Despite my prayers, and the earnest intercession of friends and family, God has not yet taken cancer from me. I live in his world totally at his pleasure. What God has done for me in Jesus Christ, however, is a vastly greater good: he has taken upon himself the corruption of not only my body but also my soul. On the cross, he has made my cancer his. God sent his son not necessarily to cure me but certainly to heal me. It’s this truth to which I cling this Holy Week, as I ponder the final days of the earthly life of Christ.
There’s nothing theoretical about having cancer. It’s as personal as the nose on my face. But I’m not left to contend with it alone. My surgeon can trim around the edges, and indeed he has. I have the scars to prove it. Jesus Christ, however, takes it all on—mutant cells and rebellious spirit included. In doing so he releases me from bondage. I’m free, no matter the dark thoughts that sometimes cloud my mind. They are dark only because the light of Christ allows them to be. Without the night there would be no day.
We Christians speak about being the body of Christ. Well, which body is it? Is it the body of sweet Jesus ambling through a sun-dappled olive grove with his disciples, smiling and laughing and teaching and sharing life together? Or is it the body of Jesus we know from Calvary—beaten, bruised and bloody? This is the tortured body from which we want to turn our face. It’s the body we would prefer not be the model for the life of sacrifice to which we’re called. But while we may turn away, he does not. He hangs on the cross and looks down upon us with eyes still on fire. His gaze can burn holes through the back of our heads. This is the body he wants us to remember while doing his work in the world: the one that knows pain and injustice and even spiritual desolation.
We all suffer—if not now then soon enough. The solution to this suffering is to share it with the one who has already borne it. Others will forsake us; Christ will not. In the unforgettable words of Corrie ten Boom from the depths of a Nazi death camp, “No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.” He hears the groans of the wounded left to die on the battlefield. In laying aside his immunity to pain, he gathers up the broken bodies and embraces them. He fills himself with that which we cannot bear alone. He takes our darkness and gives us light.