Tumour and Incurable." Few words can shake a person more than these. Can you imagine hearing these words? Maybe you can. Maybe you or someone close has. How do you cope? Where do you find hope?
David McDonald's story is brutally real. He is a family man, a surfer and rugby fan. He was also head of one of the strongest churches in Canberra, Crossway. I rate Dave's ministry influence as absolutely huge. Whether it is within the Canberra church community, his University campus ministry, his Brumby's Rugby Union chaplaincy, or the wider sports chaplaincy fraternity, Dave's footprint is huge.
And things were about to go to the next level. He had just made the big step to resign from his Canberra church to plant a new one in Darwin. His gear had been packed and shipped and he was ready to move to the next phase of his life and ministry. So can you understand the emotion felt when, in the middle of all this, he is told some words, "Tumour and Incurable?"
The clichÃ© would be to say he instantly took it in his stride singing Spafford's hymn "It is well with my soul." The brutal reality is outlined in Dave's book "Hope beyond Cure." In it he explains the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles he has journeyed along with his cancer. He wrestles with the concept of hope. Was there such a thing as hope with cancer? And where could it be found?
Dave writes as a man on a journey. This takes him back to the Bible with a renewed urgency and intensity. And he finds that the Bible still answers all his questions and smothers his fears. Dave explains, "I want you to find encouragement and embrace the real hope that is found only in God. God offers this hope, a hope that stands on the evidence of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, to every one of us – to those who are terminally ill as well as to those who are in full health."
He outlines his initial hopelessness and shattered dreams. He explains his deep searching for hope and the way this was found in the faith, hope and love of Jesus. And he concludes with how this impacts his life and battles now.
The funny thing is, as I read Dave's book, I realised I am in the same boat. I don't have cancer but I will die. Dave makes this real. A man on top of his game. Kicking goals for the Lord. Yet now painfully aware the sting of death is there. But as he explains, the certain promise is that the sting of death has been conquered. He points to Jesus' resurrection as proof of the victory won over death. The result for Dave, and those that are on Jesus' team, is to share in this victory.
This is a brilliant book. If you have friends with cancer give them this book. If you realise you too are dying, then read this book. If you want to understand how good the "Good News" is and how it impacts the way you live (and die) then read this book. If you want to understand how the whole Bible fits together from the curse of death given to Adam because of sin, through the promise of God to rescue His people, through to the fulfilment of this promise in the historical physical resurrection of Jesus, then read this book.
As Dave summarizes, "If Jesus is alive today, then there is hope beyond death. Death will not have the final say because there is hope beyond cure. I know, because I am living in this hope."
David McDonald "Hope beyond Cure"
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html