His words are needed by all of us as we hear each week in our Bible studies, our families and in our life groups about someone else who is walking through the valley of cancer. We need to be encouraged and have God's word for our guidance and our hope.
He was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and was given an 8 % chance of survival. He is now at year five and believes God has healed him. The medical community won't consider him cured until he has been cancer free for ten years.
It might seem a bit on the morbid side, but the fact is, from the day we are born, we are all on the journey of dying---heading for the land of the living, Heaven. At the very beginning we need to ask God for joy, grace and peace on this journey because we don't know if this might be what God will choose to take us to Heaven. The bottom line is God is writing the story and we cannot dictate how it will finish. Sometimes He heals us while on this earth and sometimes He gives us the ultimate healing and takes us to Heaven. Cancer cannot be the theme of your life occupying your every thought and consuming you and filling you with fear and dread of each day. Our main purpose cannot be to "not die", but instead to live and walk faithfully with Him and to bring Him glory. Our lives are in His hands and He loves us more than we could ever fully realize.
It is OK to ask God, "why me"? He is a big God and He can take our honest questions. Lament keeps it real as we face it and turn it over to God. This will lead us to a place of peace and quietness.
King David expresses in Psalm 42 his lament to God about the agony he was going through and ends the Psalm by acknowledging that his hope was in the Lord; verse 11b says: "Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him my Savior and my God." The walk through the valley that you thought would be terrible and awful can be a glorious experience. We need to learn to live in the moment and enjoy being present in the moment instead of thinking about the past or wondering and worrying what the future might hold. When Pastor Andy was questioned in an interview about how cancer had changed him, he answered that he learned to slow down and live in the moment, enjoying and fully entering into whatever he was doing right then. He said truly the abundant life is living in the moment.
Pastor Andy related his greatest battle with loneliness was experienced while being in multiple doctor's offices and "clipboards" in every one with multiple pages of repetitive information being asked for time after time. He felt isolation and that no one really knew him or remembered him. Then he realized that a child of God has a huge advantage when faced with this journey. God is a God of hope. We need community also. He noticed in all those waiting rooms, where he was being given chemo, that there were many faces; some were desperate, hopeless, ones with no hope and then there were ones whose faces still showed a peace. This is where the neatest part of his story was shared and it brought tears to my eyes as I listened while he told the story of the "pager". His congregation gave him an old fashioned pager, like we used a very long time ago before the digital age. You can't leave messages or do anything but dial the number. His congregation and all the missionaries they knew and some others were given his pager number and anytime, day or night, when they were praying for him, they were to dial his pager. It was going off constantly 24/7!! He was overwhelmed at the beginning by the number of people praying for him during his 18 month journey. He asked his church one Sunday morning, to include in their prayers for him, whoever he was with at that time. He started taking it with him to every waiting room and lying it down on a table somewhere in the room. When it started going off repeatedly on one particular day, a big, bald, tattooed biker guy whom he was conversing with asked if he was ever going to answer that noisy pager that was constantly going off. Pastor Andy explained that it was not to be answered but was announcing people praying for him and everyone who was with him. The eyes and ears of the entire waiting room were on Pastor Andy and he shared Jesus with them. People who didn't have any hope, now had hope!
Pastor Andy shared the "3 P's of Prayer" he practiced and taught his people.1.--PRAY PATIENTLY-- Luke 11:9 tells us to ask, seek & knock. The seeking is the patient part of prayer. We don't know God's plan.
2---PRAY PERSISTENTLY--This is the knocking part where we keep praying and don't give up.
3---PRAY PLIABLY---This is where we ask and pray specifically. We know our Father gives good gifts to his children, but it may not be what you ask for, BUT it will be something good! God might have a better "yes" for us. We need to be reminded that we're always healed, but not always cured.
I Peter 1:24 tells us that by His stripes we are healed through Jesus' death on the cross. This is the ultimate healing.
We must realize that suffering is inevitable and it is purposeful. No one is exempt from passing through the refiners fire and we must look for the purpose in our suffering. Maybe it is to build our character, make our faith shine, maybe to burn off the impurity of sin or pride, or it could be used to display the signs of His grace. Through our suffering we become God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world when we use our suffering to allow us to "walk well through the valley".
The expression "Carpe Diem means seize the day, but another term, Carpe Aeternitatem means to seize eternity. We should seek to see our days in light of eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: He has made everything beautiful in it's time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
We can have this perspective regardless if we are going through cancer or another trial or if we are well. Its available to all of us. Cancer just happens to put a magnifying glass on it.
If God says "NO", it doesn't mean He has defected from His goodness or His plan. Remember to make a good journey and live each day to bring Him glory!
C.S. Lewis says that God whispers in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, and shouts in our pain. We are never closer to His heart than when we are going through suffering. Stay close to Him, my sweet sisters in the Lord!