Cancer and God’s Sovereignty

Everything changed when I received a cancer diagnosis on the day before my thirty-fourth birthday.

Over the months of treatment and years of survivorship since that day, I’ve wrestled with God’s sovereignty. I don’t question the truth of His rule and reign over all things. I’m grateful that He provided a solid biblical understanding of His character before the phone call came. But I’ve often struggled to find lasting comfort from God’s sovereignty as I look ahead at an uncertain future for my family and me.

 

In October 2010, my view of God’s sovereignty went from theoretical to critical with one phone call. As a longtime Christian, I believed that God numbered all my days. But that idea remained hypothetical as I plowed through busy days as a mom of three young kids. I assumed the years stretched ahead of me for several decades.

Everything changed when I received a cancer diagnosis on the day before my thirty-fourth birthday. The biopsy revealed a rare and aggressive cancer called angiosarcoma, and the five-year survival rate was not encouraging. I knew I might not live long enough for my eighteen-month-old daughter to remember me.

Over the months of treatment and years of survivorship since that day, I’ve wrestled with God’s sovereignty. I don’t question the truth of His rule and reign over all things. I’m grateful that He provided a solid biblical understanding of His character before the phone call came. But I’ve often struggled to find lasting comfort from God’s sovereignty as I look ahead at an uncertain future for my family and me.

Grappling with the Guarantee of God’s Sovereignty

God’s sovereignty guarantees that our heavenly Father reigns over all. We see this truth throughout the Scriptures. In Psalm 135:6, the psalmist says, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”

As I endured months of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and a clinical trial, I knew that the Lord held the outcome in His hands. Every cell in my body—and every cell in the universe—answers to its Creator. As Dr. R.C. Sproul wrote, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”1

Here’s the good news: there are no rogue molecules. Nothing can touch us that hasn’t first come through His hands.

But the guarantee of God’s sovereignty is not a promise that terrible things will never happen. Romans 8:28 tells us “that for those who love God all things work together for good.” But this verse doesn’t promise that I won’t die of cancer while my kids are young. There’s no assurance that they won’t suffer, hurt, grieve, or have their lives radically altered by losing a parent. There’s no guarantee that my daughter’s life story won’t start with, “My mom died of cancer when I was ten years old.”

I want a King on the throne and a happy ending for my children. I want His plans to line up with mine. While I find no such guarantee in the pages of His Word, I’m learning to rest in the promise of not only His sovereignty but also His goodness, faithfulness, and provision.

Resting in the Comfort of God’s Character

When I learned that my treatment plan would require spending the majority of my time in Houston for several months, the emotional and logistical impact overwhelmed me. I wondered how we would possibly manage.

But the in-laws of a friend of a friend opened their home to me, and during my first visit I sat in the living room of the woman who would become my “Houston Mom.” Although we had been strangers just days before, we were now connected by our shared faith and cancer experience. I explained that I would be making repeated, lengthy trips to her city, and she asked the question I had been too nervous to voice out loud: “Will you please stay with us every time you come?” Her generosity was just one of the many ways God showed His goodness to us.

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