Last October we got the news about my dad: cancer. Those six letters inspire more fear and anxiety than an Alfred Hitchcock movie. When those words are attached to a diagnosis for a friend or loved one, something deep inside of us starts the emotional ball rolling. When this ball gets rolling, it has to go somewhere, and if you are like me, it rolls you right into action.
When we heard the news that Dad had prostate cancer, I immediately started doing things. One thing I began doing was worrying and playing the “what if” game. (You ever play that game? “What if this happens?” or “What if that happens?” I do not know why we choose to play games that are no fun to play.) Another thing I did was begin educating myself on the topic of prostate cancer. With the click of a keystroke, I have access to millions of websites with info on everything from patient care to long term prognosis. Another thing I did was talk to friends and other family members about the situation. I wanted to gather as much wisdom and experience as I could find about the road that lay ahead for Dad.
As I reflect back on this activity, however, I realize that not all the things I did were equally productive. There was one string of activity that was perhaps most important in the grand scheme of things.
Certainly some of the things I began to do when the news of Dad’s cancer hit were appropriate. The wisdom of friends and family was beneficial and educating myself on this type of cancer proved helpful in conversations over the days ahead. However, when you really break it all down, all those things I did were parts of what I could do for my Dad . . . which in the end, would be very little. No matter how many friends I talked to, the cancer still lay in Dad’s body. No matter how many websites I read about the necessary surgery, I would never be able to actually perform the surgery myself and remove the disease. Therefore, in order for my Dad to really get the help he needed, his care needed to be placed in someone else’s capable hands.
Early on, my sister and I came across a new surgical procedure for the treatment of prostate cancer that was gaining popularity and practice around the country. This new procedure, called “Da Vinci Robotic surgery,” was only offered by a select set of doctors who had been trained to use its capacities for surgery. One such surgeon was located in Tulsa, and through an amazing set of sovereign circumstances, God led my Dad to have the Da Vinci surgery in Tulsa in January. In about the time it takes someone to watch “North by Northwest” on AMC, Dr. Cook was able to skillfully remove the cancer from my Dad’s body, eliminating at least the most wretched answers from the “What if” game. Due to my limitations in knowledge, skill, and ability, the best thing I could do was to place my Dad in the hands of another, whose skill would lead to his healing.
I write this today, because as I reflect on this experience, I am reminded of a powerful principle of prayer. When cancer strikes, we want the patient to go into the care of a doctor because their training, skill, and experience provide the best opportunity for healing. We turn to prayer and take people into the care of God when we realize that His power, character, and knowledge provide the best opportunity for the peace, hope, and healing that is needed most.
Today, as events enter your life that begin a snowball of anxiety that leads you to want to act, take a moment to remember the best help you can offer. Stop managing your anxious thoughts yourself. Through prayer, place them in His capable hands and see His peace replace your what ifs.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7