Scripture is rich with imagery of God’s healing, protective presence with us. As we live with the uncertainties and fears that come with cancer, we can find strength and hope in reflecting on these images.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me,
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
This psalm pictures God as our good Shepherd who provides for us and stays close to us. The shepherd’s rod and staff were used to gently touch the sheep as they walked along, as a way of letting the sheep know that the shepherd had not deserted them, but was right there, walking with them, even through the dark and frightening valleys.
It is possible to find courage even in the valley of the shadow of death, because we are not alone. When it seems our hearts will give way with fear, we do well to remember that God is with us. We are known. We are loved. We are never alone. We can walk through this valley and fear no evil.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
Sometimes we feel like we are slipping. Nothing in life is certain anymore. We seem to have fallen into a pit full of mud and mire. And every time we try to crawl our way out, we end up slipping back in. Then one day we see God’s hand stretched out to us. God offers to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. God’s hand is strong, God’s clasp is certain. God pulls us out of the slimy pit and sets us on the firm, solid rock of God’s love.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble
and he saved them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom
and broke away their chains.
The fear that cancer brings can be like a dark cloud over us. It is a cloud that robs us of our ability to see the future. It keeps us from feeling the warmth of God’s love. The fear that cancer brings can also feel like a chain around us. It is a chain that keeps us from experiencing the joys of everyday life. It holds us back from living fully. But God sees our distress. God brings us out of the darkness, into the warm light of God’s love. God breaks away our chains and sets us free.
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.
May your awareness of God’s tender mercies in your life grow with each new day. May you feel the rising sun of His presence shining on you. May he give you his peace.
Questions for Discussion – Session 1
1. Look at the verse from Psalm 23. What experiences have you had with walking through the valley of the shadow of death?
2. How has God been a comfort to you in those times?
3. Psalm 40 presents a picture of “slipping”. When have you experienced yourself “slipping” in your journey with cancer?
4. What help have you experienced from God in those times?
Questions for Discussion – Session 2
1. Psalm 107 and Luke 1 use the image of darkness. What dark times have you had in your experience with cancer?
2. What experiences have you had with light breaking through that darkness?
3. What other images of God’s healing presence have been helpful to you?