Worse Than Cancer


She spun a carefully crafted web of deception. Not to swindle us out of retirement funds or to harm us.

She was probably in her late 20s, unattractive, overweight, and of limited means. But she was a faithful member of our church, attending every service and each event--except for Valentine’s Day banquets.

She loved caring for the little ones in the nursery and willingly filled in any vacancies. While people were friendly, I wonder if anyone took a special interest in her.

During weekly prayer meetings she began sharing prayer requests about her health. First, she wasn’t feeling well. Over time, the requests escalated. The doctor was consulted and was running tests. Next week she had the results. It was cancer. Weekly, she updated us. More tests. Cancer’s progression. How she was feeling.

One day she had a confession. There was no cancer. It was all a fabrication.

We were shocked. Why would anyone do such a thing?

I didn't realize it at the time, but now I believe her “lie” had as much to do with us—her church family—as about her. Over thirty years later, I think I know what motivated her.

She needed to be known. She needed to belong. She needed to be precious.

Even if it took having cancer.

The deception was a cry for help. An indication we were not loving her the way she needed to be loved. Our “Hi! How are you today?” or “Thanks for working in the nursery tonight!” wasn’t enough.

I thought of her today as I pulled on my coat for a walk. As I walked, I quoted Isaiah 43:1-5 (see below) to myself. It was exactly what her heart needed. What all our hearts need.

If I saw her (or someone with similar needs) today, I hope I would say:

  1. You are known. God created you and formed you. He knows everything about you and still loves you.

  2. You are not alone. There will be hard times. Whether it’s difficulties like crossing flooded rivers or walking through flames, He promises His presence—right beside you. You may get soaked or flushed with heat, but you won't be destroyed.

  3. You are precious. Even after getting you through the wildest struggles, with all your whimpering and failings, He still loves. He calls you precious. He declares, “You are mine.” He claims you as his own.

Beyond these promises, we still need love that physically wraps its arms around us.

This memory challenged me to love. To look beyond scowls or stringy hair or ill-fitting clothes. To see a needy heart that would exchange health for a brutal disease like cancer simply for a few scraps of love.

But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not: for I am with thee: Isaiah 43:1-5

By the way, if you know of someone needing encouragement, my new gift book, Never Alone: gentle reminders of God’s presence and love would make a great gift. It should be available within a month.

It is the second in the Rising Higher Series. Get more information on the first book, Finding Hope: a journey of faith through uncertain times, at my website.

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