Articles, Cancer

by Jan and Dave Dravecky

Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.

Cancer is a life-changing experience. It changes how we view ourselves and our future. It changes our daily routine—perhaps for a few months, perhaps for as long as we live. It may change the kind of work we do or where and how we live. And, as is true for all long-term trials, cancer changes our relationships.

Of all the discomfort, turmoil, and uncertainty that accompany cancer, the struggle to deal with changing relationships often brings us the deepest pain. All too often it seems that just when we need people the most—just when our suffering becomes more than we can bear—people scatter. This is the burden we want to address through this and the next issue of The Encourager.

Through our experiences and the suffering we have witnessed in the lives of others, we have learned that we NEED one another. God never intended for us to go it alone. At the very beginning of the human race, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” so He made Eve. Thousands of years have passed, but our need for one another hasn’t changed. We still need family members and friends to help us bear life’s burdens. Yet bearing one another’s burdens isn’t easy to do. In the face of cancer, amputation, or the death of a loved one, it can be a real struggle for both the person who is suffering and the friend or family member who comes alongside.

By its nature, suffering brings uncertainty, confusion, and isolation. It is difficult to talk about these things, so many people who suffer feel that they need to bear their burden alone. After all, if they don’t understand what is happening, how can anyone else understand’? Others who suffer are afraid to ask for help or don’t want to be a burden to others, so they push away anyone who comes close to them.

Those who would come alongside and help bear the burden may find themselves facing situations and emotions they have never experienced before. They may have no idea how to relate to a friend who has lost a child. They may not know what to say to someone who has lost a limb or is confined to a wheelchair. They may not have the spiritual or emotional stamina to stay the course and stick with a friend who suffers for many months or even years. They may, perhaps for the first time, face their own mortality as they watch a friend fight to live. They may feel they have failed if their friend doesn’t respond positively to their efforts.

All of these things make it challenging to share and bear our burdens. Despite our best efforts, we will all disappoint one another in our relationships. We won’t always be there in the way a friend or loved one needs us; we won’t always accept the gift of true friendship, even when we know we need it. But we can forgive one another and keep trying. We can offer encouragement and step in to lighten the load for one another. May God give us the grace to come alongside one another and bear our burdens together.

“Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.”