A God that Gives People Cancer?

>> Sunday, December 29, 2013

I have a really great friend from another religion whose mother was was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few years ago. She told me the other day that although she's supposed to be a Christian,  she now has a hard time believing that there is a God .She said how could there be a god if there is cancer. Why did he take my mother away and let her leave 3 children and a husband? I want to help her but don't know what to tell her. Concerned Friend,

 Dear Concerned Friend,
It's great that you care sooo much about your friend and want to help her :)

Honestly, I can’t imagine how your friend is feeling like right now. Death is very hard to bear. For her to have seen her mother in so much pain must have been such an emotional roller coaster.

I know, though, that she isn’t alone. This is something that is reiterated in different ways a lot: I prayed and prayed but God still let my aunt/ mother/son/ etc die. I don’t think God is truly there anymore….

Here's what I have to say: …

God does exist. I know this with my heart because the universe is so perfectly balanced it could not have come out of nowhere. (Refer to my article http://dearlittleauntie.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-do-we-know-gods-really-there.html  for more reasons).  So, then, the question really is: Why does God let such things happen?

And the answer is ironically enough because God loves us.

See, this world is a test. That’s all it is….a test. It was never meant to be our house or where we put down our roots. Not at all….Instead, this world is simply the place where you and I have to struggle to put God above our desires.  It’s a stop  (just like death, too) in our road to our real home…

Jannah or paradise- where rivers crisscross beautiful, lush gardens, and everyone is happy…where everyone is just in a state of bliss….and all sorts of incredible things are waiting for us. And where we will never ever feel sorrow- not even for a single second.

And even, though, most of us claim that we know this….we lose sight of that fact, and find ourselves falling in love with the world here. We love it so much, we don't want to leave!

Just like a little baby who gets too comfortable inside his mummy's tummy. He/she has no idea that outside of his/her mummy’s tummy is a whole world out there, waiting for him/her to explore.  And so,this baby, a little scared, and unsure of where  he/she is going, comes out crying, right. Suddenly there are lights everywhere and sounds…a place completely different from what they were used to.

The same thing happens to us! We sometimes get a little too comfortable here on this earth. We forget that there’s something better for us waiting for us. Something much bigger and much more wonderful. We forget also what is expected of us and what it is that we should be doing. We get distracted by this dunya....


Because God knows us better than we know ourselves, He keeps us focused on the goal- keeps us in constant remembrance of Him and  He makes sure we’re not seduced by the temporary pleasures of this world…to make sure that we don’t forget our ultimate purpose…He tests us. For some people, it’s by taking away their money and prized possessions. For others, it’s by taking away their health.

Again, it’s not because He enjoys our suffering. God is so Merciful, so Loving…it’s because He wants us to pass this test so that we can win the real prize….eternal happiness. He doesn’t want us to trade a mirage (this world) for what is waiting for us. And so...sometimes, He uses "pain" to redirects us to our greater purpose of worshiping Him. Sometimes we need a wake up call to help us remember and re-prioritize our life. 

Let me give you another analogy…let’s say your science teacher tells your class you really need to study everyday so that you do well on the final (which will be given by the State). She notices no one is really preparing for class or studying…instead, everyone is just relying on cramming material the night before the exam. So what does she do? She makes a very difficult midterm…not because she wants everyone to fail. No, she does it so that she encourages her students to take the subject seriously and prepare properly. When the state exam comes at the end of the year- her students do really well, all because they got a real scare and some awful marks on their first test. Would you call this teacher mean or someone who really cares? 

"Were it not that Allah treats His slaves with the remedy of trials and calamities, they would transgress and overstep the mark. When Allah wills good for His slave, He gives him the medicine of calamities and trials according to his situation, so as to cure him from all fatal illnesses and diseases, until He purifies and cleanses him. And then (He) makes him qualified for the most honorable position in this world, which is that of being a true slave of Allah (‘uboodiyyah), and for the greatest reward in the Hereafter, which is that of seeing Him and being close to Him." -Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullah)

And that brings us to another point- what God takes away from us, never belonged to us in the first place. See, the believer knows that with all his heart. He understands that “inna lilahee wa ina ilahyee la rajoon”..yes, everything about us- our health, money, children, etc, were all gifts from God…they never belonged to us, in the first place. They were things on loan…instead of thinking: God denied me this and that….we should be thinking….”Wow, God is so Merciful. He let me enjoy this or that for X amount of time. And if I try bear the fact that He took it away from me for SOME time, He’s going to give it back to me in the HereAfter FOREVER… ” Because whatever He took away here, we’re going to find in jannah, inshaAllah- whether it’s a loved one, money, or our health.  

Of course, as Muslims, we also understand that any sort of pain we feel here expiates our sins and elevates our status in heaven so long as we bear it patiently. The Prophet (sallah Allah alayee wa salaam) told us that even the prick of a needle removes sins…What about cancer?! Every single moment a believer feels pain, then, is actually an opportunity to move ahead in the race towards jannah.

And you know what’s really interesting? Even atheists should be able to see the silver lining in cancer. For one thing, when a loved one experiences any disease, it makes us more compassionate towards them and we see how much we took them for granted. Instead of worrying about silly things, families have the opportunity to get closer and to concentrate on what really matters: each other. That’s a blessing that many people miss out on.

Moreover, society, at large, actually benefits. I know- it sounds horrible. But here’s the thing: the threat of cancer is one of the major reasons people keep pushing themselves to exercise, to take care of their bodies, to eat healthily, to get active, and so on… So think how many lives are actually saved because of the disease?

I’m not belittling cancer. But what I am trying to explain is that as believers, we know that everything God does ultimately results in good- whether that is in this life or the next.

It might take your friend some time to reconcile this with her grief…but God willing, she will turn back towards God.

Please also take a look at this very well written article: http://muslimmatters.org/2013/05/15/why-we-are-tested-the-psychology-of-suffering-misfortune-part-1/

2 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Seeker of Guidance January 4, 2014 at 5:10 AM  

Good answer. I like the articles you linked to.

Unknown January 7, 2014 at 12:32 PM  

I love your blog

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Asalamu aialkum!
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