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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spiritual Cancer

“You have cancer!” Three of the most dreaded words in the English language. The fear of hearing those words is enough to make the period of time waiting for test results an excruciating ordeal. Most cancers are deeply internal. They may not manifest themselves until they are full blown. By the time they are finally diagnosed there may only be a small chance of a cure. The treatment for cancer is usually very aggressive; a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Radical surgery immediately cuts out the cancerous tumor. Chemo and radiation therapies are designed to destroy the lingering cancerous cells and prevent their return. But the remaining cancerous cells can be latent for several years and then rise up their ugly head again. This is why most survivors of cancer must have regular checkups.

The same phenomenon occurs in our spiritual lives. We can easily have spiritual cancer without even realizing it. Spiritual cancer lies deep within our souls, far from the surface. Many times it comes to us as bitterness, anger or hurt. There it festers and grows until one day it comes to the surface. Then its destructive force is unleashed in our lives often in the form of bitterness, anger, betrayal or hurt. This is the point where we see reputations lost, personal lives ruined and families destroyed. We often wonder what was the cause of a person’s sudden ethical or moral lapse? We seldom realize that it may have been developing deep in their soul for a long, long time.

Just like with physical cancer, the treatment for spiritual cancer requires aggressive treatment. We must first become aware that our lives are full of spiritual cancer. This will require us to examine our own souls. We must realize that we have sinned. Next, we must desire to have spiritual surgery. The first step to recovery is confession and repentance. Repentance is similar to making a U-turn. This requires making a 180 degree turn and going in the opposite direction. We must be sorry for the sin in our lives, asking God for his forgiveness, and resolving, with His help, to avoid repeating the sin. But just like cancer, the latent sin cells still lurk in the background, waiting to strike again. We need God’s radical therapy to destroy the lingering temptations to sin. This often comes to us in meditating upon God’s word. His word has the ability to cut to the heart and strengthen our resolve to avoid sin.

God’s surgery can also require a change of environment. The recovering alcoholic has to stay away from bars. The recovering drug addict must keep away from friends who are still using drugs. The recovering pornography addict has to avoid internet porn sites. We should remove ourselves from the temptations that led to our sin in the first place. If we don’t, we are more likely to repeat it. We will then experience Jesus’ warning about the demon who goes out and brings back a gang of friends to inhabit his former place. God’s therapy may also come to us in the form of individuals who will care for us and help us with our recovery. They mentor and encourage us, continually pointing us to God. They help us to be accountable in our desire to avoid falling into the same sin again.
Just like the cure for physical cancer requires deep surgery and therapy, so also will the cure for spiritual cancer. It has to go deep into our soul, where our deepest thoughts and desires reside. The old ones must be rooted out and destroyed – replaced by God’s thoughts. It is only then that the recovery can begin .But I must first ask myself “What spiritual cancer am I dealing with?”

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