Growing in Faith

Facing incurable cancer with Easter hope

By Clare Boyd-Macrae

October 25 2017Great news, and happy birthday, now and evermore.

This was just one of the many heart-warming messages of goodwill that appeared on my Facebook feed recently when I posted a photo of my husband and me celebrating his birthday and the news that he is currently enjoying a spell of good health, despite being diagnosed with cancer in 2015.

English is not this friend’s first language. And his quirky and profound turn of phrase set me thinking about Easter.

In this society, we tend to rush too quickly from the horror of Good Friday and the numb confusion and abandonment of Easter Saturday to the reassuring glory and triumph of the Resurrection. It’s easier that way, and for many in Australia, there is little in our day-to-day lives, to remind us of death and despair. Many of us coast along for years wilfully ignoring the fact that the world is a dark place for many human beings and that there is no escaping death.

In our family, the last three years have kind of been the opposite as we have walked through the valley of the shadow of death: facing incurable cancer, its tough treatment and the unforeseen complications arising from that treatment. Good times and blessings have been sprinkled liberally through these years, along with a more profound sense of God’s love and grace than I have experienced before. But it has felt as though we’ve been living in a Good Friday-Easter Saturday time, and our friend’s message reminded me powerfully that we worship an Easter Sunday God.

I am inspired that Jesus suffered in many of the ways that all humans do. He was fearless and authentic and uncompromising. He accepted all the ‘wrong’ kind of people and opposed those who corruptly used power, so that his murder was the logical conclusion of a life fully, authentically and courageously lived. That he died, feeling abandoned by God, and that as the early Creeds claim, “he descended into hell” – is a deep consolation for those of us who have suffered from the cruel disease of depression, chronic pain or arbitrary tragedy.

But that was and is not the last word. The story of Jesus’ resurrection tells me that God, who is love, is more powerful than evil and death. The life and love that my husband and I have created together, messily but well, will not disappear when we die. Love ripples out forever, as does each act of courage and kindness in the world. There is no shelter from suffering and death in this life. But that does not limit the enduring love of God, which holds us from conception to death and beyond.

Easter tells me that God is here with us and also there, on the other side of the dark river we all cross at some point. All will be well. And that hope brings comfort and joy in the present. So, along with our friend, I can confidently say, “It’s Easter. Great news and happy birthday, now and evermore!”

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Clare Boyd-Macrae’s blog can be found at www.clareboyd-macrae.com