As we officially launch our “Cancer with Christ” community outreach (see http://cancerwithchrist.wordpress.com/), I am paying special attention to the reality of cancer in our world. Certainly, cancer is a big part of my personal story but with my cancer came a whole new awareness of the great many people and families affected by cancer.
World Cancer Day was officially recognized last week and with it came some new and important projections about cancer. It is now estimated that over the next 20 years, the prevalence of cancer will rise by 37%. Cancer prevalence is defined as the number of living people who have ever been diagnosed with cancer. It includes people diagnosed with cancer in the past as well those who were recently diagnosed. The latest statistics available to us tell us that in the current U.S. population, 13,028,000 people have or have had invasive cancer — 6,079,000 men and 6,949,000 women. Breast cancer leads the list with 2,844,000 women (and men) suffering with breast cancer and prostate cancer follows affecting 2,618,000 men. As well, colon or rectum cancer affects 1,154,000 people and melanoma strikes just under 1 million people. (“Cancer Prevelance” http://www.cancer.org/)
Sadly, this tells us that a whole new people group is emerging in our nation — not a people group based on skin color, ethnic persuasion or a shared language, but people who are joined across those lines by one simple reality: they each suffer with cancer. Almost every family has been affected by someone who has been diagnosed with some form of cancer.
The question we as the church must grapple with is this: Why is it important to reach out to this people group? Why provide support to those suffering with cancer? Well, there are compelling reasons from Scripture. Let me offer three simple reasons today:
- Romans 12:15 tells us that we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep”. If you know someone who has heard those terrible words, “You have cancer,” you have met someone who weeps. We are called to reach out and weep alongside those who suffer with cancer.
- 1 Corinthians 1:4 reminds us that it is Jesus Christ who comforts us in all our affliction. St. Paul tells us that this comfort which has come to us through Christ was “so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Have you received comfort from Christ? If so, He asks that you give away this comfort given to you to someone who needs it. Cancer sufferers desperately need the comfort that comes from God through His people.
- Matthew 28:16-20 is the Great Commission to reach the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. In His Great Commission, Jesus charges His disciples, saying, “Go and make disciples of all people groups …” In the past the church has recognized this commission as applying to all tribes, tongues, and nations. It also applies to the poor, the widows, orphans, sick, and needy. In that regard, the Great Commission of Jesus can be re-phrased: “Go and make disciples of all those who suffer with cancer!” The truth is that Jesus died to save all people. He died because God loved us so much (John 3:16). Translated into a cancer context, this means that GOD LOVES PEOPLE WHO HAVE CANCER. We must be ambassadors of this message of love and salvation.
Through “Cancer with Christ” we are going to enter the lives of those suffering with cancer and learning from them as they share their stories and teach us what it is they need and how we can comfort them. We will be offering the hope and the strength that comes from Jesus Christ Himself. We’ll provide prayer, encouragement from Scripture, and practical support including our “Cancer with Christ” support groups. The benefits of participating in a cancer support group are well-documented and include:
- Feeling less lonely or isolated
- Talking openly and honestly with those who understand
- Getting practical advise or information
- Understanding better what to expect
- Improving your coping skills
- Reducing stress, anxiety or fear
Our Orange County, California “Cancer with Christ” support group meets the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month from 10 – 11:30 am in my home located at 1980 Swan Drive in Costa Mesa, CA. We pray that many from the community will respond to our invitation. If you know someone in Orange County, CA who is suffering with cancer, please let them know of this support group opportunity. If you live outside our region but know someone who needs support, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I may respond as best as we are able.
Please pray for us as we launch this faith-based community outreach. Pray that we will be faithful to weep with those who weep, to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have been given, and as we share the Good News that Jesus loves people who have cancer and wants to enfold them in His saving embrace.
Blessings as we reach others with the love of Jesus Christ,
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.