Danny said he probably felt like many of the 14.5 million cancer survivors alive in the United States today. Anxious and alone. Though 25 years had past since the diagnosis and treatment of his cancer, Danny did not have even have a doctor to give him check-ups. According to his memory, his original hematologist had discharged him after 10 years, and he had been followed by his general practitioner since – but not specifically for his leukemia. That diagnosis was not mentioned during his regular exams, though a day hardly went by that he did not think about it. Danny called it the “terror of survival.” After his GP retired, Danny called my office for an appointment because he felt someone should be looking at him once in a while. He wanted to talk.

A number of studies have shown that cancer survivors continue to struggle with medical, financial, professional, and psychosocial issues long after the end of their cancer treatment, and this was true for Danny: “We are expected to get over it when we are cured. But once the treatments are over and the doctor visits are stretched to six months and then a year, you’re isolated. There’s no one to talk to.”

Danny felt haunted by the possibility that the cancer would recur. He also felt the task of rebuilding his life after something as devastating as cancer was deeply disorienting and destabilizing. “I know people treated for cancer 30 years ago still feel the same way I do,” Danny lamented. “I fear praying to God about the future because I’m afraid I’ll do something bad and the cancer will come back.”

Can we find wisdom in the Bible to help us be secure in what may happen in the future? Early in the book of Genesis, Jacob, one of the original Hebrew patriarchs, fled from his home fearing for his life after he cheated his brother Esau out of his rightful birthright. Though Jacob did not have cancer, he had “great fear and distress” (Genesis 32:7) worrying Esau might exact revenge when they would meet again. What did Jacob do for the first time in 20 years? He prayed: “O God…I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me” (Genesis 32: 9-11). Jacob remembered what God told him years before: “I will surely treat you well” (Genesis 28: 13-15). There is no sign that his great fear and distress continued after his prayer. Lest a lesson from 4,000 years appears too ancient, there is the story of Hannah 3,000 years ago, wife of Elkanah, who was barren. She prayed to God for a son. Right after her prayer “she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast” (1 Samuel 1: 18). Comfort and security occurred even before she conceived.

Why were both Jacob and Hannah comforted by their prayer even before their prayers were answered? Because they knew God was with them, and they put the results of their prayers into God’s hands. They let God work it out His way and that put their minds at ease. Two thousand years ago, Jesus articulated the way we should pray. In the model prayer taught to his disciples, Jesus said we should pray “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10). As Jesus pondered in the Garden of Gethsemane the agony he would endure on the cross, Jesus uttered his own prayer in the same fashion he taught others: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

How will things work out if we leave them up to God? The Bible promises, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

We do not have to be unduly anxious about cancer recurring years later or any other circumstance occurring. Trusting God with the outcome of our prayers (“Thy will be done”) will give us peace. Danny told me each Sunday we recite the Lord’s Prayer in churches all over the world. “It’s as relevant today as it was in Jesus’ day or centuries before. Putting into God’s hands how things will work out and knowing everything will work out ultimately for the good – that’s better than me worrying about it!”

Dr. Delvyn C. Case, Jr. is a hematologist/oncologist, writer and director, and consultant to the Department of Spiritual Care at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

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