As I have mentioned before, my father, Rodney Stortz, was a pastor in St. Louis, Missouri, and battled with liver cancer for several years before dying in March of 2003 at the age of 52. He was such an amazing example to me in so many ways, especially in how to go through suffering with deep faith and true joy. And in God’s providence, he kept a diary during his battle with cancer that has been a continual encouragement to me during my battle with cancer.
But my dad was not our only family member who was a pastor that died of cancer. Matt’s uncle, Dan Fray, was a pastor in Red Wing, Minnesota for several years and died of stomach cancer in 1988 at the age of 38. A few days ago, one of Matt’s relatives sent me a copy of an article that Dan wrote for his church newsletter that was later reprinted in the Covenant Companion magazine. It is a wonderful reminder of what gives me joy in my journey: not the promise of physical healing, but the promise of spiritual life through Jesus Christ.
“The Ultimate Metastasis” by Daniel B. Fray
Metastasis. An ugly, fear-filled word referring to the transfer of malignant disease from one part of the body to another – part of the cancer jargon all too familiar to victims of the dread disease. It is a word I have had to hear concerning my own body, and a word I pray I will not soon hear again.
Metastasis. A word I never thought could carry any but the ugliest of connotations has recently taken on for me one clear facet of hope.
It happened as I was scanning my Greek New Testament one day (anyone impressed?) in search of sermon material. The passage was Colossians 1:13,14, which reads in the Revised Standard Version: “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
The emphasis on transferred is mine. The Greek verb took me by surprise – delightful, pleasingly ironic surprise! It comes from the same root as that ugly word, metastasis. Ultimately, God has in mind to work a total metastasis in our bodies, changing the status of our mortal bodies to something full of life and totally beyond our understanding! But even now, the transfer already complete in the spiritual sense for God’s children. We have redemption, we have forgiveness, we have been “metastasized” into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.
Cancer has the power to take us captive on a metastatic journey from life to death. Only God can reverse the process. All of us are on that journey to death, some farther along the way than others. The unspiritual person draws comfort from the illusion that death is only “natural,” even asserting (despite the logical contradiction) that death is just a stage of life. The spiritual person labors under no such illusion. We know that death is the intruder, the last enemy, the usurper, the product of sin and not of God’s good plan.
Edith Schaeffer, in her book, Forever Music (Thomas Nelson, 1986), makes the point well. “How can anyone say that death is natural? The natural thing is to have a person be a whole person. The silent body, the unmoving body, the unbreathing lungs are unnatural to family members who have just felt the pressure of a hand (pressure commanded by a brain), who have just heard a communication verbalized (also by a living brain) so short a time before. Death is a part of death. Death is abnormal to a living person; it is not a part of life.”
The point of Shaeffer’s book is that there is a “forever music” to be enjoyed by God’s people in a “forever life,” a life death cannot cancel out!
So let us praise God for our great inheritance, our redemption, our forgiveness, our “ultimate metastasis” from darkness to the light of God’s kingdom!