Bible Verse Recommendations Sought
January 13, 2011 9:45 AM   Subscribe

A woman I know, who is a devout Christian, was recently diagnosed with cancer. Can you recommend an appropriate bible verse for the letter I'm sending her telling her I'm thinking of her? (Note, I'm pretty much a non-believer.)
posted by anastasiav to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
"And Mizpah; for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another." Genesis 31:49
posted by Ideefixe at 9:52 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


this site might have some you like. If you happen to know which denomination she is, we may be able to suggest verses in one particular bible translation over another.
posted by hasna at 9:56 AM on January 13, 2011


Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7)
posted by Gilbert at 10:03 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: If you happen to know which denomination she is, we may be able to suggest verses in one particular bible translation over another.

I don't. Her church is some variety of fundamental-leaning Christian, but I don't know what kind.

Also, if this is helpful, she was the woman who took care of my son when he was a toddler.
posted by anastasiav at 10:14 AM on January 13, 2011


Here are some more good options
posted by Flood at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
posted by Gator at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2011


This is not a Bible verse, but it was a statement written by a very devout Christian author and even though I'm not particularly religious, it has given me comfort over the years: "We don't know what the future holds, but we do know that God holds the future."
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:23 AM on January 13, 2011


Philippians 4:13.
posted by lily_bart at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2011


Isaiah 43:1b-3a

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;"

posted by wallaby at 10:29 AM on January 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm partial to 1 Thessalonians 5:21 as a general life philosophy, but it works with cancer, too:

Test everything. Hold on to the good.
posted by Alison at 10:36 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Psalm 91 is appropriate here.
posted by valkyryn at 10:38 AM on January 13, 2011


Sorry if this is overstepping, but if you are pretty much a non-believer, why do you want to use a Bible verse (especially if your friend knows your non-beliefs)? I think a non-scripture sentiment would be more genuine. I like Oriole Adams' suggestion, but there must be others, too.
posted by hansbrough at 10:44 AM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: why do you want to use a Bible verse

Because the letter is about her, not about me, and it is possible to provide her words of comfort from a book of beautiful poetry (which is how I regard the bible) that will also give her a great deal of comfort.
posted by anastasiav at 10:54 AM on January 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Best answer: There's the priestly blessing from Numbers 6:24-26

“The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

Or Jesus' words in John 14:27:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Paul's closing in Romans 15:13:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For various reasons, I prefer the verses that focus on peace in these situations, rather than a verse that out-of-context would seem to promise that everything is going to be fine, or that the patient will be completely healed. I spent a small amount of time in hospital chaplaincy, and it all seemed better to me to talk about peace and courage--mindsets that the patient can adopt--rather than anything that could turn out to be false hope or an idle promise.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:05 AM on January 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Just a thought: I'm a Christian with many non-Christian friends, and it would make me wince a bit to see them send me sympathy cards with Bible verses. At the very least, I'd prefer verses that made no mention of God or the divine, since at least then I wouldn't be forced to regard it (the verse) as a hollow sentiment.

Maybe Galatians 6:9 would fit the bill.
posted by BurntHombre at 11:35 AM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Deuteronomony 20:4: For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2011


Response by poster: At the very least, I'd prefer verses that made no mention of God or the divine, since at least then I wouldn't be forced to regard it (the verse) as a hollow sentiment.

I agree with you.

Right now I'm leaning towards 2 Corinthians 4:7-9: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."
posted by anastasiav at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just a thought: I'm a Christian with many non-Christian friends, and it would make me wince a bit to see them send me sympathy cards with Bible verses.

Presumably, though, anastiav knows what her friend feels when it comes to "the perceived sincerity of a bible quote cited by a non-believer."

The 2 Corinthians one is good; I also found:

“He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:20)

“For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 30:17)

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on January 13, 2011


Okay, so you want a Bible verse to sent to a good friend with cancer, and you don't want it to mention God or the divine. That narrows it down a lot, since God is the primary subject of most of the Bible, especially any verse that is going to deal much with comfort, peace or joy.

2 Corinthians 4:7, which you've found, is probably about the best you are going to do--it falls right between "this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" and "the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body" but narrowly avoids mentioning the divine. I probably know the Bible as well as anyone else around here, and I can't think of anything better that fits those narrow parameters.

I think I understand your reasoning--she values the Bible as a divine book but you don't, so you want to send her something meaningful to her out of the small number of verses that, on a surface reading, you could honestly agree with--but it's a challenging proposition. Anything you choose will depend on the larger context of faith in God for it's power. I'd be inclined to either sent her the best verse I could find, even if you introduce it with: "I found this verse that I thought you might appreciate," which is both true and far from an endorsement--or just send the best bit of secular wisdom and comfort you can. Looking to the Bible for something an atheist could endorse almost certainly means steadfastly ignoring the larger context, which is it's own kind of dishonesty, although maybe a kind you've decided you can live with.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:24 PM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's hard to look at a non-believer offering scripture as comfort and not get a sense on condescension (even if none is intended).

I would strongly recommend (as Pater Alethias has ) finding a good piece of secular wisdom to offer.

If you feel very strongly about it, however, then I would suggest Proverbs 3:5-6...

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight."

Gator's suggestion of Romans 8:28 is also excellent. God's reasons and schedules are not our own, but a central pillar of Christian joy is the knowledge that God is control. The Romans passage and the Proverbs passage both underscore this.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:56 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Phillipians 4:13: "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)

Lovely of you to look for things that wil comfort her. I am a Christian and I would be very touched by your gesture.
posted by littleflowers at 5:53 PM on January 13, 2011


Please do not use scripture for your own meaning or purpose, especially out of context like Pater Aletheias mentioned. 2 Cor 4:8-9 are words from Paul's letter to the church to Corinth, to encourage them that their power comes from God as they faced hardships in sharing the gospel. Cutting up a thin slice of the Bible is akin to quoting someone's op-ed piece to make your own point. That is NOT what the author is saying and it will be apparent to your friend. (especially if she is devout)

You can do one of those things:

- If you truly believe the letter is about her, use a passage that would indeed encourage her because it is connected to her faith in God. You don't need to believe it but she will understand it and know the meaning it has for her. And she will be touched that you did that for her.

- If you want to make no acknowledgment of God then do not use the Bible at all because it would be using it erroneously. It was written with specific intent and purpose and significance; you cannot just disregard the God it references and try to say something else.

My suggestion, a passage that brought me great comfort when I was facing much fear and a battle that I could not win alone: Psalm 27
posted by pinksoftsoap at 8:33 PM on January 13, 2011


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