struggling with faith

Struggling With Faith During Your Child’s Cancer Treatment

Hey there, everyone. Here is another guest post by Rev. Dale Wratchford, BCC, MHA, a chaplain with Pastoral & Spiritual Care here at Children’s.

It’s quite common for people to struggle with their faith during emotionally trying times, such as when a child is undergoing cancer treatment.

That’s because these difficult situations can fracture the spiritual harmony we may have experienced in our lives up until that point.

Here’s why struggling with faith during your child’s cancer treatment is perfectly understandable—and how talking about it can help.

Why Some People Find Themselves Struggling With Faith

I think that everybody has two types of faith: head faith and heart faith.

Our head faith is the faith that is taught to us by family, upbringing, culture, experiences in Sunday school, sermons, reading scripture, and so on.

Our heart faith is based on what we experience. Sometimes, we have experiences—whether it’s witnessing the birth of a child or seeing somebody turn their life around—and we interpret them as God acting in the world.

Most of us form our faith more around our personal story and experience than around what we’ve learned. So, when what we’ve learned matches our story, then we tend to see things as pretty good.

Also read: 3 Ways Having Faith Can Help You Through Your Child’s Cancer Treatment

But when they don’t match, that’s when we have a crisis of faith. There’s too much dissonance between what we’re experiencing and what we were taught.


Eventually, you will have to deal with that dissonance, and that’s when it’s time to start asking tough questions.

How Pastoral Care Can Help If You Are Struggling With Faith

Sometimes, family and friends aren’t able to provide the necessary support. People who love us a whole lot don’t like to see us hurting, so when we share something that’s painful with them, they may want to try to fix it.

But some things aren’t meant be fixed; they’re meant to be journeyed through.

The journey through a child’s cancer treatment is difficult.

It’s not just about the physical part. It’s about the disruption of life and being able to lament it if you need to, to cry over it if you need to, to laugh at the ridiculousness of it at times.

My role is to help people embrace the questions they may be struggling with, and to understand that they’re perfectly normal. Anyone in this situation would be expected to ask those questions. Then, I help walk them through those questions.

That doesn’t mean we’re always going to find the answers in that moment.

But I think the mere act of exploring those difficult questions is very meaningful and very healing. It allows us to mend some of that dissonance between what we’ve learned and what we’re experiencing.

And that’s really the goal: Get those two sides of our faith talking to one another again.

Anisa Hoie
I've been a nurse for nearly 32 years, mostly taking care of kids with cancer. My job is to give the kids and their families a personal touch while they go through treatment.

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