First, a disclosure statement. Now that I’m settling into a routine of chemo, there won’t be much “hot” news about my cancer battle from a physical standpoint. What follows is an entry about my spiritual journey (battle seems an inappropriate word). If this interests you, then read on. Otherwise, no worries. I humbly thank you all for your support of my family and me.
Well, its been almost 4 weeks since the surgery, and I continue to heal up. I haven’t healed as quickly as from previous surgeries, probably because this was the most intrusive, despite the fact that the “major” part of the surgery was aborted. Soon I’ll get back on systemic chemotherapy. The doctors want me on chemo for 3 months and then to get new scans. I admit that I feel myself grieving the fact that surgery is not an option, at least not yet. But all of my kids say that they’re happy that I didn’t have surgery. They were scared and just want us all at home. I understand that. And interestingly, whenever I’ve told folks “no surgery” I hear a congratulatory response. They think that this must obviously mean good news. I won’t remind people that I really need surgery to remove some of the advanced disease. Who knows, maybe this is good news?
In my 14 years of being a member of a PCA church, we have often talked about how God works through ordinary and extraordinary means. This may be the same language used in other churches, but I don’t know. Regardless, ordinary means are the things of this world working as we expect or hope, and God can influence these means according to His will. We might notice this influence as “coincidence” or as uncertain circumstances resolving with positive outcomes against improbable odds. We praise God for these moments.
Extraordinary means are a little tricky. All of creation must follow the natural laws of the universe, otherwise we’d have chaos. But when something happens that is totally unexplainable, we cry miracle and really bring the praises. Hosannas. Each of us probably has a miraculous story to tell, of personal experience or shared by another.
Yesterday morning I spent time in prayer before church. I first praised God for who He is and for His blessings to me. I thanked him for his son, Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins and shares His resurrection with me. I then prayed for family and friends, for peace and positive outcomes of difficult circumstances. Finally, I considered my current situation. I thanked the Lord for all of the people praying for me and my family. I obviously want the positive outcome to my cancer battle for which all of these warriors are praying. But, in the stream of thoughts coming from prayer, flowing from my mind came something like: “We are running out of ordinary means with which to fight cancer. If I’m going to beat this thing, You’ll have to use extraordinary means.”
(Hand slaps head) — Did I really just pray that?
Fortunately, when I was finished, Kim read for me yesterday’s daily devotional from Paul David Tripp’s “New Morning Mercies.” This book really is amazing, and whenever Kim reads to me, it seems just what I need to hear. I think that’s because it’s truth. Anyway, the devotional was on “daily bread.” He referenced 1 Kings 17: 8-16, the story of the widow of Zeraphath, where Elijah visits a poor woman and asks for water and bread in the midst of an extreme drought. The distraught women tells him, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die” (1 Kings 17:12, ESV). Elijah responds by telling her to not fear, but to first make him a cake because “for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth’” (1 Kings 17:14).
The Lord always provides. You see this over and over. The jar is always filled for God’s purposes. The ram from the bushes when Abraham brought Isaac to Moriah (Genesis 22:13). Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ exhausted arms in order to defeat the Amelekites (Exodus 17:12). Joshua leading the Israelites against the seemingly impenetrable city of Jericho (Joshua 6). The woman who is healed from disease by touching Jesus’ cloak in a crowd (Luke 8:43-48). Jesus’ disciples feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (Matthew 14:13-21). It is important to note that in all cases, God is providing for people who act by faith despite limited resources. Yes, it is Jesus’ miracle to feed the 5000, but it is through his disciples, to whom he says “they need not go away; you give them something to eat” (Mat 14:16). We act in faith and God provides. We may have limited ordinary means, but God replenishes them extraordinarily.
As I consider this, I then think of my days left on this earth. They may be few or many, I may be sick or well, but I can serve with the gifts He has given me in whatever capacity I am able. God is always working miracles through His broken people who are poor in spirit, and suffering certainly makes me thus. Void of hope in ordinary things. But this is where His mercy is felt and and where it pours out into His world. This is how His kingdom comes. If I treasure the very limited ordinary things of this world, even the medicines and treatments that we hope can heal, I will be unable to give of myself for the sake of God’s kingdom nor witness the extraordinary blessing of seeing Him at work.
And as to my options for fighting this disease, with God there’s always hope. This is why we pray.
So, Lord, I come to you weary and heavy laden. I confess that I want my jar filled with items of comfort and ease. I’m scared to rely on you, to give up my trust in ordinary means. But in your love for us, you gave to your Son the cup of man, empty of any means to overcome our brokenness. Jesus, in your death you filled it with your blood, a now limitless font of mercy. The most extraordinary of means. So as I am made poor in spirit for your sake, please strengthen me to persevere. Provide for me that I may love and serve others. Heal me that I may praise you the many days of a long life. Let my comfort be the peace of knowing that I am rich in grace. Amen.