By now you've heard that John Edwards will continue his run for president, despite the difficult news that his wife's cancer has returned. Many have second-guessed the Edwards' decision. Katie Couric, whose husband Jay Monahan died of colon cancer, grilled the two on 60 Minutes and wondered why the candidate shouldn't drop out of the race to support his wife.
Some commentators have cynically suggested there is political calculation going on here an attempt to juice up John Edwards' popularity through sympathy for his wife and family.
White House press secretary Tony Snow, both a Republican and a colon cancer survivor, had a more benevolent perspective:
The biggest problem you have a lot of times with cancer is just flat-out fear. And when you're seeing Elizabeth Edwards saying, I'm going to embrace life and I'm going to move forward, that is a wonderful thing, because once you decide that you're going to embrace life, you become a much better patient. And once you decide that you proceed with a sense of hope and optimism, people are going to rally to your side, and they do. What she is going to do is going to provide a lot of encouragement and [an] example that I think is going to help a lot of people, and that is a truly wonderful thing, and I congratulate her for it. Tony Snow, during a White House press conference late last week
Embrace life and move forward. Proceed with a sense of hope and optimism.
Those are both solidly Christian perspectives about dealing with real life and all of its unexpected hardships and tragedies.
Faith is not a bullet-proof vest.
Within days of his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
To proceed with a sense of hope and optimism in the midst of a fatal cancer diagnosis makes no sense. Unless you are in denial. Or heavily medicated. Or, your hope and optimism has been anchored all along in something so solid that the storms cannot shift it.
Embracing life and moving forward towards surgery and radiation therapy, pain and suffering and the possibility of death before you are ready are truly frightening things. But there is that strange assurance of Christ as he looked ahead to the cross: "You will have peace in Me."
I am leaving you with a gift peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. John 14:27, NLT (Jesus speaking)
Peace. Optimism. Hope. These all sprout from faith in a God who lovingly holds us in His hand, a God who doesn't allow a sparrow to fall from the sky without taking notice.
I respect what Elizabeth Edwards is doing. I look at their decision and see a very Christian response to a very tragic situation. I see two people who seem filled with a peace the world cannot give, and I admire their courage.
From my perspective, John Edwards' decision doesn't seem to be guided by the unseen hand of some calculating political strategist. Looks more like the hand of God to me. In fact, this looks like faith.
Update: The White House has released word that Press Secretary Tony Snow's colon cancer has returned and seems to have spread to his liver. Snow had surgery yesterday to remove an abdominal growth, which was found to be malignant. Snow and his doctors are discussing treatment options.
Photo credit: The Associated Press