The Worst Christmas Ever, Part 4
The Scriptures talk about the value of a word in season. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” wrote Solomon in Proverbs 25:11. Sometimes a particular conversation or note, a phone call or email, will make a radical change in a situation.
I experienced this while the diagnosis of cancer was fresh and treatment hadn’t started.
Although my experience with cancer started with a feeling of unreality, eventually it was going to sink in – this was real indeed, and it could be the last Christmas I spend with my family. There was a real possibility I would miss out on my children growing up, on growing old with the wife of my youth, on hoping to see all eight of my children married and starting their own families.
I’ve been a follower of Christ for many years. I know that as a sinner who is a recipient of God’s grace and forgiveness because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, I could look forward to heaven, and that whatever happened between now and then, that He would wipe away every tear and make all things new.
But still … the human being hesitates at the thought of leaving. So much I want to do still, so many things I’d be leaving undone.
At this point, one of Melanie’s friends passed along a link to “Don’t Waste Your Cancer,” an article by John Piper. “I write this on the eve of prostate surgery,” he started. Piper had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and as he contemplated that fact, he shared a perspective that shaped my attitude toward my lymphoma.
“I believe in God’s power to heal–by miracle and by medicine,” he wrote; God gets the glory either way. But my oncologist had warned that lymphoma which had spread as far as mine had carried just better than 50-50 odds for survival. What then?
Piper went on to acknowledge that possibility. “Healing is not God’s plan for everyone,” he agreed, but went on to remind me that ultimately God is in charge, that He is a loving Father who rules all of creation for His glory – and even sickness serves His greater purpose in our lives.
As I read through his article, it sank in with me. I am not only a child of God but a servant in His kingdom. He promised never to leave me nor forsake me in this life, and if this was the start of my departure for heaven, He promised to be a father to my children and a provider and protector for my wife.
Could I accept that?
For years, I had cherished the truth of Romans 8:28.
For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
All things? Even lymphoma?
I took a deep breath at that.
Yes, even lymphoma. All things.
At that moment, I realized where my challenge would lie. Was I willing to trust that God is faithful to His promise, and like Paul in Romans 8, believe and live out the truth that even hardship, fear, and pain– even death–are worked into God’s plan for His kingdom. That ultimately it would even be for my good?
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I did not invite my cancer—and as far as anyone knows, this cancer isn’t a result of lifestyle or environment. I would not wish the experience on anyone. Yet I can look back like Hezekiah and say, “Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness.” (Isaiah 38:17). It was good that God brought me to this place, and through it. I was about to see God’s hand in both medicine and miracle, just like John Piper had said. But at the start, with the statistical future uncertain and treatment still weeks ahead, there was only faith to rely on. And learning to make that choice and carry it through, when the outcome didn’t seem at all certain from an earthly perspective, was going to be a very good thing.
Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.
For He bruises, but He binds up;
He wounds, but His hands make whole. (Job 5:17-18)
Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
Make me to hear joy and gladness, prayed David, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. (Psalm 51:8)
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Stay tuned. Read Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 5.
Want your family to be able to see the good God has for them in trials? We HIGHLY recommend our Pollyanna audiobooks. They’re aren’t sappy, they’re hilarious – and they’ll change you. Check them out here.
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