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Dr. John & Company Blog

Cancer, Comfort and the Cross

June 2, 2023

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had no sign of its presence. I was living symptom free, completely unaware of a growing invasion of malignant cells.  Were it not for a careful doctor and the clarity of medical tests, I would have continued my days, oblivious to the situation, until there was no straightforward remedy. The stealth of my symptoms would have led to an early death. By the kindness of God, prompt detection offered a remedial path of surgery. So here is the irony. Cancer had been painless for me, but the cure was not. I didn’t experience discomfort or fatigue until the surgeon did his best to fix me! Scalpel and sutures became tools of health and inflicted their own wounds. The remedy to my disease brought me pain. I walked gingerly at first, lest I jar my body with a stumble. The harmless occasions of sneezing or coughing became spasms of misery. The dog couldn’t understand why I deflected her in midair lest she jump onto my lap. I explained to her that I was recovering and therefore experiencing a bit of pain. She didn’t get it. Neither do a lot of people. There is no cure without a measure of pain.

I can think of no better demonstration of that maxim than the cross of Jesus. We live in a broken world filled with fragmented lives. Sin has battered and bruised us to the point of spiritual death. We may or may not feel the weight of damage done by our deeds. Some seem carefree and unconscious to the hurt of their sins. Symptoms of a dead spirit may remain hidden under pampered indulgent ways. They live a comfortable path to death. But if the soul’s cancer manifests without pain, the cure will not.

The redemption provided by Jesus required His submission, suffering and death. Jesus prayed that if it was possible, He wanted to avoid the pain. The Father said, “No.” Calvary’s cross was the means for healing of this world. The Father did not delight in the agony of His Son. He was not trying to inflict suffering for its own sake. My surgeon was not out to inflict incisions for sadistic sake. It was necessary to remove the cancer. The disease of our world is a sickness of soul – a cancer that required the extreme measures of death to cure it. Jesus was willing to pay the price. There was no restoration and healing possible apart from pain. Redemption comes with a price. That was true for our Saviour at the cross and it remains true for us in our faith.

Even after we have trusted the redemptive grace of God, we each bear scars of soul that we want God to deal with. We limp with habits or vulnerabilities that linger. We ask for healing of the heart, transformation of our behaviour and the renewing of our mind. All of this is proper and needed. The odd thing is that we expect the Spirit to do all these things for us, without pain. We want a comfortable cure, a healing without hurt and change without challenge. We are confused when God seems unmoved by our expectations. He does tend to us, but even grace can sting. Jesus paid the price for our justification by His death. Now by His Spirit, He paces with us in the instruction and obedience of holiness. My recovery from cancer surgery hurt; but it was pain without regret. Our recovery from sin’s grip delivers the fulness of a godly life. But recovery is pain stretched over time. It can’t be rushed. It won’t be scarless. But it is life, health and wholeness. It is pain without regret.

Scott Tolhurst

Scott Tolhurst

Scott and his wife have spent almost 50 years following God together through life, marriage and ministry. They’ve hop scotched across Canada and landed at the water’s edge on Vancouver Island. They’ve harvested the riches of family (5 grandkids!) and the delights of God’s people. Life has not always been clear but the fog has been pierced with these truths. The heart matters. Kingdom work is God’s. Nothing can replace faith. It never ceases to amaze Scott that, if his life is a gift, how great the Giver must be!


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