“The cancer was an opportunity for me to trust and to praise God! And I always believed that I couldn't lose, whatever the outcome.”

Richard Wilson
Discovering I was ill was not totally out of the blue – but almost. After my first doctor didn't seem overly concerned with my reported symptoms, a return visit to another doctor turned out to be – looking back now – a God-send.

Matters were suddenly brought to a head. Suddenly, after what I thought would be a routine colonoscopy, it was instantly announced that I had a cancerous growth in my colon. The dramatic diagnosis was to be confirmed a few weeks later, although the biopsy and a CT scan would at least reveal that the cancer was probably confined and had not spread. But from the moment of that first announcement, life changed. This was where the rubber of my Christian life would really hit the road. The real question was, was my faith real?

All this was a surprise; but was I prepared? Well, yes, it seemed that I was! But surely the immediate thought on discovering that one has cancer would be some real fear and foreboding, wouldn't it? Yes, without God it would be. But for a Christian should it be an issue at all? After all, we believe that death isn't the end. Death has lost its sting: it was defeated when Jesus Christ died on the cross and then gloriously rose again to new life. Physical death is not the end, but rather the beginning of a great eternity.

But when the unexpected happens and the end of life here suddenly appears, this is the test of what one truly believes deep down.

Moving towards my last years of full-time working, I was often thinking about what the next thirty years or so might bring. But a week after the diagnosis, while I was enjoying a sunny Bexhill seafront one lunchtime, I was instead considering that I might not even be here next year – let alone in thirty years' time!

The initial waiting time, before I found out whether the cancer had spread, was probably the most difficult. This was when my whole perspective changed: all my future was suddenly contracted to the here and now. In these new circumstances, would I really believe what I had been saying for over forty years as a Christian?

Concerns did come, and even quite anxious moments, but they were less about me and more how dying would impact my lovely wife, my children, my mum and others. These thoughts were more difficult. But since the cancer was in my body, since it was my life that was on the line, I had to deal with that too!

When the unexpected happens, especially when death suddenly seems closer, the obvious question might be to ask, 'why?' And I cannot say that I was not a little bit curious as to why a fit and healthy me should have cancer. But I didn't at any time feel inclined to ask, 'Why me, God?' Through my cancer experience, I never found myself blaming God. In life I have come to understand that we don't need to ask God 'why'. I heard someone say recently that when a child asks 'Why?' when they are told that they can't have ice cream for dinner, they are not asking for an explanation – they are simply challenging mum or dad about the decision! To me, asking God 'why?' didn't seem to be a helpful thing to do.

I never doubted the faithfulness of my God. He had held my life before this episode and I knew he would uphold me now. I knew that Jesus was walking with me. I lived with faith in the ultimate goodness of my God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And, from that first day of hearing the news, God spoke exactly to my circumstances, through the Bible, other Christian friends and through the direct witness of His Spirit. The Bible really was 'living and active [...] sharper than any two edged sword'. Every scripture came alive; every Bible verse became personal. It was all true.

Isaiah 43:1-3 says, 'But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour [...]"'

I knew that God had summoned me by name. I knew – really knew – that I was His and that if this meant trouble now, then He was with me.

Psalm 62:1-8 says, 'Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down — this leaning wall, this tottering fence? Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.'

I found immediate rest in God and I would not be shaken. He was my rock and I would trust Him.

I was so grateful that I had known the Scriptures for much of my life. I was grateful that God's words came directly to me and that for years I had marked and anotated my Bible. Truths that had spoken to me before were really alive for me now. I was grateful, too, for friends who knew the Bible and who encouraged me with God's Word. It was not the words themselves that brought comfort, but God Himself. The words assured me that while God is almighty and somehow beyond us, He is also a Father God who came to us personally in Jesus the Son, and who lives with every Christian now by His Holy Spirit. God was there for me.

The cancer was an opportunity – even an invitation – for me to trust and to praise God! And I always believed that I couldn't lose, whatever the outcome.

And did I want to be healed? Of course! 58 was too young to die! But healing was not my first thought. I let everyone pray for my healing, and I prayed too. I had often prayed for others, and seen God heal. I would trust surgery if that was necessary, but the baseline, the real issue, was trusting God and resting in Him. The operation was a success. Medicine is not 'second class healing'. I thanked God for all the medical skill and expertise and care. I praised God for our National Health Service.

But what was never acceptable was to face this cancerous intruder in any resigned or fatalistic way. Prayer for healing to a Sovereign, all-knowing and all-powerful God was to be the reality.

It would be foolish to claim that in every moment I had total peace with God and that I was always really conscious of His presence. Recovering from surgery brought immobility and frustration and I started to have a real sense as to how people can become depressed when they see no end to a sickness or other circumstance. But prayer turned my thoughts to God again.

After it was over, I was thankful – for healing, for the operation, and for all the support I had experienced. We held a party for around forty people from church who had been especially supportive through this journey.

I was able to give thanks publicly, recalling Luke 17:11-19 when only one of the ten healed lepers returned to Jesus give thanks. I read Matthew Henry's commentary from about 300 years ago where he says that, 'Those that have received mercy from God should publish it to others [...] and [...] we ought to give thanks for the favours Christ bestows upon us, and particularly for recoveries from sickness.'

So what next? Will cancer re-appear? There will be regular tests. But in the end, it is not about the cancer! Life cannot be about, “What ifs?” or about worry. Life now needs to be about God, about peace and security and assurance, about the one who holds us now whatever comes.

My prayer is that if you hit a similar crisis in your life that my words can speak to you. My prayer is that you will know and experience the love of a great God through whatever you face.

If you know Almighty God then get all Jesus Christ has given you – it's for now. And if you are not yet a Christian – or if you have never given God a thought – perhaps you would like to find out about Jesus. Contact the church office at hello@kingshastings.org to find out more.



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