I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with “the good kind of cancer.” In other words, her every molecule is not ravaged with organ-eating cells that require drenching her innards in chemicals to the point of utter despair.
Is it ever okay to say that some cancer is “the good kind”?
The most optimistic among us could say, in given circumstances . . .
“I have the good kind of depression.” (It only happens situationally like when my loved ones all die in a fiery crash?)
“I have the good kind of unemployment.” (I happen to be independently wealthy and don’t mind hanging out all day feeling adrift?)
“I have the good kind of existential loneliness.” (There are people who actually do understand me, but they’re all on vacation?)
“I have the good kind of homelessness.” (I sleep on a different friend’s sofa every night?)
There is no good cancer. Depression, unemployment, loneliness, homelessness are never good. God can use horrendous situations for good. But some things are never good in and of themselves.
This is a dangerous thing to suggest to friends in crisis. Pastoral Care 101 involves allowing people to feel what they feel. It’s not our job to say, “At least this is the good kind of nuclear winter.” Better idea: Sit in the total suckiness with them and love them gently. Do their laundry. Make them a salad.
Image is Job and His Friends by Vladimir Borovikovsky (1810s)