Have no Fear

One of my teachers, mentors and friends Angie Shier-Jones has written a powerful post on responding to cancer in the form of a prayer: The Kneeler: Have no Fear.

Angie hits several nails on the head with this one.

I have written a fair bit about cancer over the years. One post that sums up much of my own experience is from August 2004 when I wrote:

So within 7 months and 2 days our boys have lost 3 grandparents to
cancer. What can you say to a son when he says "Will we ever have good
times again?" at a time like this?
42: Father-in-law has died.

Tonight I watched "The Wheel Heros" a story of the Geoff Thomas
foundation and how Geoff and other cancer survivors rode the whole
route of the 2007 Tour de France staying one day ahead of the race all
the way. It was completely inspirational, as a cyclist myself I know a
little about how impressive their achievement is.

In their response to cancer these cyclists put much of the Church to shame. Angie makes that point clearly, for example:

Similarly it is
only on being told that I have cancer that so many of my staunch
Christian friends discover how painfully weak their faith and their
confidence in you is, and how deeply enslaved they are to their fear of
sickness and death.

At times when as a minister I have travelled alongside someone fighting cancer I have been asked how I cope, how does it feel for me? That is a complex question to answer, there are lots of feelings:

  • a feeling of honour, of privilege at the way people are willing to allow me to to be part of their journey.
  • feelings of anger at the destruction caused by cancer
  • feelings of anger at those who claim cancer is sent by God
  • feelings of gratitude for all those who dedicate their lives to helping people with cancer

But above all those is the joy when Christians look beyond the cancer and see Jesus, when despite or even through the cancer their faith blossoms and they come to be sure that the healing and wholeness offered by God is true, that it might not include a cure for the cancer but it will certainly last for eternity. Now those are the people who really inspire me, who give me so much more than I can ever repay.

So I am with Angie all the way and echo her messsage "Have no Fear", and that not just for cancer but ewvery part of life and death. This is the start of the theological defeat of cancer, of fear. Thank-you Angie.

Angie also writes:

If after preaching
the gospel all this time, I still haven’t managed to communicate your
message that life is eternal, that we need have no fear – and that life
in all its fullness doesn’t mean a life without pain or sorrow, then I
despair that I will ever succeed in helping to set people free.

At this point it is important to note that Angie was leading the seminars I was attending during the time my parents both died. It was Angie that got me reading Moltmanns "The crucified God". It was Angie's walk alongside me (as well as many others) that encouraged me and helped ensure that fear did not win.

Please read Angie's post and then start contributing to the theological defeat of cancer and to freedom from fear.

10 thoughts on “Have no Fear

  1. PamBG

    I hope this is not and insensitive comment as it’s not meant to be.
    Meyers-Briggs-wise I’m an intuitive feeler. I have learned throughout the course of my life that sometimes feelings will hit me out of the blue without any warning and that is quite literally how I experience it: ‘Where did that feeling come from? I had no warning I was going to cry, laugh, whatever’.
    There are times that I have experienced fear – I think I would say – despite my faith. Now, I can turn to disciplines of prayer, to scripture, to Christian theology and tradition and centre myself again. But what does not ‘work’ for me is the idea of ‘I believe in resurrection, therefore I know I will never experience any fear ever again.’ I do, however, believe that God will be right beside me in the fear.
    Perhaps the more interesting theological question here is what Christians believe about resurrection and the Kingdom of God. I sometimes get the impression that people think I’m preaching something a bit potty that I learned in theology college.
    I think we also need to unpack – Haa! – the concept of ‘resurrection’. My limited experience as a minister suggests that most people think that ‘resurrection’ is a kind of resuscitation. And some people think that they simply have to suspend disbelief and others simply can’t believe it in. A difficult one to unpack, but the conversation needs to be there and IMO hasn’t been there for most churchgoers during their lifetimes.

  2. dh

    Pam, you seem to tqalk out of both sides of your mouth regarding the resurrection. The resurrection IS a time that as Christians from that moment on we will NOT have any more fear. “He will wipe every tear from our eyes.” Why not take to heart this fact? Why be insensative to suggest that people should NOT take comfort in the resurrection. The resurrection is a PHysical as well as Spiritual resurrection in the last day where He will create “a new glorified body”. “The dead in Christ will arise first and those that remain in Christ will arise to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be for eternity.”

  3. PamBG

    DH, I wasn’t sure if my comment was insensitive or not; but I’m absolutely certain this is not the place to have this discussion.
    If you really must persist, send me an email via my blog.
    And please don’t ever tell me what I believe. It really gets up my nose when people who never met me start telling me what I think.

  4. Dave

    I don’t think your comment is insensitive.
    I absolutely do not subscribe to the “I believe in resurrection, therefore I know I will never experience any fear ever again.”
    I am pretty certain Angie does not either.
    But instead this is much more about the persistant fear, the fear that stifles freedom, the fear that drives away the gospel.
    Some fear is good. It keeps us from doing things that are harmful to us and others. But this is not about that fear.
    It is essentially about the fear of death that stops life. As Angie says that fear is paralysing the Christian friends who do not have cancer, but cancer in someone else is stronger than their own faith – that is a discipleship problem and you raise a number of good ways of helping build discipleship that can overcome that fear.
    The discipleship that says I know God is with me even though I can’t feel him at present. The discipleship that says I know I need to centre myself, feed myself, reflect, think and act.
    I totally agree that we need to help those who suspend disbelief just as much as those who can’t believe.
    We absolutely have to return to talking about resurrection and doing so theologically (sadly dh keeps giving an excellent example of how not to do it).

  5. PamBG

    Now that I think about it, this conversation has just given me that extra little ‘twist’ that I need to finish off tomorrow’s funeral address. Thanks. (Angie, Dave & God!)

  6. Angie

    Thanks Dave, Thanks Pam for your comments.
    You are quite right Dave, I know the value of being ‘afraid’, of what it means to have’fear of the Lord’ and to be in ‘fear and trembling’ before the wonderful awe inspiring love of God.
    The fear that grieves me, is the fear that makes us LESS than we are as Children of God.
    When we make a despot of God by blaming God or by assuming that God will fix everything for a few chosen ones – then we deny the Christ in us as well as our own humanity.
    God is ALWAYS good, whether we like what happens to us or not. God’s grace is always sufficient for us – even when our bodies fail or our hearts sink!
    We are always, by God’s grace, so much more than we can know or believe ourselves to be. But fear of living all of life,which will include pain, sorrow and grief as well as love, joy and laughter, and which especially includes the transition of life, limits us and prevents us from responding to God’s grace.
    It’s not about resurrection later – its about living – and not just living now – but for all time.

  7. Dave

    Hope the funeral was a good one for you, for the family and for the kingdom – h’mm probably not in that order though :-)
    “When we make a despot of God by blaming God or by assuming that God will fix everything for a few chosen ones – then we deny the Christ in us as well as our own humanity.”
    Yes, yes, yes!!! (and yes to the rest too)

  8. PamBG

    Yes, I think it was a good funeral. The family said it had felt like a real celebration of her life, which is what they wanted.


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