One of our scholars has passed away from cancer just a few weeks ago. He was 16 years old. I instantly feel guilt.
When I receive news of someone passing away because of cancer, it affects me entirely differently now that I have it. Each time I hear of someone dying because of cancer, it forces me to dive deep within myself and question my exsistance. Especially when it’s a child that has been taken far too soon. In this journey I frequently ask myself “Why me?”
The meaning and root of that question has changed several times over the course of this journey, and I imagine will continue to transform and evolve until the day I’m heaven bound. My mind twirls around “Why?” frequently these days, taking on new meaning in each phase of this cancer journey. So far, my “whys” can be categorized into 4 stages:
1. Questioning Current Circumstances
“Why me? Why did I have to get breast cancer?”
2. Questioning Past Pain
“Why me? Why has my burden been my health? Why has it been relentlessly attacked my whole life?”
3. Questioning Blessings:
“Why me? Why has my journey been smoother than most? Why has this been “easy” in comparison to others whom I’ve gotten know along the way? My appetite is still intact (I’m gaining weight!), my energy is stable and I’ve been told time and time again, ‘You don’t look like you have cancer!'”
4. Questioning My Unique Purpose:
“Why me? Why do I get to live and they didn’t? Why have I been blessed with life? I’m not going to die. Why?”
I’m troubled that I don’t have the answer to that last question, yet incredibly greatful, honored and inspired by the fact that it’s mine to ask. It’s terrifying and humbling to know that the very thing that has ended someone’s life, is the very thing that’s brewing inside you. You realize that both you and the deceased have fought the exact same fight, possibly (and likely) equipped with the exact same weapons. I’m watching beautiful strong soldiers climb into the exact same wrestling ring that I’m to climb in and not returning. It feels like I’m carrying death with with me. Carrying it right in my breast.
Which is why that last question is the question of most importance, the most transforming, the one to meditate and pray upon. Lord, why have I been allowed to not only live, but thrive? Have you ever thought to ask God “why?”, not when it comes to your misfortunes but as it pertains to your blessings? It’s human nature to be an expert at asking the first type of “why me?” question- we must fight these thoughts of pitty, self loathing and resentment sometimes daily. Why did my children have to be born with disabilities? Why did my parents have to get a divorce? Why did my spouse cheat on me? Why did I get rapped? Why did my mom die when I was 25? Why was I born into poverty? We ask these questions relentlessly, but rarely ask “Why did I come through it? Why did I get this far in my life? Why did I persevere? Why did I live?”. What is the purpose behind you surviving your trials?
He has an answer. Because He’s sovereign. Because there’s no such thing as happenstance. Because it’s not by coincidence that I have breast cancer at 30 years old. Nor is by chance that you have lived through the hell you have gone through. Once you fully recognize and respect the fact that not everyone made it, you too will ask “why have I?”.
This is by design.
Some may say that I shouldn’t question it- that questioning God is wrong. The issue is not the questioning itself. In fact I urge you to forever be in pursuit of your “why” and to press into gratitude, thanksgiving and slefeshness in order to evolve your “why” from phase 1 to phase 4. Let your “why” grow from complaining to purposeful action. Afterall, you didn’t make it this far for nothing. I’m alive for a reason and it compels me to do something. I’m not certain of what that something is yet, but I know this: someone will be blessed and God will be glorified.
Why, against all odds, are you still here and how does this fit into your unique purpose?
I pray your “why” is forever evolving.