One Sunday he was just fine.
The following Sunday prayer was requested for an upset stomach.
The Sunday after that he arrived with a report of stage 4 cancer in his esophagus, his liver and his lymph nodes.
In the short span of time between his first scan and his second the spots on his liver had migrated into a single large one. Oncologists said it is advanced, aggressive, incurable, and untreatable. They advised against chemo and suggested a course of pain management and palliative care.
Glory. Glory. Glory. All glory belongs to our savior Jesus Christ! God can do whatever He chooses to bring glory to His name. I ask that God would give me strength to glorify Him in this and that I would not fail to praise Him in all things.
His wife sings harmony in this chorus, echoing those sentiments.
The report landed softly in the room where our Simple Church gathered. Our collective response was, O Lord, nothing is impossible for you. We ask you to heal our dear brother. We trust You with the outcome.
Like a scalpel, the news sliced into our respective hearts confronting our faith, our theology and our unspoken fears.
As my fingers move over my keyboard just now, our brother is receiving, in faith, his first chemo treatment–against the advise of his doctors. There are days when pain and nausea thrash him like mortal enemies and still his lips speak praise for our Love-sovereign, gracious, merciful, omnipotent LORD who’s ways are perfect and worthy of all the glory.
He’s no stranger to affliction.
- He and and his wife worshiped while grieving the stillbirth of their twin sons and said, “We count it a privilege that God would consider us worthy to display Himself through our loss.”
- When their wealth was vaporized by a Christian brother who had defrauded them they responded, “Nothing in this life compares to the riches of knowing the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And they forgave.
- Presently, unless God intervenes, he is moving rapidly toward his heavenly home and great kingdom reward.
This unassuming couple is quietly speaking volumes in the way they are standing in this furnace of affliction. It’s a message about the incomparable worth of being a child of God with humility that is focused on bringing glory to Him.
You see, I’ve been giving this humility thing a lot of consideration lately. Early in chapter 4 of Ephesians Paul urges (actually entreats or begs) believers to walk in a manner worthy of Christ’s calling (or ordered steps) for our lives. He describes what that looks like, opening with humility:
…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love…
Right out of the gate I’ll admit that I’m one of those people who can walk into a room where 99% of its contents are in good order. Invariably my eye will fall on the crooked picture frame or the tilted lampshade. I’ve fought it my whole life. Flaw or gifting? I don’t know. Either way I try not to let it in the driver’s seat but I don’t stuff it in the trunk.
As someone who has experienced childhood abuse, alcoholic family dysfunction and mental illness I can tell you that I’m no stranger to the world of self-help.
In my early twenties when I began my healing journey there was virtually nothing on childhood sexual abuse. PTSD hadn’t been coined. Adult children of Alcoholics was just gaining a voice. Melody Beattie’s spotlight on Codependency wasn’t mainstream. At that time most of the emerging self-help conversation was in secular arenas. The faith community eventually responded and has since contributed some amazing helps for wounded hearts and broken lives. But…
I’ve noticed the pendulum swing wide since those early years when it was just me and Jesus gutting out my chaotic internal world. But now I think we have become obsessed with ourselves and with our wellbeing; with our passions, our purposes, our dreams, and our voices. We have personality assessments, gift assessments, love-language assessments, and ministry gift assessments. We have markers, labels, identifiers, and a whole vocabulary of newly coined terms–all intended to help us better understand ourselves and recognize each other.
We seek the deep mysteries in ourselves but in the process have we lost our appetite for the deep mysteries of God?
The result of this propensity for introspection, indicated in too many ways for me to list here, has been summed up in a Brennan Manning quote:
“God made man in His image and man returned the compliment.”
Have things gotten turned around in the relationship between the Creator and the created, the Redeemer and the redeemed, the worshipers and the only One deserving of worship?
I’ll never forget the impression made upon me by a book title that caught my eye in the 80’s: Write Your Own Ticket With God. Really? Not in my bible!
Entitlement has crept into our culture–not just in the secular arenas, but also the sacred. Sadly, I recognize it in my life as well. Ugh. I’ve noted how my conversation with God has shifted. It grieves me that:
- I petition more than I worship.
- I too often scrutinize my life and world, determine what or who needs fixing and then petition God for remedy as though He were life’s Customer Service Agent.
- I can be much more concerned with my petty agenda than I am of His kingdom purposes and of His redemptive story forged in and throughout my life.
Ironically, the quiet humility of my friends has been God’s megaphone in my ear:
God is whispering to our preoccupied hearts. “Keep your eyes on me. Stay focused. Live to glorify me. Lose your life to find it. Be the least so you can be great in my kingdom. Trust my ways. Walk humbly before me.