This week, I read The Fault in our Stars by John Green. My young adult daughter recommended it to me, insisting that I really needed to read the book before watching the movie. I must admit, that the book is extremely well written. Green wrenches you into the mind and heart of a teenage girl with cancer and her unique perspective on the world.
The thing I found most disheartening about The Fault in Our Stars was the hopelessness of Green’s naturalistic world view. In the book, suffering is senseless. For the young protagonists of Green’s story, there is no heroism to be found in battling cancer, because cancer isn’t evil. It just exists. For Green, the human aspiration to avoid oblivion by leaving some sort of lasting mark on the universe is ultimately futile.
Yet even the author must sense that there is more to the story. If cancer is not evil, then why do we challenge the reality that young people’s lives are snuffed out by it? Why should that even bother us?
The truth is, we live in a world that is fundamentally broken, marred by disease and death. But we are only able to recognize this truth because it was not always so. The world as God created it was “very good.” Human sin and rebellion against our creator broke the world. We cry out at the injustice of children dying of cancer only because we have a sense of justice imparted to us from a just God who is above and beyond the natural world.
As a cancer survivor, I’m profoundly grateful that I did not have to walk through my own battle with stage three melanoma in the kind of universe Green envisions. I knew that what was happening to me was a consequence of living in a broken world. I knew that my battle against cancer was not meaningless, that my life had eternal value no matter how long or short it was. I knew that God understood and would give me comfort in my darkest hours. I knew that he felt my pain.
Most importantly, I had the assurance that if God caused my life to come to an early end, he would not abandon my loved ones, but would walk with them through their grief. My death would not rip them to pieces like the shrapnel from an exploding grenade, because God would cause all things to work together for good in their lives (Romans 8:28). I would not leave them in a state of hopeless grief, but in the loving hands of a good God, the same God who sacrificed his only Son to bring eternal hope and healing to a broken world.
John Green, the fault is not in our stars, but in our view of the universe.