Cancer Sucks. Jesus Does Not.

DSC_0120When someone that you love is as sick as my little brother is, it’s easy to think of a clean bill of health as the very best thing. It’s understandable, really—there is nothing that I would not trade to see Ian healed of the cancer that wracks his body, and I am confident that there are people that you love of whom you would say the same. But as my family walks through the hell that is cancer, I become more and more convinced that health is not, in fact, the very best thing.

Please don’t misunderstand me—I long for Ian to be healed. I pray fervently for that very thing every single day. But you see, there’s a tension as I sit and wait with my little brother. It would be simple for me to muddy the idea of redemption from our circumstances and redemption from our sins. As my family spends our days anxiously awaiting the next round of test results, I desperately want to believe that God’s best plan for my family is Ian’s physical healing. The reality, however, is that our need—your need—is so much deeper than that.

You and I and Ian aren’t sick people that need healthy bodies– we are dead people that need life breathed into them. At the end of the day, our deepest need is not for healthy bodies, it is for life! Before Jesus, we are hopelessly dead in our sins. Dead. Have you ever thought about that? A dead man can do nothing for himself—he is beyond help. Forgotten. Lost. With each passing day, his memory grows more and more faint until nobody remembers that he ever existed at all. He is of no consequence, and certainly nobody would ever think to try and revive him. There is, after all, no hope for a dead man.

You and I are DEAD without Jesus– and our ONLY hope rests in God mercifully, lovingly, rescuing sinners like us that deserved to be forever left in the death of their rebellion. Our hope is in Immanuel-God WITH us! A holy God coming to earth to live the life that we could not live, and die the death that we deserved to die. By taking our place, Jesus has reconciled sinful man to a holy God. And even in the midst of cancer I will tell you that more than promising test results, more than an immune system that works, more than remission and a clean bill of health-we need Jesus. We need Him to take us from death to life.

As 2013 looms before you, I don’t know what your “cancer” is.  I do know that the hopelessness that strangles us is the ugly fruit of our inability to trust that God is incapable of being anything but good to us, and that His mercies are new every single morning. And while God’s goodness towards us is not always what we want, it is always what we need.  Joy is a defiant “Nevertheless” in the face of unspeakable pain. Cancer may wrack our bodies, but there is a God that sees, pursues, and loves us with an everlasting love. If He knows every curly blonde hair that used to be on Ian’s head, He certainly saw us shave them all off. And while I don’t know much, I know that Jesus loves Ian more than I do. And I know what Ian and I need most is Jesus. A healthy body means nothing if our souls are dead.

If you don’t know Jesus-really know Him—He is what you need. More than rescue from your circumstances, you need to be brought from death to life.

We won’t stop confessing He is good and we won’t stop thanking Him for grace and we won’t stop holding out our hands — and taking His hand. We won’t stop believing that ‘God is good’ is not some trite quip for the good days but a radical defiant cry for the terrible days. That ‘God is good’ is not a stale one-liner when all’s happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard.” -Ann Voskamp


  1. Priscilla says:

    Beautifully said, Ashley! We are praying for you and your family!

  2. Wow. THAT’S faith! Love the picture at the top too!

  3. Cynthia Shigo says:

    Dear Ashley,

    I just have to tell you how proud I am of the beautiful treasure of Christ you are. Not because I had anything to do with it, but because I always rejoice to see the young people God brings in my life becoming even more than I could have hoped or imagined they would be. When I spent that whole semester reading delight verses to the drama class, I never dreamed that you would be the only one who later wrote to tell me that you remembered that God delights in you and Jesus loves you, even when life is really tough. When I prayed for the sophomores every morning, that you would grow up to be like Jesus, I did not know how wonderfully He would answer that prayer in you. When I even agreed to teach your Bible class (for which I knew I was woefully unqualified!) I did not know if anyone would ever really grasp that it’s all about Jesus, that HIs grace really is sufficient, and that HIs love and grace are powerfully transforming all of us who believe in HIm, recreating you and me in the image of God. I remember that at the end of the year when I asked you to speak about the most important thing you had learned about Jesus, you spoke about joy. You are right, this new life in Christ is much more important that the life of the body which passes away. I am praying for your family every day, and look forward to hearing about how Ian will recover and thrive and grow up to be like Jesus, too. For he is surely the delight of the Father and the Treasure of Christ, and God has good plans for him, a hope and a future, and a wonderful new year. Thank you for bringing such joy to all who know you.l

    With my love,

    Cynthia Shigo

  4. Love this, friend. So true and insightful.

  5. Can’t remember which one of my friends, posted a link to this blog, but whomever it is I am grateful to them, for this is an amazing treatise about life and Jesus. I walked with my niece through chemo, radiation, a year in the hospital…and now she is contemplating what college to attend. But many of these thoughts you just wrote- they remind me of feelings I had- and they call me to a higher place in God as well. Thank you for sharing this journey.

  6. Kenny, Donna, Barrett and Brayden says:

    Ashley, Ian and the entire Peterson family – We are SO PROUD of you! You stand as inspirations to us all. Please know that we are standing in the gap for you during this time and know that Jesus hears every prayer. Love to you all!

  7. mikehendrick says:

    Ashley: I just read this after getting a link from Amy Wright’s facebook. This is so full of Faith but yet so confident of God’s unchanging nature. I especially like this quote “You and I aren’t sick people that need healthy bodies– we are dead people that need life breathed into them.” So amazing such a unique perspective. I also read your followup about your brothers passing today….Although I don’t know you personally my thoughts and prayers are towards you and your family. May you all know God’s comfort and peace at this time and as you celebrate your brother’s life and your wedding I pray for the Joy of the Lord to be your strength. God bless you.

  8. Lorna Morse says:

    Wow. I was diagnosised with a rare form of rhabdomyosarcoma on Nov 15, 2013. I am a happily married mom of 2 boys age 11 and 8. More than any of these things, I am a believer in a God who spared nothing, not even His own Son, in order to give me life. I googled “Cancer sucks but Jesus lives”. Your blog came up. I’ve read a lot of discouraging things on the internet the last few weeks. Your blog is not one of them. Thank God…I was a dead person that needed life. I have life…Jesus. Thank you for the encouragement. Thank for sharing about your brother. God is good.

    • Oh Lorna, I’m so sorry to hear that. I’m stopping to pray for you and your family now–and believing with you that God is still good. He is incapable of being anything else!

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