Vikor Frankl was no stranger to suffering. He survived many years in Nazi concentration camps. He witnessed and personally experienced man’s cruelty, and brutality. He noticed something different about those who gave up, or became as cruel as the Nazi’s vs those who remained kind and caring, and who fought to live under terrible circumstances. What he learned is found in some quotes from his book- Man’s Search For Meaning:
1. “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
2. “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
3. If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering".
Frankl witnessed first hand the outcome of those in the concentration camps who found meaning and purpose to suffering vs those who gave in to their suffering by experiencing despair. Frankl’s discovery confirms what was written centuries before he was born:
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
Frankl's observation reflects a Biblical truth which applies to those with no faith or those of any faith. Everyone has the potential to discover meaning and purpose in their suffering. That said, the God of this universe offers some very specific ways to grow and mature though suffering. Those who choose to suffer without God will miss out on many blessings from the hand of God.
God does not want us to waste our suffering or giving into despair. Therefore, He seeks to give our suffering meaning and purpose. A purpose that’s laid out in these two Bible verses:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Rom 5:3-4)
God is working His purpose in the worst of our suffering, IF we allow Him to do so. Do not think for a moment I under estimate or make light of the suffering and pain that comes from cancer. I know the suffering can become so overwhelming, it can drive the one who is suffering or the healthy person witnessing the suffering away from a belief in God.
A reasonable question is what is God doing while I’m suffering?
Believe it or not God offers you comfort. Comfort directly from heaven, and comfort through an army of comforters who've had Divine training and experience with suffering. Here's the Bible verse that confirms this:
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. (2 Cor 1:3-4)
A skeptic might ask: How can I know this is real?
Paul was a man who knew all about suffering and listed some of his experiences when he wrote:
From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-- (2 Cor 11:24-27)
In spite of all his suffering he wrote these words:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom 8:18)
In other words our hope is in a future what begins after we die. Death is the vehicle, which transports us to a new life and a new world.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:6-8)
Those who will inhabit this world have this promise:
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Rev 21:4-5)
Suffering isn't meant to turn you away from God, it’s purpose is to draw you closer to God. A God who gave his only Son to die on cross, in order to pay the price for your sins and mine. By doing this, Jesus cleared the way for us to enter into a new world without sin, suffering, and death.
You can go though your experience with cancer with God or without God. You can experience meaning and purpose from your suffering or give in to despair. You can accept or reject His comfort. You can accept His offer to enter into a new world without suffering, pain and death, or reject that world.
We choose what meaning and purpose we will give to our suffering once we receive the news we have cancer. I decided to join the army of Divine Comforters. What will you do?