I’ve never really liked the question “why do bad things happen to good people?”, especially in the context of the suffering I’ve endured. At the time of my cancer diagnosis 11 years ago, a few well-meaning friends and family expressed this sentiment, but it always left me feeling uncomfortable. One thing that never crossed my mind at the time of my cancer diagnosis was the question of “why me…why is this evil happening to me?” When news of my cancer hit, I didn’t have any angry feelings toward God or even question his existence. My initial instinct rather was why not me? It seemed clear in my mind that evil or tragic events like mine were not related in any way to God’s involvement or existence or a perceived lack thereof. As C.S Lewis so brilliantly puts it:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”
Looking back, my lack of anger and even fear to some extent - did not stem from my own wisdom but rather from sensing God’s presence in my life prior which sowed seeds of faith for my mom and I in how God had been at work through many trials in our life including experiencing many harsh realities as new immigrants to Canada, facing deportation troubles and grieving the tragic loss of my grandparents. These trials caused emotional turmoil and anxiety similar to what we were experiencing at the moment of my diagnosis– yet looking back we had come to see how in the midst of suffering, God would be working behind the scenes to bring us comfort and ensure our security. At the time of my diagnosis, I had been forced to contemplate the idea of at best - living with long-term physical limitations and at worst, a premature death, when just 2 weeks before, I had celebrated my 20th birthday. Having to face the prospect of death through a grim cancer prognosis revealed to me that I had taken my life for granted and I greatly feared the possibility of losing not just my life but in the short term - my autonomy and freedom also. Instead of anger, I was plagued by feelings of grief and helplessness.
Though the idea of leaving loved ones behind saddened me greatly, I was also plagued by existential questions about the meaning of life, my life’s purpose and how God’s existence fit into the whole picture. Even while undergoing chemotherapy, I had always felt that cancer itself, had been a type of blessing in how it brought me closer to God, strengthened my character and helped transform my perspective of life. It was the catalyst that helped to ground my worldview perspective on the implications of God’s existence and His beautiful truth that speaks to how even at the point of death, the fear of lost relationships and bodily decay no longer prevails. The great hope that stems from the Judeo-Christian faith is that God himself experienced pain and suffering to the point of death only to defeat death three days later at his resurrection. It is this reality that speaks to how even my suffering and mortality fits in the context of a meaningful and enriching life regardless of any threatening external circumstances, a reality that is far more robust, secure and fulfilling than the superficial view of life I had come to adopt based on the ever so fickle pursuit of happiness.