A diagnosis of cancer creates a crisis for the person with the diagnosis and for his entire family. A time of crisis is a time of need. Emotionally it is time of instability and anxiety. Physically it is a time of tension and exhaustion. Psychologically it is a time of personal reevaluation. And spiritually it can be a time of profound questioning.
One of the ways to understand the spiritual needs of a person in crisis is to examine the questions that are commonly raised in a crisis. A person in crisis does not wrestle with mere ideas, but with God. “God, who are you?” “God, do you love me?” “God, can I trust you?” “God, is my faith strong enough to see me through this?” This is the heart of the spiritual struggling that people experience as they live with cancer. It is the trust and love in one’s relationship with God that is at stake in these struggles.
A common spiritual question asked in a crisis is “Why?” This question may lead to a questioning of God’s existence and character or to a questioning of one’s own spiritual well-being. Both kinds of questioning can be extremely frightening. These questions represent significant spiritual struggles and they can create a spiritual crisis which compounds the original physical crisis of cancer.
What we need in times of profound spiritual struggle are friends who will not be shocked by our questions and who will not attempt to supply the “correct” answers to these questions. People in crisis need friends who are prepared to struggle with them; who will not hurry past the questions and the spiritual struggles that crises may bring. Spiritual growth comes when we are able to do the hard work of facing these questions and of searching for new understanding with the support of others.
We long to trust you,
We long to anticipate your goodness,
But, when a crisis comes, we find ourselves wondering about you.
Are you really loving?
Do you really care about us?
And we find ourselves wondering
Have we abandoned you?
Has our faith failed this test?
Speak to us, God, in the midst of our sorrow and pain and confusion.
Speak so we can hear you.
Touch us so we can feel you.
Heal the wound that threatens our intimacy.
Questions for Discussion – Session 1
1. What questions have you found yourself asking about God during your journey with cancer?
2. What questions have you asked about yourself and your faith?
3. What has not been helpful to you as you have struggled with these questions?
4. What has been helpful to you as you have struggled with these questions?
Questions for Discussion – Session 2
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
Psalm 69: 1-3
O God, you are my God;
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
1.. When have you felt worn out from calling for help?
2. The psalmist longs for God. How have you experienced this?
3. In what ways has God seemed far away during your experience with cancer?
4. In what ways has God seemed close during this time?