Monday, January 23, 2012

Seein Jesus in Cancer

summer 2009 reunion
About 2.5 years ago I wrote a note about my high school youth pastor, Kevin, on Facebook called "Thankful". In His goodness, the Lord brought him into my life at the perfect time. To be perfectly honest, I was in 8th grade, had moved to a new school, and was an insecure, prepubescent, scared young boy who, quite frankly, struggled with suicidal thoughts. The note is re-posted below:

Thankful  - posted August 20, 2009

If you ever get the chance to go back and thank someone for blessing your life - do it! Call them. Write them. Pray for them. No matter how much time has passed - do something! It's such a blessing for everyone involved. A few months ago I felt this urge to write a letter to my old youth pastor, Kevin S, so i could share with him the enormous blessing and impact he was to me at a very pivotal point in my life. Growing up in a Korean church I'm sure any kid would have loved to have a 6'4" former college QB as a youth pastor, but much more than being athletic and funny - it was the love he demonstrated with his gentle rebukes, his meeting us before school for Bible Study twice a week, his attending our high school games (to watch me get pinned while wrestling) all while holding numerous part-time jobs, attending seminary and raising three well-mannered kids (now totaling six!). This taught me more about the love of Christ than a thousand sermons.

Well, he got the letter a few months ago and the timing was so perfect because it turns out that his two younger boys would be attending Wheaton this fall and so they needed a place to stay when dropping them off and attending some of their football games this fall. They stayed with us this past weekend and we had such a good time reminiscing about how faithful God has been to each of us. I was so happy I could bless them in any way (for once). But after seeing them I realized again how greatly blessed I am. It's funny how the Lord will bring different people into your life to bless you and teach you for a season and it's always at the perfect time.

Anyways, after 15 years it was so great to see and hear about how all six of his beautiful children are walking with the Lord, excelling in all things, (his first three boys were Division I scholarship athletes in basketball and football) and growing up to be godly men and women. Here's a picture of Kevin and Dana and the two boys (Seth and Joey) who are at Wheaton this fall. They will be playing football there and so I hope to catch a game or two down there this year. Should be fun. Thank you Lord!

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. -2 Cor 3:2-3


When I first got word of Kim's cancer I reached out to him and asked Kevin, who is serving as a pastor out in North Carolina, to pray for us. I had not talked to Kevin in quite a while but I remembered that his daughter-in-law, Lindsey, had struggled with cancer and, in fact, the last I heard, Kevin told me that the outlook was not good, despite repeated treatments, unless the Lord intervened. I wrote him this:

On Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM, Peter wrote:

Dear Kevin,
I know we haven’t talked in a while but I’d appreciate your prayers for my wife Kim who appears to have cancer. I know you walked through something similar with Jake’s wife and so you understand what we’re up against. Please feel free to forward to your family and friends. I love you brother.

You can read all about it here:

Thanks Kevin.



He quickly responded:

From: Kevin
Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2012 12:34 PM
To: Cho, Peter
Subject: Re: prayer request for my wife
I have been reading and praying for you and Kim. Last night I shared what is going on with Lindsey, Jacob's wife and she would love to contact you and Kim. It sounds very, very similar to Lindsey's cancer. She too had lymphoma, it was Hodgkins. Kim and Lindsey sound so much alike, beautiful, brave, selfless and most importantly they know from Whom their strength comes. I am forwarding the info to Lindsey. But first perhaps you could give us a more direct email to you, to Kim or if you chose for Lindsey to only write you or only Kim just let me know. My girl has been through it all, a number of times in fact, she has learned what only suffering can teach - the depths of the love of Jesus. 

Please know my brother that Dana and I are with you both before the throne of grace and we will stay there as long as need be.

All is grace,


A few days ago Kim and I got a lovely email from Lindsey - to be honest I was just thrilled to hear that she was still alive...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jacob and Lindsey
Date: Sat, Jan 21, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Subject: Prayers from the Skogens

Kim and Peter,
My name is Lindsey, I married Kevin and Dana's son Jacob (boy #1).  While you were still awaiting a final diagnosis Kevin gave me  your contact information as well as your blog, since then Jacob and I, as well as our oldest son Joseph have continually been praying for you and your children.

Your writing is beautiful, your faith in your Savior overflows from the page and we praised the Lord last night that you are not having to fight a two front battle.  You know where your hope lies, your eyes are fixed on God's promises.  There is an incredible difference in the people that get slung into this cancer world and only then, for the first time, try to figure out what it is they believe.  I know you have already seen that there isn't an extra ounce of emotional, spiritual, or physical strength to spare by dividing your energies between fighting sickness and getting your theology straight.  We continue to pray that the Lord would draw near to you and flood your hearts and minds with his promises.

In one of your posts you mentioned how entering the cancer world puts you in special communion with others who have also walked that path.  You are so right and as we read each post our hearts break knowing how hard the path is.  How hard it is to be the patient, and how hard it is to be the spouse trying to keep the outside world (home, schedules, and work) spinning while still caring for your wife.  We will continue to pray specifically for all of the ups and downs that we so clearly remember, and we will join you in praising the Lord for the things He will allow Kim to forget (like the Rituxan experience).  Some of my darkest memories include long dark nights of excruciating head and jaw pain while getting rituxan.

I did also want to let you know that many of our prayers are for your children.  When I went through all the treatments for my Lymphoma (Hodgkins), our son Joseph was very young and I realize the difference it must be to have older, cognitive children who actually need explanations.  We pray that you will be equipped with the answers they need and that the Lord would use this to bless them as they watch their parents walk by faith through this valley.  Scripture says it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting.  In our walk through cancer we have seen this truth fleshed out.  Looking back we see how the refining furnace of cancer spiritually transformed not only Jacob and me, but our brothers, sisters, and many others who walked the valley with us. 

It is our prayer that the Lord's name would be glorified in you and through you as you follow your Savior into this trial - may you always remember that Christ knows very intimately the physical pain and spiritual strife he is asking you to pass through.

We will remember you in prayer daily dear brother and sister - and will bombard the throne room of God with our prayers for you.

I was so moved when she wrote: "Scripture says it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting.  In our walk through cancer we have seen this truth fleshed out.  Looking back we see how the refining furnace of cancer spiritually transformed not only Jacob and me, but our brothers, sisters, and many others who walked the valley with us." Here is the verse Lindsey referenced:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. -Ecclesiastes 7:2

We need to be constantly reminded that a season of mourning on earth does not compare to an eternity of joy in heaven, and see it as a blessing because God uses it to draw us ever nearer to Him. And in our brokenness and in His nearness, we can hear His voice and see His face in ways never heard or seen before (Acts 22:14). It is in this nadir that we come face to face with the profound brevity of this life, and we are forced to redirect our thoughts and our lives towards that which is of eternal value. God Himself.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. -Romans 8:18

We are told that the life to come is so much greater than the here and now, that it is not even comparable. Conversely, a lifetime of plenty on earth is meaningless if you end up forfeiting your very soul.

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? -Mark 8:36

As Randy Alcorn says, "You will never see a U-Haul on the back of a hearse." 
My pastor friend Sung used to always say:
"If you know Jesus, this world is as close to hell as you will ever get, so rejoice;  if you don't know Jesus, this world is as close to heaven as you will ever get, so suck it like a lemon and try to enjoy it for all it's worth."

Those are some sobering thoughts...

Coming into this I would not have wished cancer on my worst enemy. In just 2 short weeks I have witnessed the great pain and suffering it brings. But I am not God nor do I possess His eternal wisdom, and to be honest, I am beginning to see small glimpses of how He can transform man's greatest curse, into His greatest blessing and I am overwhelmed.

I can't say I have figure it all out but in two short weeks I have realized I can be thankful for cancer in this....
- Cancer has given me a renewed sense of God's presence in my life.
- Cancer has refocused my priorities to the things which matter (e.g. faith, family, friends, etc.)
- Cancer has forced me to my knees in daily dependence upon His grace and provision.
- Cancer has humbled me, and revealed that I control little to nothing in my life.
- Cancer has revealed within me a glimpse of Jesus by just tasting the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.
- Cancer has given me a heart of love and compassion towards others (in a way I didn't think possible)
- Cancer has helped me to see that God is neither ignorant of our suffering, nor is He uncaring of our pain.
- Cancer has demonstrated the great love of Christ through the Body of Christ (the Church)
- Cancer has awakened me to the brevity of this life, and fostered a greater hope in the life to come.
- Cancer has helped me to appreciate each new day as an unequivocal gift from God.
- Cancer has not made me more bitter towards God, but more awed by His wonder.
- Cancer has helped me to see Jesus in everything....yes, even in cancer.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, -Philippians 3:10

So many of us (including me) have asked God for "the power of the resurrection" in our lives, but we want nothing to do with the "fellowship of sharing in his sufferings". We want to be lifted up, without being brought down. But that is not the Lord's design nor His order. Before there is a resurrection, there must first be a death (Gal 2:20). Before there is ultimate joy, there must be painful sorrow (Psalm 126:5). Before He can build up, He must first tear down (Hosea 6:1). Before we can lift our hands and be exalted, we must fall on our knees and be humbled. This is the glory of the gospel and the very pattern we see in the life of Jesus Christ. His first coming was defined by brokenness, sacrifice and humility. His second coming will be defined by victory, triumph and glory (Philippians 2:5-11).

But take heart and know that in the midst of your brokenness - He is nearer than He has ever been (Psalm 34:18). And don't fret if you are walking through the fire of an unspeakable trial. Trust His heart - when you cannot trace His hand (Rom 8:28-29). God loves you more than you can possibly know, and He is more powerful than you can possibly fathom. He is holding you in the palm of his hand (Isa 49:16) and He is setting in motion His unique purpose for your life. A perfectly designed plan which may bring sorrow for a season, but will produce joy for an eternity - if you place your faith in Him.

Awed by Grace,

Peter & Kim


  1. Peter, I'm encouraged by your reflections and example of faith. Remember all the characteristics of God we studied in class? Cling to them. God is true.

  2. Dear Kim,

    Reading this reminded me of the first time I met you. It was my freshman year in highschool at the Calvary Retreat. I was new to the church and already feeling out of place when we were told to pick rooms. Everyone was scrambling to pick their roommate and I started to feel like the last one to be picked in gym class. Out of nowhere a cool, pretty, upper classmen (this would be you) asked me to be her roommate! I was so relieved, but at the same time nervous because I knew I was the dorky kid that noone really wanted to room with.

    I think it was the second night and we were laying in our bunks when you asked me if I knew Jesus. I said I didn't. You proceeded to tell me about Jesus and asked me if I wanted to pray with you. This was the first time anyone ever talked to me about Jesus and the first time I ever prayed out loud. Honestly, I can't remember what verse you read from the Bible, but I am sure of one thing. That night, I knew in my heart that I was a child of God. For the first time, I felt free and safe. Thank you for planting that seed and for sharing the Message. You will always have a special place in my heart! I'm praying for you everyday...

    Jane Kong (now Kwon:))

  3. Amen to it all! Love what P. Sung says, and love your montage of verses at the end! God truly is so good to those who love Him. Blessed by all your blessings as prayers continue heavenward.


  4. ... In awe at the beauty of this tapestry God is making AND allowing us to see through your trials...