of accepting the gift of life. I trust God, and I believe that when my present life ends, I will be in complete relationship with God and live forever.
I do not hold on to any specific picture of what happens after death. The Bible gives some suggestions, but they are very symbolic and not literal. It is beyond my knowledge, and that’s all right.
I trust God, who made me and loves me and who will hold me in divine love forever.
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series. Part one is available here. It was written in July 2020 by David George (1938-2021) and was submitted to Good Faith Media by his family. This series is a shortened version of George’s longer essay approved by his family, which is being published now during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
George (1938-2021) served as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church of Nashville, for 30 years, until his retirement in 2006, when he was named Pastor Emeritus. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard Payne University and the Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.