My Daughter's Cancer, the Book of Job, and God's Mercy

My Daughter's Cancer, the Book of Job, and God's Mercy

“Your daughter has cancer.”

Those words still sting lemon juice on a paper cut. Tonight as I put Jada (six years old) to bed I asked her if she knew anyone who loved the Lord but still experienced pain and sorrow. Her reply? “Me and Jesus, Daddy. Except Jesus’ sorrow was badder than mine because he took all my sin and died.”

It appears the recent reading of Job and subsequent discussion has had its impact. Here is just one lesson God saw fit to reveal to her and I while receiving a chemotherapy treatment recently. (A brief aside: John Piper is likely my favorite author – for the words and logic he uses flow with a lucidity that engages my heart and helps me swallow the medicine of truth. Jada was simply attracted to the pictures in the Job book written by Piper but is beginning to share my love for the gospel-centeredness of his writing. This book has ministered deeply to our family in what has been, and continues to be, very difficult times.)

The story picks up quickly and Jada is not drowsy at all. We arrive at the point where Job is pictured over an altar making a sacrifice for his children's sins pleading with God on their behalf. Piper writes:

[God says] "O man of God, today again you seek the precious lives of ten young souls. Now tell me, with your heart, would you be willing, Job, to part with all your children, if in my deep counsel I should judge that by such severing more good would be and you would know far more of me?". . . [Job] "O God, have mercy on my seed. I yield to what you have decreed." [Emphasis mine]

Jada (clearly processing) clutches my shoulder: "Dad, was God asking Job to put his children on the altar instead of the lamb?" "In a nutshell, yes he was honey." "Why? He was already killing lambs for his children?" "Well honey, we can't rightly get at God in our comfort - we know him best when we need him most.” Her brow furrows up while she makes that adorable smile and half whispering she says, "It seems like God always wants what's hardest to give."

I take a deep breath, sigh, and remind myself that cancer for a 5 year old is a crash course in applied theology more than anything else. "Jada, the book of Romans says that God is working all things together for our good if we know Jesus. So, you decide if it’s hard to give him what you want to hold on to or if it is trusting that what He is doing in you is good. What he was telling Job was, 'Trust me, Job. You think what you have now is great! Wait until I give you a better definition of great.' Jada, I want you and I, and our whole family to echo the words of Job, "I yield to what you have decreed."

Picture, if you will, the last dinner Jesus shared with his disciples. In their minds, as he began to expound on the necessity of his departure, everything was being taken from them. We have a vantage point that they did not: history. We understand that Jesus, God’s greatest possession, was not withheld from us in order to deliver the greatest good. How then shall Jessica and I view this trial? Shall we look at our daughter, who is not even our possession, and cling to her as though she is our hope? It may feel as though at every turn everything is being taken from us. . . yet the Lord whispers, “. . . by such severing more good would be, and you would know far more of me.”  

Doug Rumbold is married to Jessica. They have 3 children Jada (6), Oliver (2), and Pierce (3 months). He serves as a youth pastor with interests in disciplemaking like Jesus, preaching, and writing. Jessica stays home discipling the young ones. Doug and Jessica desire to see God glorified preeminently, even if that means "light and momentary" suffering for them. He blogs at www.thedimewithdoug.blogspot.com.