Questioning Faith After Cancer Diagnosis

Last Modified: January 7, 2013


Since my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, I feel that my faith has been challenged. I feel angry and then guilty for feeling that way and for thinking what kind of God would make my mother be so sick. Can you help me? I feel I don't know what to think.


Kava Schafer, MDiv, MA, Chaplain at Penn Medicine responds:

Rosanna, I appreciate your question. I am a chaplain serving oncology patient at HUP. and would first want you to know that I meet so many people who are struggling with faith issues as well. This is not uncommon and there is always the possibility that real growth in your faith may occur.Your faith may change and move into something that offers you real comfort. If your distress continues, sometimes, a person feels supported in a different way and new ways of feeling connected to God develop. Also sometimes, people stop practicing their faith. I do not know you, I will assume you are a Christian, but you might belong to another faith. People often feel angry with God and in the Christian tradition, the Psalms are a testimony to disappointment and anger at life events.

I would encourage you to be patient with yourself. Often no answers are really available as to why sickness comes. it is part of being a human to question and ask why. So the questions are important, keep asking, but often these "why me" questions are also an expression of grief over what has happened to your mother and how life has deeply changed.

Please forgive me for this brief response to such a serious question. If we were in front of each other, I would listen and you would tell me more deeply about what you are feeling. Even now, I would want to encourage you to befriend your full range of emotions and continue to care for your mother.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Lung Cancer Webchat.