How to preach when your wife has cancer (or some other “distraction”)

I must have been absent the day they covered such things in seminary class. The professor might have addressed it the day I skipped school with my friend Eric to go snow boarding in the mountains north of L.A. However, I’m certain this topic was not covered in any preaching class. I have shelves of books on preaching and none of them seems to address my question. How in the world do you preach and minister week in and week out when your wife has stage-three colon cancer?

I confess that the reality of the question itself is still a bit surreal. This might be hard to believe but there are moments where we all forget that Julie has a killer disease. It’s surreal because she looks so healthy and is so young. At least for now, there are four small children who can’t tell any real difference between pre-cancer mommy and cancer mommy. Still, I stare down this plaguing question. How can I possibly minister to needy and sometimes hurting believers when my own wife is weighed down with massive physical and spiritual burdens?

The shape of suffering in your ministry may not take on the same form as mine but don’t think for a moment that God’s “distractions” will somehow miss you. As sure as you’re one of His sons and ministers, the arrows of God will be lovingly aimed at your ministry to keep you humble and to expose your many weaknesses. Before we complain about this we have to wonder why we would want it any other way. We tend to forget that the real pathway to life with Christ is narrow, difficult, and hard to find. If you haven’t cried yourself to sleep at night with the promises of 2 Corinthians 12:9 playing pinball in your heart then you haven’t been in ministry long enough. Give it time and suffering will come to your parsonage.

If this sounds like I’m delivering hopeless news and prophetic judgments then you need to stick around. To the contrary, this is some of the best truth we pastors can wash in. Over the coming days I want to explore this issue of preaching and ministering with “distractions” in your personal life. I’ve been thinking on this for a while now and I hope to fill-in some of the gaps missing from preaching class. Until then.

6 responses to this post.

  1. That does not sound easy…and it’s one of the mysterious providence of God that so many of us are afraid of…because it requires us to truly trust in God…
    I see that your church’s website even has on the front page “Pray for the Lamey”…I trust that God is working in your church even with this horrible cancer.

  2. Paul, I pray for you and your wife each time I check in here at Expository Thoughts. May the inflow of God’s grace always be greater than the downward pressure the the trials.

    “If a man is called to preach the Gospel, God will crush him till the light of the eye, the power of the life, the ambition of the heart, is all riveted on Himself.” — Oswald Chambers

    “If you are called to preach, God will put you through ‘mills’ that are not meant for you personally, He is making you suitable bread to nourish other lives.” — Oswald Chambers

  3. I’ll sit and listen to anything you say. Thanks for sharing your life and ministry with others. Love you all and still praying.

  4. Yes! A great series. I look forward to it. I must have missed that class as well :–) I have in the past year had to do the same as well.

    By the way, your Tigers are looking real good and the Gators are sad that Newton is not in Gators Orange and Blue.

    • Hayden,

      Newton is playing lights out and I’m sure Urban has thought more than once what might have been. The season will only get sweeter if we shut the mouths of the Bammers on the road to the SEC champ and then the NC. I can only dream at this point.


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