Wow. It’s hard to believe that my cancer storm was three years ago. Just this last week my oncologist Dr. Jessica Rhee let me graduate from seeing her every three months to oncology visits every six months. Big deal. Also amazing is the completion of the long awaited book “Gold in the Road”. It is of course the story of my journey through the cancer storm. I have the privilege of working with a wonderful editor right now and I just emailed her the final chapters.
So in anticipation of the publication of “Gold in the Road: Walking with Christ through the Cancer Storm”, let me offer this short excerpt. I’ll post another part of this excerpt in the next few days. I so appreciate all the encouragement I have received from so many regarding the book. I pray all this will be a blessing to those who read it and of course that it will glorify our Lord Jesus.
SHAPING A SUFFERING THEOLOGY
Theology comes from two Greek words which combined mean “the study of God.” Further applied, theology is the study of the things or the ways of God. Some people avoid theology because they think you need to be scholarly or that theology is for clergy types who have gone to seminary and not for the average person. But when properly understood and applied, theology is for every believer because theology is about truth which is found in the teaching of God’s Word. And the truth in God’s Word is for all of us! Theology, then, is really about digging into God’s Word to discover what He has revealed about Himself. When we do this, we come to know Him better and to understand His ways more fully. In Exodus 3 when God issued to Moses the great call to lead His chosen people, Moses asked who it was that was sending him. He asked God who He was. In this, Moses was studying God and as such, Moses was the first known theologian.
In response to Moses’ question, God replied “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). The name God gave Himself indicated that He is a Person. God has a name, even as He gave names to others, He named Himself. His name indicates the depth of who God is as a divine Being. He is not cosmic energy or some ethereal force. He is a self-existing, self-determining Person. Also revealed in this name God gave Himself was His willingness to be with His people as they traveled through times of plenty and times of want, times of peace and times of great trial. God’s name tells us that God is with us.
So to embrace theology is to embrace knowing this great God more deeply, more intimately as we travel through our own times of plenty and want, peace and trial. It has been said that we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing God. This is profoundly true in the life of a cancer sufferer. We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live through our cancer without knowing more about God. This thought is what motivated me especially in the early days of my survivorship as I began to study more about suffering in the light of what Scripture reveals about God and His desire to be with us in the midst of our suffering.
During my cancer storm, the rigors of treatment occupied every ounce of my thought and energy. Oh yes, I asked God poignant questions in my prayer chair about healing, why I was not miraculously healed, why some are healed and others are not. But I only had the time and energy to study such questions after my treatment had ended. It was through this time of prayer and study that I began to shape what I have come to call my theology of suffering.
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.