In one of the assigned readings, I came across story of a Jewish woman named Esther who had suffered from cancer. The uniqueness of her journey touched me incredibly when I learned about her own personal struggle with the disease. It is an amazing but sad story in the sense that Esther copes with her cancer in a shame related way, believing that she is suffering from her sins. Esther is unhappily married and ends up having an affair with her boss, and she perceives cancer as a punishment from God for her sin.
As told in the story written by Dr, Jerome Groopman in book the “The Anatomy of Hope”, Esther waits quite a long time before seeking treatment, and her tumor is very large before she decides to receive medical attention. The author of the books shares his own experience as a resident in the hospital, getting into depth about her family issues, problems, and reactions to her illness. Esher’s character can be compared with similar reading from the bible called “Book of Job” in that both characters believe to be suffering by the hand of Satan, although this is not true in reality.
In this particular reading, Satan comes to accuse wealthy Job before God. He insists that Job only serves God because God protects him, and Satan seeks God’s permission to test Job’s faith and loyalty. In Satan’s test, Job loses his wealth, family and health. Three of his friends come to try to comfort him and keep telling him that his tragedy is a punishment for past sins in his life. At this point, I was able to notice similarities to Esther’s experience in that she saw cancer as punishment for her infidelity. In the old testament of the Bible, Job’s friends tell him that he needs to remain humble and allow God to purify his life.
Like Job, Esther is torn between believing in God’s punishment and willing to bet better. At first, she seeks the treatment way too late, but at least she does. She shares her secret with Dr. Groopman within a health venting session, also part of the healing process, and at this part we get to know Esther as a person not just as patient. Furthermore, after the dinner at Esther’s house and the significance of her husband’s prayer, Esther feels so guilty that she never follows up with her appointment and stops the rest of the treatment.
Like Job, Esther is torn apart by her belief that she should suffer and often loses the will to place faith in God and hope for better health. The story of Esther ends tragically due to Esther’s unyielding feelings of guilt. She lost the battle with cancer and died after receiving treatment in the most advanced stage of the disease. On the other side, in the Bible, Job questions God and learns the valuable lesson about the sovereignty of God and his need to trust in Lord. After Job places trust in God, his prosperity and health returns. Here is where Esther and Job differ.
While Job regains his faith and his prosperity, Esther is continually haunted by shame and consequently loses her health. I think that God’s desire was to purify Esther, and that could be reason behind her disease, but Esther not seeking treatment was her own negative way of coping with the sin. Esther did not believe in God’s will, for her to be purified, and she suffered until her death. In my opinion, Esther was so focused on the idea of punishment that she missed the whole point of purifying her soul. I think of God as the greatest, and it is hard for me to believe that our Lord would want Esther to suffer without the treatment.
Job in the bible submitted himself to God and regained his lost goods, but Esther did what she believed was right but she ended up dying at the end. Esther did not want to receive chemotherapy thinking she did not deserve it, and her mind was full of doubt. Both characters achieved purity at the end, but Esther’s was not aware of it. She allowed punishment and suffering to continue. The lesson from the bible is that we need to trust and obey God. Some things cannot be thoroughly explained in human terms, but we still need to always submit to His good will.
Courtney from Study Moose
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