Reconciling suffering with a God of love is a staple of philosophical debate, but it became a painful reality for Ole Kristian Hunt, an elder at Grace Baptist Church, Ulverston, in Cumbria.
At just 26, he was diagnosed with cancer. In a moving testimony at Grace Evangelical Church, Carlisle, he traced the ups and downs of his story.
Though raised in the faith, Ole embraced atheism at university. However, in 2009 a girl entered the picture and things changed. She was a Christian, he was not, and so a prospective romance was off the table.
But God works in mysterious ways. Rather than further hardening Ole against the faith, the break-up incited him to return to church in hopes of playing the part of a Christian in order to win the girl over. In time, it was Ole himself who was won over by the Saviour.
Following graduation, Ole attended church in Ulverston and began training for the ministry in 2014. Around this time, he became aware of an ulcer on his tongue which would not heal. It turned out to be cancerous.
Ole took the news positively, knowing that, should the worst happen, he would immediately go into the presence of his Saviour. He continued to preach (on Job, as it happened) up until the surgery.
Still, he was humbled by the diagnosis. Should the surgery go wrong, the budding preacher faced the real possibility of losing speech altogether. ‘I realised that God may have had other plans for me’, he recalled.
The surgery was successful, but subsequent radiotherapy was gruelling. Yet God was still very much present – Ole affirmed that a great and unique comfort of Christianity is that it has a God who, in Christ, knows what it is to suffer and can sympathise with all who do.
The story didn’t end there. In 2015, cancer returned. This time, the treatment would be physically easier. Spiritually, however, it was far more trying for Ole. Cancer, twice over, before the age of thirty.
He said, ‘I could not make sense of what God was doing’, albeit a reminder that spiritual salvation is no guarantee of physical health. Thankfully, Ole pulled through and is currently free of cancer.
A final lesson Ole pressed upon us is that suffering is real but not meaningless. It is not just bad luck in an unguided universe. Suffering does have meaning, purpose and divine oversight.
God controls all that happens to us, using it to better us and glorify himself. We certainly witnessed this in Ole’s experience of cancer, and we see it supremely in Jesus’ suffering on the cross.