Whining, Cancer, and Fighting Back With Joy

I don’t have kids. I love kids. I spend a lot of time taking care of them. But I don’t have any of my own, and that’s probably more than obvious in some of my encounters with them. For instance, last weekend, when my friend’s eight-year-old daughter came into the kitchen and asked for cookies and was told no, she began to whine and beg. I simply looked at her and said, “Really? You think whining is going to get you what you want?”

But you know what?

I do the same thing. Only, because I’m 37 instead of eight, it looks a little more dignified. (Or not…)

You don’t think I can whine? Ha. Then you don’t really know me.

Sheila sat next to me in the choir. But way before that, I had met her on my first visit at my new church in rural NC. She stood out for two reasons: the bright, peacock blue scarf tied around her head and that she made a point of coming over to hug me. From that moment, I knew that she loved me – and she didn’t even know me.

Months later, I was sitting next to her in the choir loft one Sunday morning. I leaned over and asked how she was doing and she answered, “I finished the radiation. Now I can focus on getting my strength and energy back.” I smiled, squeezed her shoulders, and thanked God in my heart.

Within a matter of weeks, we had all heard the news. This same sweet woman that had finished the radiation for her breast cancer? The cancer had spread to her brain and lungs.

I whined to God, “You can’t take her away! I just found her!”

The next Sunday morning, she was so weak that her husband had to help her climb the four steps into the choir loft. But she came and smiled and sang. I stood next to her weeping as I listened to her sing:

No guilt in life

No fear in death—

This is the power of Christ in me.

From life’s first cry,

Til final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny!…

Until He returns or calls me home,

Here, in the power of Christ, I’ll stand!

(from “In Christ Alone”)

After that, Sheila went very fast. When she began having nosebleeds, the doctors found the cancer had spread to her bones and liver. On January 24, 2008, I got the call at my office that she was gone.

I sang in an ensemble at her funeral. We sang her song – In Christ Alone.

God is so good that He will let us whine. He will let us weep. He will even catch all of our tears as they fall. But He loves us too much to let us dissuade Him from doing what’s best for us. For Sheila, that was going home. For others, it might be a miraculous healing that gives them many more years on earth. But either way, He’s the one that knows best, not I.

Margaret Feinberg says, “Acceptance acknowledges our helplessness and requires us to loosen our grip, slow our pace, and reorient our focus on God in the situation. Paul does not find contentment in bucking his circumstances but in surrendering control of them.” (ebook location 531)

I can whine, scream, and cry, and make myself and the world around me miserable. Or I can cry, pray, and then move out of the way with a trusting heart while God works. It’s up to me which I do.

This post is part of a weekly book discussion on Margaret Feinberg’s book, Fight Back With Joy. You don’t have to read the book to hang out and chat. If you did write a response, you can post the link at the widget on my co-facilitator’s site.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Will you sing that for me when I pass from here to home? That is one of the most gorgeous modern hymn the church has produced, and having heard the Getty’s live rendition of that song? Yeah – tears are ok.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Yes, Rick. I’ll sing it for you. Before you leave, too, if you’d like. And tears are a given. Good thing I’m not made of sugar and won’t melt. 🙂

  3. Barbara Capps says:

    The words of the song threw me for a minute.. There must be more than one “In Christ Alone”.. But those are beautiful words too.. I think we all whine.. I just “hollar” when I whine.. .And then like you said, I have to move out of the way..:)

  4. Fighting tears. So blessed to have you in my life.

  5. Powerful and true, Sarah. He gives us the choice and He won’t force it. I’m learning to let go and trust–slowly. Honestly, some days are better than others and some things are easier to trust Him with than others, but He’s not giving up and neither am I. Until it all comes under His Lordship and His love and His blessing… That’s it. Thanks for this, Sarah.

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