Tag Archives: cancer

Before you cast judgment on stranger for their parenting failure

One of my current students, Stan, passed on this excellent blog post about the looks we sometimes give “bad parents” when we see their unruly and out-of-control children. The author nails the reasons for the shaming looks and thoughts we have: PRIDE.

It is also good to consider that whenever we see a child melting down in the grocery store or a parent using less-than-ideal strategies, we don’t really know the whole story. In the post you will see this mother’s understandable excuse for her child’s behavior–pediatric brain cancer. Of course, not every parent has an unruly child with cancer. But let it be a reminder, you don’t know the whole story and haven’t walked in their shoes…



Filed under parenting

What to say to suffering people: When truth isn’t helpful

Is the truth always helpful? Always the best option?

I think it is. But when we humans seek to convey truth, we never capture it all. As a result, what truth we do share may not be the truth that is most helpful. There are two things that have me thinking about this today:

1. On Monday night I shared with a class some of our experience with infertility. Some things said to us were downright stupid and wrong. Other things were true. In fact, God does have a wonderful plan for us. But it wasn’t helpful to tell us that when we were hurting. Scripture teaches us that when we sing songs of joy to the downcast it is like drinking vinegar or adding baking soda to it. Kaboom!

2. In recent weeks, CCEF has posted a couple of things on their website that need to be read together. This week they posted David Powlison and John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” to their homepage. This was written by both men when they were in the throes of Prostate cancer. I encourage you to read it from the perspective I am reading it. My wife has breast cancer. We hope to beat it. But we are in the throes of chemo right now. How does this sound to you. True? Helpful? Now, when you have read that, go read Ed Welch’s post: “What Not To Say To Suffering People.” He wrote a follow-up here.  How does this sound to you? True? Helpful?

Seems the first could be seriously misused and does not address all of what you say for comfort in the heat of the battle. Surely we need to be a bit careful about what the person needs to hear. Yes, we can “waste” the cancer in a “woe is me” mentality. But be careful not to go there too quickly! Know your audience and what they need NOW from you.

What do you think? I’d like your feedback.


Filed under biblical counseling, CCEF, christian counseling, counseling, suffering, Uncategorized

How perspective changes everything

“Your wife has breast cancer…She’ll need chemotherapy.”

The first time you hear that, you only feel the blow of a seeming death sentence. You see your future as a widower flash before your eyes. Doesn’t everyone die who is diagnosed? No. But the anecdotes we carry would say so since we remember the awful stories and forget the great outcomes. You cry and ask God for a different story, a different outcome. Let the diagnosis be wrong.

It isn’t. And so you begin to accept the facts of breast cancer and learn what your story contains. You learn some people have wonderful post diagnosis stories and others have painful stories. You wait for confirmation. You talk with doctors, get the scans done and then talk some more.

After surgeries, scans, and appointments, you begin to accept the chemo path. But, you want a second opinion to be sure. Now, instead of praying for no cancer, you pray for the 2nd Doc to give you clear advice–either to confirm the first doc’s advice or to give something so clear that you know that one of the paths is so obviously right for you.

The second doc confirms every piece of advice the first doc recommends. You have consensus. Funny thing, when you hear that chemo is your best option, you are happy and relieved–not because chemo makes you happy but that it really does seem like the best option. Notice the much different response from the first mention of those words less than 2 months ago.

Perspective sure changes how you hear words. Now, instead of a death sentence, it is a way to work towards a cure. Odd, don’t you think. Yes, but also an answer to prayer.

I suspect many of us have a story like this. Initially we can’t believe what we are hearing. Later, we hear it completely differently based on the things we learn, the options we see before us, and a whole lot of prayer.


Filed under stories, suffering, Uncategorized

Cancer stories

We’ve all heard them. We’ve all told them. Either our own or someone else’s. If you are the person telling the story, you likely are trying to encourage hope and fight in the cancer sufferer. If you are the person listening to the story, you likely want to desperately believe that the miracle or cure story is going to be your story.While the success story of another is momentarily comforting, it doesn’t last.

Truth is, you don’t know your own story, whether you have cancer or not. You don’t know if you will live to be 100 or die tomorrow. Most of the time we don’t think about our mortality. Life is too busy to contemplate morbid thoughts.

Cancer in you or your loved one changes that. You wonder what your story is. You hope it is not like one person’s story and you try to hope that it is like the success stories you hear. But, you just don’t know.

Along with the stories come treatment recommendations and advice. These can be helpful, confusing, contradictory, or downright hurtful. It is true that your doctor matters. It is true that some traditional treatments are very effective and also very damaging. It is true that some have benefited from alternative or complementary treatments. It is also true that people die from both. What is also true is that the plethora of advice adds to the confusion.

Here might be some better things we can do and say:

1. What would you like me to pray for?

2. What is your next treatment decision and who are you talking to?

3. Can I ______ (something specific)?

And if you know the person well, you might ask:

1. What “stories” are you meditating on that you need to stop?

2. What is the one thing that is true for you right now? Or, what manna is God giving you for today?

3. What information would be helpful for your next decision?

4. Let’s talk about something other than cancer…how’s your garden coming?

5. What stories would you like to hear right now?

For counselors out there. It is a good reminder to limit the number of stories we tell our clients. These can encourage. Yes, it is true, people do get over depressions or anxiety attacks. They do repair broken marriages. These stories may encourage the person to take a step of faith. Or, they may cause them to stop, because those stories aren’t theirs.


Filed under counseling, stories