Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow... on "Cancer's Unexpected Blessings" and his Faith

"Cancer's Unexpected Blessings "

When you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change.

By Tony Snow July 20, 2007

(Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow announced that he had colon cancer in 2005. Following surgery and chemo-therapy, Snow joined the Bush administration in April 2006 as press secretary. Unfortunately, on March 23 Snow, 51, a husband and father of three, announced that the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen—leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy. Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 30, but resigned August 31. CT asked Snow what spiritual lessons he has been learning through the ordeal.)

Blessings arrive in unexpected packages—in my case, cancer.

Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.

To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

'You Have Been Called'

Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces.
The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter—and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time."
There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived—an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tinny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing though the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.

There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue—for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us—that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us partway there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two people's worries and fears.

Learning How to Live

Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love.

I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat [this cancer]," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side."

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend—and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.

Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it.

It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up—to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand.

Z: I saved this article last year and am so glad I did. Rest in Peace, gentle believer...we love you, Tony Snow. And we will miss you.


Rita Loca said...

I would like to cross post this tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

FT posted this on the other thread about Tony Snow:

"Tony Snow was a blessed soul. He fought the good fight with uncommon valor and great style on ALL fronts. His all-too-brief stint as White House Press Secretary was a joy to behold. He dominated the scene with virility, distinguished good looks, and a quiet-but-relentless display of the courage of his convictions. That he did this without once lapsing into acrimonious accusatory rhetoric is a marvel. He simply outclassed every one who ever tried to go against him."

What a wonderful tribute to a real Mensch! G-d bless and keep you Tony.


Z said...

Jungle Mom...I hope everybody does. It's so important people read this..

Morgan, I'm with your Nanette..I got teary, too, BIG time.
FT is right...TOTALLY "outclassed" EVERYONE.

it's a huge loss...what a man of courage and dignity. And great, great faith.

Elmers Brother said...

the epitome of class...I used to like hearing him on the Laura Ingraham show...she would badger him slightly to try and get his gander up a little...

Papa Frank said...

So young. He was an example of poise and class in a business where that is no longer normal. My heart goes out to his wife and three children. May the God of all comfort be ever-present for them in this time. May He bring them the peace that passes all understanding and hold them close.

Z said...

I don't want to get political about this, but someone at Lucianne asked a good question. CNN's remarks about SNow's passing included "you might not have agreed with his politics, but..."

Did anybody say that about Tim Russert?

See the subtleness of the Left? See the chance to seize a moment to their advantage? See how that plays on most peoples' subconsciousness? Sure it does. WE notice that, but.....

very sad.

Always On Watch said...

What a testimony Tony Snow has given with these words!

May the Lord hold Tony Snow in the palm of His hand and comfort his family.

Anonymous said...

Z wrote:

"I don't want to get political about this, but someone at Lucianne asked a good question. CNN's remarks about SNow's passing included "you might not have agreed with his politics, but..."

Did anybody say that about Tim Russert?"

Ya, I did. Russert and Snow were very similar IMO. Both of them were intellectual class acts in a jungle of dimwits who look good on camera. Have I ever told you how man times a day I listen to the news and think-or BLURT OUT when possible-"how ------- stupid!"

Tony and Tim approached their business from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, they never elicited the above reaction, and they'll both be missed.


Z said...

Morgan, at CNN, or at ANY other MAINSTREAM MEDIA outlet, I'm pretty darned sure we didn't hear about Russert "..even though you didn't like his politics.."

That YOU and I admired Russert and said that is one thing....I totally agree with you about both men!...but I think you see my point that ABC CBS NBC CNN MSNBC CSPAn, etc etc...would NOT use the phrase "great guy, even if you didn't agree with this politics" about Russert. No way.

Z said...


Thanks Z-
I hadn't turned on the T.V yet, so I didn't know...For some reason, that I can't quite explain, Tony's death makes me really sad. I feel like I've lost a friend. I really thought that he would beat the cancer. Thank you for sending us his beautiful message of FAITH & facing death gracefully; something to aspire to. xoxo Isabella

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Morgan, for reposting those remarks I made earlier. That was veery kind of you. And thank you, Z, for the approval.

I am frankly speechless after having read the remarkable document you posted here, Z. I am so very glad you saved it and shared it with us today.

It's rare, indeed, when a man can write his own epitaph and come off smelling like a rose. but then, Tony Snow was a very rare guy, wasn't he?

I plan to copy your post and sharing it as widely as I can. I hope that's all right with you? It's certainly a keeper.

Where was this published originally? How the MSM must hate it and wish to suppress or distort it!

However, one of my more virulent liberal friends (I do have 'em!) admitted to me just an hour ago that "Tony Snow was a World Class Act."

I found that very encouraging.

My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Snow's family right now. How dreadful this must be for them!

I'm sure Tony is seated at the right hand of the Father by now. May he soar through Eternity with all the grace and strength of character he showed in this life.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

Now I see what you mean. And as usual you are right.


Nikki said...

Beautiful. I was very touched. thank you. :)N

Z said...

Morgan...I only thought the point was something you'd agree with and I hadn't really been clear (after I read it again)....thanks, buddy.

FT: you're was in a Christian magazine, Christianity Today. (of course!)
I'm glad you read the whole thing; i hope everyone's a temptation to gloss over, but this was a honey and deserves reading.

I also emailed this link to my blog for friends who don't comment here (some people find it awkward) and am getting such beautiful reactions back via email....very inspiring!!

Anonymous said...


No one should ever find your always-astute observations about about the deceitful wiles of the enemedia unfitting in ANY context.

Not to sound too flattering, but I have been very appreciative of your powers of observation for a long time. Your thoughts on the MSM echo my own, but you articulate them in finer detail and always seem perfectly en point.

May your audience grow by leaps and bounds.


Anonymous said...

Oh yes. I certainly did read every word, and have taken it very much to heart, Z.

Testimony of this kind is so uncommon today that one almost has to read it at least twice before one can believe words of this kind actually reached print.

Now, wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if The New York Times–––and all the rest of the media scoundrels–––simply printed this verbatim, and let it stand as the fitting tribute to Tony Snow–––and Christian faith–––that it is?

(I've stifled the impulse to laugh out loud out of respect for Mr. Snow.)

The Christian movement started with a tiny handful of followers and grew to epic proportions. We should take heart that a Christian Resurgence is taking place in much the same way today.

We'd do well to remember as the psalmist said, "The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away..."


Anonymous said...

I had hoped against hope...please
Lord, don't take Tony yet... we
need him, he speaks for us, we can
count on him...please...don't
take Tony yet...

this morning I learn that God had
other plans. His plans, we often cannot understand.
Painfully, with tears and sorrow we can only accept and be glad for the time we did share.

Tony wrote so beautifully about his faith. It helps me to read his words and I thank you Z for bringing them to me.
It will help to settle my grief
over the loss of such a wonderful

Tony Snow blessed our nation.

He shall not pass this way again.


kevin said...

I linked this one z.

namaste said...

beautiful tribute, z.

btw, z, i'd love your opinion on this:


Anonymous said...

I am saddened by Tony's passing, and my heart goes out to his family. Thank you Z for posting this essay ... it does remind us that there are more important things that Washington politics.

I pray for God's blessings on Mr. Snow and his family.

nanc said...

go with God, tony - we hardly knew you.

what a man - i sure have missed his go rounds with helen thomas.

Anonymous said...

Tony Snow was the kind of man you felt you knew. He allowed himself to be known. A genuine human being who was the embodiment of grace.

I am sad today, at his passing, I had hoped so much he would win his battle.

But, somehow, I think, he still wins. Because of his faith and indomitable spirit, he takes that with him to a better place.

Goodbye Tony, and thanks for being you. May God bless and keep you.


Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Amazing article. Beautiful, glorious, insightful. Z, you have a salient point: I DO feel as though I've lost someone important to me; how strange. I didn't know him, only read and heard about him peripherally. God bless him, may his pain be relieved forever in Heaven, and may God look kindly upon his family.


Anonymous said...

Such sad news. Tony was a truly wonderful Christian man and human being. He will be sorely missed of course by his family, but by Americans such as us that grew to respect him for his honesty and integrity. Something so sorely lacking today in reporting and journalism. Tony brought back that credibility and did so with dignity and humor.

Though he will be missed thank G-d he is with our Lord.

Beverly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I was in D.C. a few years ago, and woke up in my hotel room to Tony giving his priceless cents on a Fox News program. Later that day, my girlfriend and I went to have lunch on the hill, and there Tony was with some staff sitting with his food, enjoying a break. I couldn't help but interrupt him to introduce myself, and tell him how much I enjoyed his work. With a mouthful of food, he choked it down, and whiped his his hands before extending one to me, apologizing for any mess. I love going to D.C., but that was the highlight of the trip, and I'm so glad I got a chance to let him know in person that his work was a positive thing in our lives. What a wonderful husband, and dad he must have been.

Prayers to his family and friends. Tony was just one more example of how blessed America and the world are.

And, I hope it's not inappropriate to end by wishing he had been working for the president from the very beginning.


Beverly said...

I too would like to link to this post.

May the God of all comfort bring peace to his family in this hard time.

Melanie said...

That grieves my heart more than I can say. May he rest in peace.

Z said...

I'm sitting here thanking God for the incredibly wonderful people who are on the blogosphere..especially HERE, in my humble opinion. You're all amazing. And I'm hoping Tony's up there reading these comments, once God's given him the rules on how to get around heaven, right?!

Deaner..what a FANTASTIC description of a guy getting up to greet you; your details SO showed his humility, his heart.....I'm glad you had that opportunity and that you shared it with us.

cube said...

This is a keeper. I'm going to miss Tony's wonderful way with words.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Prayers for his family.

Anonymous said...

Bonsoir Zin;

I got a post from pris. that vous me cherchez.


The Merry Widow said...

It is different with Christians, or it should be...Tony Snow WAS a class act. I really grew to appreciate him when he subbed for Rush one week. I was greatly impressed.
This hits me in a special place, I watched my husband, losing the battle with cancer, ask our pastor, "How can I do this so it glorifies G*D?"
Tony Snow's own words did just that!
Thanks, Z!


Z said...

OH, TMW..WHAT an amazing connecting you make there...Tony Snow CERTAINLY did glorify God, didn't he...and you sure did with the loss of your dear husband. Thanks for this comment; it touched me very deeply, my dear friend.

Z said...

SAM! OUI! Vous me manquez...! Bien sur. Vous allez bien, j'espere??! Bon soir, mon ami!

The Merry Widow said...

Tony Snow's words also call to mind, David Jeremiah's sermon about his own cancer, "The Bend In The Road".
I believe it is now a book, but the "bend" may not be what we would have wanted in our lives, but it makes us better(or bitter, it's a choice) and stronger in our faith.
To go back to Corrie Ten Boom's analogy of the tapestry, we have no idea what beauty is being created, because all we can see is the back of the needlework. And THAT is messy!
I'm betting that Tony Snow's "tapestry" is marvelous!
Good morning, G*D bless and Maranatha!


Brooke said...

Tony is a wise man. May God keep him.

heidianne jackson said...

i read this when it was first published last year. i was so moved by it i emailed several people with its text. somehow reading it again today, it was even more poignant.

the world is a better place for having known tony snow. he will be missed most by his family, but also by the world.

thanks for this, z.

shoprat said...

The immediate threat of death seems to give things perspective which makes one seek out what really matters the most.

Z said...

I'm just so very glad I'd kept this and found it. A computer miracle, as most of you who really know me would say! (especially Mr. Z)

read more about Tony..very, very personal information from my friend, Rich Galen, of

Pat Jenkins said...

one thing that stood out for me watching him suffer was his "deffiant" and will repeat again deffiant belief in the postitve. trying to force it while i know he was hurting both physically and emotionally. it is not easy watching someone die. but mr. snow may of been the example to follow!!!

Gayle said...

You've done a marvelous job on this post, Z. Sorry for getting here so late, but late is better than ever, I hope.

Tony Snow is an example to all of us and he will definitely be missed. As for CNN, I read your comment about them saying "you may not agree with his politics but..." What else could we expect from CNN. They shouldn't have even brought up politics. Tony Snow was such a class act he would never have done that if some leading left-wing politician had died. Sheesh! Oh well... like I said, what else can we expect. I've seen some horrible comments on some left-wing blogs regarding Tony Snow but I'll not foul this post by telling you what the were or even where I read them. There are many evil people in the world and they can't help but expose themselves as such.

Tony was an authentic jewel, and he will be missed by far more people than even he could ever have imagined.

Z said...

gayle, just glad you're here! And I'm SO glad I'd kept this from last year...and found it! What a testament; I did NOTHING.

I didn't want to discuss the lefty stuff here, either....felt it wasn't right, but, now that the shock is over for all of us, I'd like to mention that Huffington had to close their comments section because they were SO vile. I remember one of them and almost typed it here but couldn't bring myself to.

Let's just say I'm pretty sure the whine from the Left will be that they felt compelled to 'shut down' because they felt the Conservatives would use those vile posts against the Left...."Some people the Republicans are; they say they believe in free speech but we knew they'd make us look bad if we allowed our leftists to post their grievances with Snow, so we HAD TO SHUT IT DOWN" AS IF.

I hope I'm wrong......

Tony Snow....we admired you; sorry to even discuss this here. You'll never be forgotten, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic article and what a great man he was. Well, he's left behind a legacy greater than himself. No wonder the dark side hated him and threw their nasty jibes his way when it was disclosed that he had cancer. It's great to know that men of his caliber can still be found in high levels of government.