This post contains a modified excerpt from RM Sobecks, MD, Divine Mercy Triumph over Cancer - A Guide for Patients, Survivors, and Their Caregivers. Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press; 2011.
The Lord desires our humble trust in Him, and many cancer patients are living examples of such docility. Often times in medicine as in other walks of life, those who assert themselves or who are considered powerful attract the most attention and in many cases receive various positions of leadership. However, we hear from Jesus that it is the humble who will be exalted. Those who empty themselves realize that any and all good they do is accomplished through the grace of Almighty God and His mercy.
Our Blessed Mother and Almighty God Himself in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ define perfect humility. In the Beatitudes, we hear, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land” (Mt 5:5). Some cancer patients may have low self-esteem, since their diseases are potentially life threatening. However, when one accepts his or her cross, anxiety and fear can significantly decrease or completely disappear.
When patients submit their lives into the hands of their physicians, they also practice the virtue of humility. As their relationships with their caregivers further develop, this process often becomes easier. I believe that true compassion and love expressed by healthcare workers allows for the formation of strong relationships with patients. This, in turn, may enable them to cope far better with their illnesses. Likewise, as we completely trust in the unfathomable love and mercy that God has for us all, it becomes natural to humbly submit our lives to His Divine will.
Obedience to Almighty God is humility that expresses deep love. When we sincerely love someone, any sacrifice we endure for them is gladly accepted. I have witnessed many cancer patients suffer. Those who offer up their mortifications for the glory of God are wonderful examples for us all. Their lives are a reflection of Jesus, who is the model of perfect humility. The meekness with which Our Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary lived should also strengthen each of us and teach us to follow her magnificent example of trust in Jesus.
Some individuals may have had lives of wealth, power, and considerable success in this world that can lead to a feeling of superiority. However, when faced with a cancer, such souls are forced to reexamine their lives. Illness can be the spark of a great spiritual transformation from which they see the world in a new light. The standards by which the world judges are then seen as worthless. Pomp and great success in this world are not the standards by which God judges success. The Lord tells us what He requires of us through the Prophet Micah: “Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8).
Jesus is also very clear in the Gospel that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, while those who humble themselves will be exalted (see Mt 23:12). He tells us that some who are first will be last while others who are last will be first. He who is God humbled Himself to become man, born in abject poverty, and later was rejected, persecuted, and condemned to die a shameful death on the cross. How much more should each of us humble ourselves, since we are nothing without God? As we contemplate the humility of Jesus our lives should proclaim, “All praise and adoration be yours, Almighty God!”
St. Faustina also noted, “If there is a truly happy soul upon earth, it can only be a truly humble soul. ... A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all its confidence in God. God defends the humble soul and lets Himself into its secrets, and the soul abides in unsurpassable happiness which no one can comprehend.” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, 593).
Stewart was a famous surgeon who after his retirement later developed acute myeloid leukemia. He received chemotherapy and a subsequent transplant procedure and was free of his disease. As he underwent treatment, many physicians helped care for him. During this time Stewart could probably have gone to any physician in the country, but he allowed me to transplant him even though I was about twenty years younger than him at the time. Not only did he show me tremendous respect, but he conveyed this to the hematology/oncology fellows, medical residents, medical students and younger nurses as well.
On one occasion I overheard a conversation that Stewart was having with one of the younger hematology/oncology fellows. This person was simply in awe that this famous surgeon was giving him the time of day. Stewart smiled at him and told the following story. There had been a man who was traveling down a large river. Unfortunately, the small boat he had been in turned over amidst the rough waves, and he was thrust out into the torrent. The man was unable to swim due to the strength of the current. He became horrified when he realized that he was rapidly heading towards a great waterfall. As thoughts of imminent death rushed through his mind, he came across a rock protruding from the water. The man grabbed onto part of the rock. This stopped his advance down the river.
A group of adolescents tried to throw the man a rope, but he refused their help, thinking that they were incapable of rescuing him. Later, another older man in a small boat came by to offer assistance. Yet the man in the water feared that this older individual would not be able to pull him into his boat if he were to let go of the rock. Afterwards a woman with a larger boat came by to try and help. The man declined her offer, since he perceived her to be too weak to actually save him. Shortly after, the man lost his grip, was washed away from the rock, and met his death after going over the waterfall. Later, he stood before the Lord and asked why God did not rescue him when he cried for help. The Lord then told him that He in fact sent the adolescents, the older man and the woman, but he would not accept their assistance due to his pride.
Stewart then acknowledged it would likewise be foolish for him to refuse the help that those younger healthcare workers were trying to provide him as he faced his cancer. He felt that the Lord put them into his life for a reason. Stewart displayed great humility and had deep respect for these people. In this, he challenged those around him to examine their own lives and remember that the Lord works through others to accomplish His purpose. Each of us must also be open and docile to the direction of the Holy Spirit who works in wondrous and mysterious ways.
You can find Dr. Sobecks guide here:
Copyright (c) 2011 RM Sobecks. All rights reserved.