My dear friend

A while ago, you fierce cancer warrior, you made this comment:

‘I pray that one day I will be able to come and encourage someone in pain rather than me coming to the hospital.’

I cried for you when I saw you write this.  Not because you’re sick – yes, you’re not well, and I’m so terribly concerned for you.  No, I wept for you because you think, in your weakness, you have no inspiration to offer.

Who told you that?

The world has lied to you, dear heart.  It has told you that in order to be of value, to say anything worthy of listening to, to do anything meriting approval, you need to have it all together.  Be healthy.  In control.  ‘Look’ the part.

You’ve gone unnoticed, maybe without malicious intent, but certainly not deemed a Voice To Be Heard.  ‘You have cancer (insert whatever weakness you perceive yourself to have here), oh what a shame,’ society murmurs, often without truly understanding.  ‘Hurry on up then, get better quickly, we can’t wait to have you back to normal again.’

And so you are excluded from real community (and tell me what is normal anyway?).

So hear these words from me, one who too has been ignored and will be silenced no longer:

If people deem you weaker, then they have made a comparison.  And when we are compared to Jesus, we are all weak.  You’ve probably often heard it said, that the weaker I am, the greater God’s show of strength in me.  Do you know why we say that?  It is because a great display of power doesn’t encourage honesty, the kind that helps you see yourself for who you really are.  We are certainly impressed with the strong, but somehow they always end up making us feel ‘less’, that we don’t measure up.  And this can shame us into silence, or cause us to be envious.  Being vulnerable, letting others in on our imperfections, revealing our shortcomings helps us move beyond shallow tolerance into deeper solidarity with the suffering around us.  The truth is, we are all walking wounded in some way or another.  Some just don’t see it, or won’t admit it.

Being sick (or weak, or without resource) does not disqualify you from a purposeful, God-directed life, nor is it grounds for God to be disappointed with you.   A quick reading of 2 Corinthians tells us a number of people were dismissing Paul because they thought he was:

  • A physical weakling:  ‘For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”’ (10:10)
  • Uneducated and cheap:  ‘I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.  Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?’ (11:6-7)
  • Somehow ‘lesser’ because he didn’t lay claims to rights and privileges:  ‘Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.’ (11:23)

And his response?

‘If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.’ (11:30)

You have so much to say.  Courageously you face your struggles, you don’t give in, you don’t back down.  You are showing a desperate, hurting world the truth of God’s Word – his sustaining power when we are afflicted, his immeasurable might to come to our aid in the face of great adversity.  The way of Christ is Almighty God coming as a helpless newborn, dying a criminal’s death on a cross.  Jesus didn’t even own property or have a position in society.  No money.  No elaborate academic qualification.  And what about Moses who stammered, Jacob who lied and limped, Peter who denied his beloved Jesus, Paul who persecuted the early church? Oh, the list can go on.  So let us not forget this, God’s strong were once the weak.  It is all about HIM and not about us.

To your family, your culture, your community, you are a reminder that God can take what the world regards as useless and turn it into something glorious.  Your life is proof of the fact that brokenness and imperfection are all part of being wonderfully human, and fully alive.

You are a glowing, radiating, incandescent testimony to a God who shows himself strong in your weakness.

You are a blessing…. to me, most of all, to me.

All my love


‘Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ 1 Corinthians 1:26-27

 “I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.”

Jean Vanier