Theodicy or Not? Spiritual Struggles of Evangelical Cancer Survivors
Rosemead School of Psychology
Using Park’s meaning-making model to inform our understanding of distress in suffering, we conducted a qualitative investigation of the discrepancies experienced by evangelical Christian cancer patients between their religious global meaning and their situational meaning, and the religious beliefs invoked to resolve the discrepancy. Three primary research questions were addressed: (a) What kinds of tensions do evangelical Christians with a diagnosis of cancer experience between their religious global meaning system (i.e., beliefs) and their situational meaning, if any?; (b) Why may some experience tension while others may not?; and (c) How are tensions resolved if they arise? Twenty-nine evangelical Christians with cancer diagnoses were interviewed. Post hoc thematic analysis, informed by grounded theory was used to analyze the interviews. Roughly two-thirds of our sample denied experiencing any tension between their faith and their cancer experience. Protective factors included confidence in God and a spiritual kind of intellectual humility. Roughly one-third did indicate experiencing tension, which took the form of doubting God’s justice, love, existence, or answering of prayer. When these tensions were resolved, this resolution appeared to involve a kind of spiritual surrender, including acknowledgement of God’s control, humility before God, and relinquishing the assumption of a just world.
Psychic trauma; Cancer;
Journal of Psychology and Theology
DOI of Published Version
Hall, M. Elizabeth Lewis and McMartin, Jason, "Theodicy or Not? Spiritual Struggles of Evangelical Cancer Survivors" (2019). Faculty Articles & Research. 467.