Cancer builds couple's reliance on God

EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme of "BE His heart, His hands, His voice" from Matthew 16:24-25. Each year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists' 5,000 international missionaries' initiatives in sharing the Gospel. This year's offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.

DURBAN, South Africa (BP) -- When Roger Hesch was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, he immediately took it to the Lord -- who told him He was using the sickness to display His glory.

"In the face of his illness, [Roger] set his face like flint, as it says of the Lord Jesus," his wife Meg said, "and [was] just determined to experience this with God ... and to not turn away from God in the face of his suffering."

However, Meg did not have such an easy time accepting her husband's condition.

"I had much more of a struggle coming to terms with it as a wife," Meg admitted. "I stared widowhood in the face multiple times during the course of his illness. ... I was facing mountains that were insurmountable to me, and God just helped me to start looking for the answers to how He was bringing glory to Himself through that.

"I think one of the ways He did was through my husband's determined obedience."

Roger said growing up in the States, he was taught to pray for comfort and healing, but through the cancer God changed his outlook.

"The truth is, I was better -- I've been better -- because God let me be sick," Roger said. "When people ask me to pray now, my default prayer is not 'God fix them' ... my default prayer is 'God, let them see You; let them see Your grace in whatever this difficulty is.'

"It doesn't matter what my body's like, really. My body's been sick, as sick as I suppose anybody thinks it could be, but it's not about the body. ... God has gifts for all of us that are so much deeper than physical health or a good job or lots of money -- just knowing Him when I've got nothing else and hearing Him say, 'I love you.'"

When Meg and Roger met, before they were even dating, Roger told her that God would always be first in his life and he was looking forward to the day when he would be in heaven.

"One of the things that attracted me to him was that Jesus was front and center in his life in a very clear way, but it was hard when I was so confronted with the possibility that I was going to lose him," Meg said.

But Roger survived his near-fatal cancer and subsequent life-threatening conditions -- "and he did it for the kids and me," Meg said.

During his sickest times, Roger's marriage vows were something that helped him hold on.

"I could have said, 'I can't do this anymore,' but I made a commitment to my wife that I would stay with her in sickness and in health," Roger said. "I know most people think that means the well person stays with the sick person, but I was the sick person and I couldn't give up because I'd made a commitment to her, let alone to God and what we were doing."

Meg admitted that "if I'd had a list of all the things we have been through as a couple and in our ministry overseas before we signed on [with IMB], I think I would have turned tail and run the other way."

But God knew her capacity to handle suffering and gave Meg strength to meet each challenge as it came.

"Suffering is never the school any of us want to go to; it's not the lesson we want to sign up for," Meg said, "but it is one of the key tools God uses to shape and mold human lives. It is the tool that He used to mold His own Son and so I think if we are Christ-followers, we're called to be willing to follow in His steps."

Update

Since this story was written, Meg has been diagnosed with stage 2 cancer. Though it is difficult for her and her family to face cancer again, Meg is "confident that God has blessed purposes for my life each and every day."


Laura Fielding is a writer for IMB. Southern Baptists' gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the Gospel. Gifts for the offering are received at Southern Baptist churches across the country or can be made online at imb.org/offering where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at imb.org/lmcovideo.