I never thought that some day I'd find myself sharing the news that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In the book of Job we find two types of comforters. The good comforter and the miserable one. It's relatively easy to know which type of comfort your receiving. Here was Job's reaction to miserable comfort:
Miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? I also could speak as you do, If your soul were in my soul's place. I could heap up words against you, And shake my head at you;
Clearly Job was frustrated as a result of receiving their comfort. In fact it is safe to say their "words of comfort" added to his pain. In contrast to miserable comfort Job describes how one receives good comfort:
Job 16:5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief. When a person receives good comfort the pain of the moment may linger, but there is feeling of relief that someone understands your pain.
As I've shared the news I have cancer I've discovered most reactions fall within two groups:
Group#1 This group that responds to the news by sharing a personal experience:
Your initial reaction to someone offering this comfort could be frustration because it appears they are not reacting to what you said, but moved to completely different personal experience they've had with cancer. t's important to listen carefully to the story they've shared because it's through that filter of their experience they are viewing your cancer.For example one of my employees first question to me was: "How much pain are you feeling?" I realized that her concern came from her personal experience, so I asked her the following question: "Who in your life experienced pain with their cancer diagnosis?"
Without a moments hesitation she began telling me about her mom, who died of bone cancer. I told her that I didn't have bone cancer. I also told her that prostate cancer is for the most part painless. Therefore men can have it for decades and not even know it's there. Once I helped her differentiate her experiences from mine we could talk in the present without her experiences filtering what she was hearing from me.,
Another example was this comment from a close friend. He said: "I'm sorry to hear that. My dad died of prostate cancer." Initially that comment added to my anxiety.I wanted to run away from him and my circumstances. Then I realized what he was really saying here was this: In my experience with prostate cancer tells me it's deadly, and I'm worried you are going to die too. At that point you can share your own fears about cancer being a death sentence if that's your worry, because this person will understand your fears. Therefore, the story they share with you gives you a window into how they are experiencing the news you just shared with them. There is an opportunity to receive comfort from this group of people.
Group#2 This group of people offer a comfort cliché. That is to say they offer a few sentences designed to keep you from sharing anything further with them. So they might say: Cheer up" or "I'll pray for you" After they say their few words they are done. It's obvious they don't want to make a deep connection or know more about your circumstances. They are much more concerned about saying something which they believe will make feel me better, and/or make themselves better. So I'll listen to their cliché, say a perfunctory thank you and walk away. I put those folks on a list of people whom not to share anything remotely intimate. If we are friends I may share facts like I'll be going in for surgery, or I'll be home from the hospital on such in such date but I will make it a point NOT to share a single emotional, relational, spiritual, or physical struggle.
Sources of Comfort Good Comfort
People further along in the journey than you are: These are men who've been diagnosed and have lived with prostate cancer for years longer than you. They may offer appropriate comfort, information and support. They are people you want on your team.
Comfort from God:
2 Cor 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I found this source of comfort to be the best. I found comfort in answered prayers, in promises in the Bible, hymns and praise songs. To face prostate cancer without this source of comfort is a serious mistake.
Questions to consider:
1. Who in my circle of friends and family offer good comfort.
2. Who in my circle of friends and family offer miserable comfort.
3. What are your reactions to receiving miserable comfort?
4. What are your reactions to receiving good comfort?
5. What type of comforter are you?
6. Is God a source of comfort for you? If so, how so? If not what do you need to do in order to invite God into your circumstances?