Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Fighting Cancer Gets Personal for NASCAR Community

Danica Patrick's No. 10 is one of many racecars sporting breast cancer awareness paint schemes this October.  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b

The last thing anyone wants to hear from a doctor is, “You have cancer” or “Your cancer is back.” But every day, people just like us hear those shocking words, including folks from the NASCAR family. As Sherry Pollex and former driver Shawna Robinson undergo chemotherapy, broadcaster Steve Byrnes must re-enter his battle with the disease and begin chemo next week.

Numerous drivers support cancer patients through their own foundations or other charities. Just this week, Kyle and Samantha Busch celebrated helping the “Pretty in Pink” Foundation raise money to pay medical bills, in full, for 16 breast cancer patients. And online, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s eBay auction of his race-worn teal driving gloves is raising money for an ovarian cancer research charity of Sherry Pollex’s choice.

Michael McDowell's "Pieter's Pals" car at CMS on Oct. 11, 2014
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
It’s especially heartbreaking when cancer affects kids. For Sprint Cup driver Michael McDowell, his family’s personal loss was displayed with the words “Pieter’s Pals” on the hood of the No. 95 K-Love car. Pieter, a classmate of McDowell’s 5-year-old son, lost his battle with childhood cancer last month. Imagine trying to explain cancer to your kindergartener whose friend won’t be coming to school anymore.

Cancer is a hard topic for adults to wrap our heads around, too. The medical aspect is the easy part to grasp: The disease occurs when cells in the body behave in uncontrolled ways contrary to God’s design. But the emotional and spiritual facets of dealing with cancer are unbelievably tough.

Some people cope by trying to find a reason for the disease, something to blame, like chemicals in the environment. As shocking and heartless as it sounds, others suspect it’s the cancer victims’ own fault they have it. Thankfully, Jesus nixed that judgmental line of thinking when He talked with His disciples about a blind man:

The disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
(John 9:1-3)

God allowed the affliction for a reason: so that Jesus could heal the man’s eyes. As a result, everyone in town who knew this guy -- as a blind beggar -- experienced the miracle of his receiving his sight. Through miracles, God draws people to Himself and increases their faith.

Another way people cope with cancer is by blaming God for causing it. But that mindset shows a lack of understanding about God’s character.

Cancer is pure evil, bent on destruction. That kind of stuff can’t originate from God. God is good. He’s our healer and protector.

Those of us who have walked through the dark valley of cancer know one thing. It’s a time when we look to God for strength for our broken bodies and faith to get through the fear -- day-by-day, even minute-by-minute. To a person battling cancer, knowing other people are praying brings enormous comfort.

Our hearts go out to all the folks in NASCAR nation – Shawna, Sherry and Steve, as well as fellow fans and our own family members – who are affected by cancer. If you know someone facing this burden, lift them to God in prayer, then jot them a note to tell them you’ll be praying.

The cancer journey is a marathon, not a sprint. So let’s settle in for the long haul, to continue praying and keep encouraging these precious people, even after the pink paint schemes disappear.

Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.    ~ Psalm 143:1

“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Follow on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.