My Weakness; His Strength

My sincere apologies to my followers for the length of time from my last post in August.  I needed to take some time off to deal with a little curve ball called cancer thrown my way unexpectedly.  I am grateful to report that through modern medical technology, more love from friends and family than I deserve, and a host of prayers sent on my behalf, I am cancer free and on the mend.  It has been quite the journey.

I learned, or was at least reminded of some things through the process that proved invaluable to me, and I wanted to share them with you.  First I learned that disease does not discriminate. You can be doing everything right and get that dreaded medical report or you can be doing everything harmful and live forever.  We have no vote on who suffers certain diseases or who escapes them.  God alone knows in advance who will become sick, and I’m convinced He always has a purpose for who he allows to go through these dark journeys, and He equips them well beforehand.

I learned that when you are going through illness, there is nothing on earth as important as your circle of support.  They are there to hold your hand, to lift you up, to help keep your spirit positive, to simply be that source of strength when you may be at your weakest.  God knew I was about to encounter this journey and He loaned me one of His angels to be at my side before, through and after the walk through the valley of shadows.  She spent the night with me in the hospital, kept me strong and positive, would not allow me to entertain the negative what-ifs that are commonly associated with illness.  She and my son were at my side from beginning through recovery. She was also the prize that awaited me that kept me moving forward and I could not have gone down this path with the success I had without her and my family.

I was reminded that I serve and follow a Bigger-than God!  He proved himself to be bigger than cancer, bigger than the initial diagnosis and so far, bigger than the anticipated recovery time for the radical procedure I had.  What was said to take up to one year to achieve I have achieved in a matter of weeks!  My God is bigger than cancer!  There is nothing impossible with God.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament, His strength in made perfect in my weakness.  God and faith are just my crutch, you’re damn straight!  He tells us numerous times that he wants us to lean on Him, to put our full weight on Him and to trust Him for anything, to test Him if you will and see just how great He can show off for us!

I learned already that He uses our success over trials to help others who may be about to embark on the same or similar journeys.  Just this week I was called on by an old school friend who was just diagnosed with the same cancer, and I was able to briefly share my experience with his wife so that they would know this isn’t a death sentence, just a hurdle.  I have some unsightly scars remaining from my ordeal, but those scars testify to my survival and are a sign of hope to anyone on the same journey, and an opening to share of God’s grace and goodness.

I am so humbled and grateful for this journey.  No, I would never have chosen it on my own, and I would never wish it on anyone else.  But God works all things out for our good and for His purpose.  If I’m to be an instrument by example of going through the fire and coming out unharmed, then I am among all men blessed!  There are always positives in any situation if you look for them.  Here’s an example; while some will be scrambling for that perfect Halloween costume in a couple weeks, I will simply take off my shirt!  No fake scars or glued-on wounds for this boy; no, mine are real!

God bless you all.

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It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Me

It’s 1976.  I’m competing in the Jr. High School District Track Meet at Northwest High school in Indianapolis.  The event is the 660 yard dash, my strength.  I’m crossing the finish line in First place as second place is just coming off the last turn.  It’s just what I did.

It’s now 1977 and I’m on the Varsity Track and Field team, as a Freshman, setting school records for Freshman in both running events and field events.  The distance I was throwing the discus that year would have won the City Championship, had my coach not lost my entry.  I went on to get the first of several Varsity Letters as just a Freshman.  It’s just what I did.

I have always been the Athletic one, the healthy one.  I never smoked cigarettes, I never drank alcohol until well into my adult years, I ate right and with sons in athletics, always had an excuse to get out on the basketball court and remain active and fit.  I was going to live to be 100!  When I found out I had inherited kidney disease and would require a transplant, I accepted the changes I would need to make and the drug therapy required for the balance of my life, a temporary set back, no biggie, just inconvenient.

Then came last Friday, one week ago today.  I knew as I grew older, my prostate was enlarged-normal for men in their 50s. When the physical exam revealed hardness and the subsequent PSA test came back twice acceptable levels, requiring a biopsy, I suspected that may be a biggie.  Still I prayed that everything would come back negative and that I would go on with my healthy life-It’s just what I did.   That was not to be the case.

I’ve spent the week processing the fact that I have cancer, words that don’t sound right in my mouth, words I never ever expected to hear or own-it wasn’t supposed to happen to me. Suddenly I have a keen awareness of the horror of those who have battled this disease, some victoriously on earth and others victorious through death and promotion.  It’s a reality that few desire, one that even fewer anticipate.  I think even as a believer in Christ, a person of faith, these are words that simply knock you off your game until such time as you can regain your balance and head straight into the battle.  As I left the Urologist’s office last Friday, still somewhat in shock, I could almost hear God’s voice asking me, “Okay Son, let’s see if you have learned anything in your 50 plus years of following me”. As I sat in the parking lot, contemplating my next moves, there seemed to be a slight calming assurance as I uttered the words, “Okay God, we got this”.

I’ve been a blogger now for several years with hundreds of blogs being read in dozens of countries, and the theme for most of them, so many that my first book is a compilation of them, is that life knocks us down, sometimes knocking the wind out of us, but that in the end, God always rescues us just in time.  It’s a lesson David knew well as he penned many of the Psalms.  David was honest in venting his frustrations and doubts to God.  As you read through them you will hear him asking, “where are you God” or “why have you abandoned me” or “why don’t you answer when I call or rescue me from my enemies”.  I believe David was like many of us today, having full knowledge and confidence in God’s ability to do the impossible, but not seeing it happen in his darkest hours.  Even our Savior experienced this as he hung on the cross but could not sense the presence of his own Father, who could not be with him as he carried so much sin in his sacrifice.  For many, it seems like God is the farthest from us when we need him the most and cry out the loudest.  But I have heard it said and found it to be true, that the teacher is always silent during a test.

What I love and have tried to learn from David is that in his honest expressions to God, he always came back to what he knew to be true, even if he didn’t feel them or see the evidence right away.  Life’s toughest challenges often result in a disconnect between our heart or emotions, and our mind or intellect.  When we don’t see something or feel something, we tend to believe it no longer exists. We pray urgently for answers but “feel” God has abandoned us.  Since we feel some sort of way, we completely disregard every promise recorded in scripture for our benefit, because our emotions pervert the reality of the truth.  It’s a normal human response.  Consider the Apostles who did life with Jesus, who sat under intimate instruction from the Master, who witnessed miracle after miracle and were even sent out with His authority to perpetrate miracles in His name, and even witnessed just a few days before, the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  But when life got difficult and they watched Jesus die, they all hid in sorrow and fear, forgetting what they knew,  because they couldn’t get past what they saw.  We are much the same.

God graciously and generously equips us with all we need to fight these battles.  Sometimes it’s just a word from a good friend, some sign or scriptural passage, the right song at the right time.  For me, He provided an amazing and beautiful angel, who feels somehow I rescued her when all along she was sent to rescue me.  God sees the road we don’t, knows our weaknesses and compensates ahead of time if we only trust him.  As I endure these life altering challenges, I’m reminded of the passage from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, which reads:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in ALL our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”.

I often gest that when things come my way, that it’s just more blogging material. But the truth is that experiencing and surviving the pain of disasters like fire or the hopelessness of unemployment or the ruin of financial security or the sting of divorce, and now the horror of cancer, gives me a very empathetic view of others who have or will suffer the same.  It’s is through a David-like transparency that I write about these things, partially as it’s therapeutic. but more so because I want to offer others hope, to help them refocus on the truth, to repair the disconnect between what they may be feeling at the time and what they still know to be true, that God loves us, that he’s on our side, not against us, that he has our back  in times of distress and that he sees what we don’t, so that we are left with nothing but total trust and reliance on him to face the storms.  I hope to give out comfort as I receive it so that in all things Christ receives glory and we receive life in abundance.  No, I don’t want to be the one chosen as the poster child for survival, but if that’s the plan, let me do it well!

So through much personal prayer, the prayers of countless others around the country and the love and support of my family and a just-in-time heaven-sent angel whose love is more precious than a writer can describe, I have resolved to make cancer my biatch in a very public way so others can go on this journey with me and rejoice with me when I kick its ass!  It may not be contextually accurate, but I really can do all things through Christ, just watch me!  I’m already amending my life’s resume to add “cancer survivor” to it and to pay forward the comfort I receive in the process.  He’s a good, good Father!

And a very Happy and blessed Mother’s Day to all moms.  What priceless gems you are!

 

Why God Why?

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Why now?  Why her?  Why me?  Why this?  It may be the biggest three letter word in our vocabulary-why.  It is often time the hardest question and most assuredly the least answered-a question that even the most mature and devout of Christian believers struggle with-Why God.

We’ve all been subjected to the inquisitive minds of children as they ask about the whys of the universe, where babies come from, why the sky is blue, with each explanation followed by yet another why.  We find these times amusing when we look back on them.  But as life progresses and children become adults baptized into a world of sin and chaos, the whys become more urgent, less amusing and with fewer answers. When we take into account the state of the human condition and add to it the tragic recent events from around the world, we may all find ourselves asking these heart breaking whys:

Why does my child have cancer?

Why can’t I find employment?

Why did my loved one have to die in that crash?

Why are innocent children the first casualties of war?

Why are Christians being tortured and martyred in this day and age?

Why won’t my kids serve the Lord after years of praying for them?

Why did my spouse leave me?

Why didn’t you heal them?

Why God won’t you respond to me-why so silent?

Why do bad things happen to Godly people?

These whys are painful. These whys are real. And these whys rarely receive a response.  They come from our deepest and darkest moments, our raw and naked emotions, and they test the very fibers of our belief and faith. Many have walked away from their faith in God because they could not find answers or accept silence as their only answer.

There was a man named Job in the Bible, a man described as the most God fearing man of his day-“none like him in all the earth” it says.  But in a matter of hours, Job lost his possessions, his children and his health for no given reason. He had some serious whys for God. Joseph was thrown into prison for years for a crime he didn’t commit with no communication from God. Paul and Silas were chained in a dark dungeon like jail, beaten and tortured for being obedient in preaching the good news about Christ. I’m sure deep inside they may have had a few whys. Even our Savior, while hanging on the cross in our place, feeling the unfathomable pain from the beatings and the nails, rendered to His father an unanswered…Why!

How I wish I could submit a reasonable explanation as to why God allows such suffering seemingly without cause. How I wish I could comfort friends or family who are going through difficult times with words that make sense or scripture that makes it all clear.

The Psalmist David, after being promised the throne, found himself in the wilderness running for his life. He had a few whys as recorded for us in the Psalms;

O LORD, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in trouble?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?

Why have you tossed me aside?
Why must I wander around in grief,

O LORD, why do you reject me?
Why do you turn your face from me?

I have had my own whys-why divorce? Why disease? Why did I lose the business? Why God can’t I hear your voice when I desperately seek you? We all have unresolved whys in our lives. To follow God blindly without having questions is unrealistic. But trusting God in the valley of the shadows of death when we don’t understand requires a relationship with Him that can’t be forged just in the easy times. We are purified through fire. We are strongest when we are at the end of human reason and ability. And we are best able to offer comfort when we have been comforted in our own times of why.

I can’t answer in a thousand words or less a question that has been posed by much holier men and women than me for thousands of years. If I could I would be in high demand like Bruce Almighty. I have reconciled in my heart that I will most likely go to my grave having most of my whys for God unanswered.  But I also know that on that day when all things are revealed and the mysteries of faith resolved, it won’t be as important as it seems to be now. God is faithful, just and good and He loves us with an everlasting love, having pardoned our sins through the death and resurrection of His son so that we might inherit eternal life, which may be the biggest why of all.