I get it. Cancer is one of those words.

You know the ones no one likes to say, or hear, about yourself, a loved one, or a complete stranger. And no one knows quite what to say in response to it.

That's one reason I dreaded telling people I was battling cancer. It was one thing to tell those closest to me who walked the journey with me in faith. It was another thing altogether to tell my child's teacher or the neighbor I ran into at the grocery store.

My announcement of the “C” word was always met with awkward moments of silence. I’m sure that was a result of the other person's mind racing to come up with just the right thing to say. I’ll let you in on a little secret...there isn't a right thing to say to someone facing cancer. Offer hope, offer encouragement, offer prayer, but don't try to find the right thing to say, because you probably won't.

There are, however, some wrong things to say when someone tells you they are facing cancer.

The wrong thing to say

I was a few weeks into chemotherapy when I had a rather discouraging visit with my doctor. After sharing the visit with someone a knew casually, this person replied, "Well, I guess we never know when it's our time to go..."

What?!?! For the record, that is the WRONG thing to say! While that might seem obvious, other inappropriate responses are more subtle.

Like this oldie, but goodie: God won't give us more than we can handle.

It’s meant to be encouraging, I know. I've even said it on occasion when trying to lift someone’s spirits. But we all need to stop saying it. Why?

Because it's simply not true.

God does give us more than we can handle. In fact, He does so regularly.

When God allowed Satan to ransack Job's life, stripping from him everything he held dear (including his own health), what it because He thought Job could "handle it"? Job sure didn't think so!

“Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?" (Job 3:11)

Job was in so much anguish, he wished he had never been born. He had reached his breaking point. God had given him more than he could handle.

Even the Apostle Paul begged God to remove him from a difficult circumstance. In 2 Corinthians, he wrote:

"I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me" (2 Corinthians 12:7, 8).

We don't know the details of Paul's circumstances, but we know that they overwhelmed him. So much so that he pleaded with God to remove him from it. But God didn’t. Instead He answered Paul,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (verse 9).

What does God say?

God didn't tell Paul to buck up and get a grip. He didn't assure Paul that he could handle it. Instead, He reminded Paul that he didn’t have to do it in his own strength. Because God knows when we come to the end of ourselves, that's when we find Him. And when we find Him, there is grace.

When we receive news that knocks the breath from our lungs....grace.

When our bodies are weak and exhausted...grace.

When we think we can't take another doctor's visit, or more discouraging news...grace.

When we can’t find the strength to do the day-to-day tasks that still need doing, despite our lack of energy or motivation....grace.

So we should really stop telling each another that God won’t give us more than we can handle. Because when we say that we’re really saying we don’t need to rely on God. We can take care of it. More importantly, we need to stop living like we can take care of it on our own.

The truth is God does give us more than we can handle. But when we come to the end of ourselves, when we’ve exhausted all of our own strength, God is there. And when we let go and fall into His grace, He picks us up and carries us through in His strength.

Are you facing circumstances today that are beyond your own strength? Don’t worry, my friend, you don’t have to handle it on your own. Lean in to God’s grace and receive His strength today.

In His grace,

  • Nancy