Hope Beyond Cure – David McDonald
David McDonald’s book Hope Beyond Cure is not a book that you want to be relevant for your friend or family member to read. But as most people will come into contact with cancer either themselves, or through a friend or family member, it is a very necessary and helpful book.
Packed and ready to move to the other side of the country with his family to plant a new church, being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer was not anywhere on David McDonald’s radar. But that’s what happened in December 2011, when he was given maybe a year to live. The highs and lows of adjusting to McDonald’s new normal that he describes at the start of the book helped open my eyes to the reality of life with cancer.
The structure of Hope Beyond Cure is clear and straightforward. As his journey with cancer brought him to reconsider the claims of Christianity afresh, McDonald goes on to explain the main aspects of the message of the Bible – faith, hope, and love.
I recently heard a preacher suggest that our world has made the word faith synonymous with superstition. Any mention of having faith in God is usually met with surprise and even ridicule. But as McDonald helpfully explains, faith isn’t some religious feeling or superstition, it’s about what you trust or depend on. And for the Christian, it means trusting in Jesus’ death as a historical event that has personal significance for all of us.
You’d think that losing hope would be a natural reaction to receiving a diagnosis of incurable cancer. But, because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we are able to have hope which transcends the grave. McDonald sets out the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and then what this hope that the resurrection brings looks like. In this section, I found the image of our current bodies being tents awaiting our permanent, perfect home in heaven a helpful reminder. We are so easily distracted by this life, and focused on this body, that we forget we look forward to something infinitely better.
Finally McDonald explains how “faith and hope free us to live, right here and now, even in the midst of pain and suffering, in love” (p71). Having hope beyond death enables us to have deep compassion and love for those around us. It gives us empathy to look beyond ourselves to the needs of others. All the while knowing that God has taken care of our greatest need, forgiveness of our sins. That type of love isn’t always going to be easy, McDonald points us back to God’s costly, sacrificial love that he has displayed to us in Jesus.
There are a number of groups of people for whom this book would be helpful. Christians who have had, or are undergoing treatment for cancer will find encouragement in McDonald’s clear reminder of the hope beyond our current experiences that we have in the gospel of our Lord Jesus. It would also be a good evangelistic gift for a non-Christian in that same situation, as it’s an opportunity for them to consider the peace and comfort that trusting in Jesus could bring during a period of great uncertainty and suffering.
But even if you’ve not personally been impacted by cancer, this book is still one for you. Because, as McDonald talks about in chapter 3, hope in medicine, hope in lifestyle, hope in relationships and hope in understanding, are limited and temporary for all of us. Ultimately, everyone will face death, and so we all need to “get our life in order” and consider the claims of Jesus. It’s only by trusting in his death and resurrection that we can have true, lasting, real hope beyond death. So Hope Beyond Cure is a book that everyone should read. I’ve bought a couple of copies, just in case the opportunity arises to give them away.
About this month's contributor, Sarah Cameron
I love to read, but don’t get much time to at the moment as my 1 year old daughter Hannah has just learnt to walk. I’m thankful to be part of the St Barnabas Anglican Church Fairfield and Bossley Park church family, where Gus my husband is an Assistant Minister. Not originally from the South West, our free time is spent exploring the local area, experiencing new foods and getting to know people from different backgrounds.