Cancer: A Most Unusual Gift

My heart raced to grasp the surgeon’s life-changing words: “I’m about to tell you, Mrs. Gaul, you have cancer.”

A myriad of emotions, thoughts, and questions pummeled my soul in the face of such a diagnosis. In the weeks that followed, waves of information, medical research, and personal opinion arrived daily, at times laced with shadows of fear and “what-if” scenarios.

But in those surreal early hours following the diagnosis, the Spirit of God seemed to whisper, “This is a gift of My love, Carrie; you must receive it in that way.” Philippians 1:29 immediately came to mind: 

“For to you it has been granted [gifted] for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Phil. 1:29)

Salvation a gift of God’s love? Absolutely! But suffering? That’s a gift most of us (myself included) would rather not receive.

My natural response to suffering goes more like this, “Run the other way; avoid it at all cost!” How could that which brings pain and loss, sadness, struggle, and heartache ever be considered a gift? The painting above, given to me by a precious friend, beautifully portrays the answer to that question and serves as a visual illustration of the profound truth in Philippians 1:29. 

You see, cancer didn’t invade my life randomly or without purpose. It wasn’t a surprise to my Heavenly Father; nor an instrument meant for my punishment or destruction (Lam. 3:32–33). This suffering came as a gift . . . graciously and tenderly granted from the nail-scarred hands of One well acquainted with suffering . . . the Savior who suffered willingly so we might receive the greatest gift of Love: eternal life.

I’ll never fully grasp all the complexities of human suffering and God’s sovereignty. But cancer is helping me understand a bit more that my Father’s good and perfect gifts (James 1:17) are, at times, manifested as trials (Gen. 50:20). That suffering is not uncommon to those walking with Jesus (1 Peter 4:12), but is only for a little while and is often for a much greater purpose than we could ever comprehend (1 Peter 1:6–9).

This gift called cancer has brought a fresh awareness of my Father’s unchanging love (Rom. 8:28–29), and a deeper realization of just how weak and desperately needy I truly am. I’m so thankful Jesus sees that as a good thing (2 Cor. 12:10) and is tenderly shepherding me through each step of this journey!

Would I have chosen the circumstances of these last five months? Not in a million years. But would I have missed the numerous ways I’ve experienced God’s unfailing love and mercies through it? Never! 

Our Heavenly Father’s ways are indescribably higher and better than ours. Because of that, this Christmas season I can say without hesitation, “Thank you, Lord for this gift of cancer.”  

Have you received a “most unusual gift” from God this year? Tell us about it.

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About the Author

Carrie Gaul

Carrie Gaul

Carrie Gaul is a biblical correspondent for Revive Our Hearts.  She and her husband Dennis have two married children and are enjoying grandchildren.  Carrie has a deep love for God's Word and a passion to see women grow in ever-increasing intimacy with Jesus through the study and application of His Word. Carrie is the author of Joy in the Midst, a Bible study on Philippians.

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