‘Confessions of a Bad Christian’ – How to be a good buddy for cancer patients

 It is not easy to know what to do when a brother or sister is going through adversity. So here are some early lessons we have learned from our cancer journey.

A primer for being a good adversity buddy…

1) It is okay to say the “C” word. Joni and I know that she has cancer so it will not be a surprise to us. We believe that we have a “C” word in our lives that trumps the fear of cancer. That “C” word is Christ.

2) You don’t have to “say” anything profound, theologically brilliant, or comforting. Simple phrases like “I am praying” and “I am here if you need me” pack more punch than a theological dissertation on suffering. Some don’t know what to say and then proceed to say it in great detail. Joni and I don’t need to “figure” this all out right now. We just need to walk with the Lord one step at a time. We know He has a plan. We are not necessarily convinced that He has told you what it is.

3) Do not try to “prepare” your friends with stories of other cancer patients. Recounting stories of terrible side effects and problems are really not helpful. The doctor will give us a good rundown of those possibilities based on our case. We have a medical team for that. Our friendship team can best help by being positive and prayerful.

4) Do not use mournful tones when talking to a cancer patient. 
Just use your normal voice…really. We won’t suspect you don’t care.

5) Do not predict the outcome with phrases like “you are going to be fine.“ No one is completely sure of the outcome. What you can say is that God will be faithful and you want to walk with them throught the journey as well.

6) It is okay to cry and it is okay to laugh. Crying doesn’t mean you are not dealing with the cancer well and laughter does not mean you are in denial. Both are part of the journey.

7) Be careful to not misuse scripture. The most common good hearted misapplication is telling Christians going through adversity that “God will not give you more than you can handle.” That verse in Corinthians (I Cor 10:13) refers to temptations, not troubles. We will have troubles. Instead concentrate on the promises that His Word gives us about strength for those times. Suggestions?

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Matt 11:28 NLT

Cast your cares on the LORD
       and he will sustain you;
       he will never let the righteous fall.  Psalm 55:28

8) Embrace your role as a part of the body of Christ. We are all in this together. Do practical things like bring a meal or clean the house.

Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

9) Don’t say that you could not deal with adversity as well as your friend is handling it. You could. Part of being a follower of Christ is knowing He is with you in times like this. You are given strength and comfort that is supernatural. It is there when you need it. You can’t store it for future trouble or put it in a to go box for later. God apportions that strength and comfort out as needed. The peace that surpasses all understanding is real.

10) Learn from those who have shown how it looks to trust Jesus in adversity. Joni and I have had two amazing couples as mentors in our lives. I wrote about them in an earlier blog called  My Nominations for Persons of the Year. Our friends showed us by walking the walk how God is real in far worse situations than ours. Jesus is real. He is real in the good times. And especially in the bad.