Shannen Doherty, a well-known actress for more than 30 years, has battled breast cancer since February 2015. She recently learned and shared with the world that her cancer has spread to her lymph nodes. In a recent interview she said, “The unknown is the scariest part.” Even in the most frightening and most uncertain times, peace can be found; joy can be experienced. But there is only one way. There is only one Person who can bring and provide such peace and joy. His name is Jesus.
Who is Shannen Doherty?
It was 1982. It was the year I graduated from high school. Shows like “Little House on the Prairie” were still popular. The show, then in its ninth season, introduced a new character–Jenny Wilder. The 11-year-old girl who played Jenny Wilder already had a few small film and television credits to her name, but this was her big break. This put her on the map. Little Shannen Doherty’s life was about to change forever.
Shannen Doherty (45) now has 69 movie and television credits to her name. She has also produced and/or directed a dozen projects. Other than her role on “Little House on the Prairie,” she is probably best known for her role on the it television show “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-1994). Shannen Doherty is known, even beyond the tabloids, as an actress with whom it can be difficult to work.
Doherty is presently married to her third husband, film producer Kurt Iswarienko (m. 2011). Her first two marriages lasted less than a year. Shannen has no children.
Twice, Doherty has posed nude in Playboy Magazine. She was convicted of drunk driving in 2001.
Doherty once proclaimed her religious and political views on Twitter:
“I’m from the South. I’m a Southern Baptist. I have a conservative point of view. I’m a Republican.”
In a 2012 interview with the Huffington Post, Shannen Doherty made her case for gay marriage.
“I believe that we live in a free country — or at least we’re supposed to be living in a free country. There are so many issues out there that contradict that statement. It’s insane. Two men, two women should be able to get married. It’s not about your sex, it’s about love and commitment. No state has the right to tell someone, ‘No, this is not legal in the eyes of the state.’ That is the most ridiculous statement in the world when you then go and preach that this is a free country. That is mind boggling to me. And again, this takes me back to hate and judgement. I don’t understand it. I am a Southern Baptist girl and I’m sure some people would cringe at my words but anyone can go and pick up the Bible where it says not to judge! It says that! And yet people are judging. And people saying gay marriage is not right and shouldn’t be legal — that’s a judgement. It’s so frustrating because it feels to me like we take one step forward and two steps backwards all the time. We’re supposedly this progressive country and I’d like to see where the progression is, personally. [Laughs] Ugh!”
Of course, like so many professing Christians these days, Doherty pounds the table and shouts “don’t judge” while making a series of judgments.
It seems that nowadays inconsistency is seen as a virtue in many segments of American Evangelicalism.
Shannen Doherty and Cancer
Shannen Doherty was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2015. As is true with so many women, battling the disease has been a painful, debilitating, discouraging struggle for Shannen. In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight, Doherty shared the why and how of the recent shaving of her head. According to the article’s author, Doherty also said:
“‘The unknown is always the scariest part,’ she shares. ‘Is the chemo going to work? Is the radiation going to work? You know, am I going to have to go through this again, or am I going to get secondary cancer? Everything else is manageable. Pain is manageable, you know living without a breast is manageable, it’s the worry of your future and how your future is going to affect the people that you love.'”
The fear of the unknown–everyone battles it. For some, it is only an occasional annoyance. For others, it’s the lifelong friend you don’t like, but can’t seem to live without. And still for others, it hits like a freight train, runs you over, immobilizes you, and takes your breath away.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this. Your cancer has spread.”
From here on out, I would like to speak directly to Shannen Doherty.
An Open Letter to Shannen Doherty
I’m nobody from nowhere. I’m not a fan, which is to say I’m not hoping you will read this so that I can tell my friends that Shannen Doherty read my letter. I’m writing you because my Christian faith teaches me to love God and to love my neighbor as myself.
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets'” (Matthew 22:34-40).
I saw the recent story about the setback in your cancer treatment and the progression of your disease on either my Facebook or Twitter feed. I saw the picture I used in the title image for this article, and my heart went out to you.
Again, I’m not a fan. I’m not familiar with most of your work. I am familiar with who you are. Okay, I’ll be more honest (at the risk of having my man-card revoked). I watched “Little House on the Prairie” when I was in high school. And I’ve watched it over the years since, with my three daughters–all adult women, now. But I digress. My heart broke when I saw the above picture and after reading what you said: “The unknown is the scariest part.” I can see the fatigue, pain, sorrow, and fear in your face. My heart broke, not because a famous person is suffering, but because one of my neighbors is suffering.
Shannen, I will not insult you by telling you I understand how you feel. How can I? I’ve never battled cancer. But I do understand fear. I do understand what we often call “the fear of the unknown.” I’ve known this kind of fear when it’s only been an occasional annoyance. I’ve know this kind of fear when it seemed like a lifelong acquaintance I didn’t like, but couldn’t seem to live without. And I’ve known this kind of fear in moments when it hit me like a freight train, ran me over, immobilized me, and took my breath away.
The circumstances of the fear we’ve both experienced are worlds apart, but the fear is the same. And our fears come from the same place–a lack of trust in Jesus Christ. Our fears come from a dark place where we don’t take God at His Word. We don’t believe what He has said. While neither of us may ever say it, when we allow fear to consume us we are actually calling God a liar.
“Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son” (1 John 5:10).
Shannen, you publicly identify yourself as a Southern Baptist. What does that mean? Does that mean you grew up in a Southern Baptist Church? Does that mean that since you are not Jewish, Roman Catholic, Muslim, or Atheist, you’re a Southern Baptist? I’m not trying to be rude.
There are many people in the world who self-identify as a member of this Christian denomination or that Christian denomination. Yet many of the same people do not self-identify as exclusively belonging to Jesus Christ. They do not self-identify as one who has denied themselves, taken up their crosses, and followed Jesus (Matthew 16:24). Or they self-identify as one who follows Jesus, but it is a Jesus they have created in their imagination–a Jesus who is more like a divine butler trained to be seen but not heard, or a genie in a bottle whose only job is to grant wishes, rather than the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This last kind of Jesus–the butler or the genie–is nothing more than an idol. This kind of idolatry of the mind is no different in God’s eyes than the worship of idols made with hands.
“All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.
“The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, ‘Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god'” (Isaiah 44:9-17)!
Shannen, in which Jesus do you believe–the Jesus of the Bible, or one of the many Jesuses constructed in the imaginations of men? And if you say you believe in the Jesus of the Bible, in what way do you believe in Him. Do you believe in Him only the sense of giving intellectual assent to the truths about Jesus?
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19)!
Or do you believe with a transformed and converted heart?
“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).
Shannen, have you ever truly repented of your sin and, by faith alone, received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Or, tragically, as so many young Southern Baptist children have done over the years, did you long ago pray a prayer and ask Jesus into your heart?
Shannen, no prayer can save you, no matter how sincerely it is prayed. Salvation is of the Lord. God causes a person to be born-again to a living hope. Repentance and faith are the first fruits of salvation. They are not works leading to salvation.
Shannen, if we were good friends and I found myself sitting in a chair next to you as you endured your next round of chemotherapy, I would tell you this:
Jesus once asked one of His followers, a man named Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied: “You are the Christ.” Today, if you ask people, “Who is Jesus?” you will get many different answers. In the end, regardless of what you’ve heard, regardless of what kind of “Jesus” you’ve formed in your mind, Jesus will either be your Savior and Advocate before the Father, or your judge with the Father. The Bible says, “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isa. 33:22). And, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12a). When you die, you will stand before God to answer for your life. God, the Righteous Judge, will judge you according to His perfect moral standard—the law He has written on your heart (do not lie, do not steal, do not lust, do not covet, do not hate, do not take His name in vain, etc.). If you have broken God’s law (and everyone has), He will find you guilty, with your punishment being eternity in hell. Your only hope is for Jesus, the God-Man, to save you from the wrath of God. God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth–fully God and fully man, yet without sin. He voluntarily shed his innocent blood and died on the cross, taking upon Himself the punishment you rightly deserve for your sins against God. Three days later, He forever defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave. Who do you say Jesus is? Repent and believe the gospel, today.
Shannen, God may not allow you to survive this battle with cancer. I hope He does allow you to survive! Or, He could very well allow you to make a full recovery. Again, I hope He does! I do not know the mind of the Lord or offer Him any counsel. And, as God, He does not owe any of us explanations for what He does or does not do. He is the Potter. We are the clay.
But even during this time of gripping fear and uncertainty, you can know peace. You can know rest. You can know hope, joy, love. You can know His forgiveness. Jesus said:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Shannen, I pray you will cry out to Jesus today–not merely out of desperation, but with a genuine desire for reconciliation with your Creator, God Almighty, Jesus Christ the Lord.
If you turn to Christ, Shannen, these wonderful truths will apply to you. Turn to Christ and live, Shannen. Turn to Christ and live.
“Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:25-26).
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28-29).
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:5-9).
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:1-7).
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25-34).
Shannen, you need not ever again fear the unknown.