In a recent blog post by Justin Taylor, he provided a timely link to John Piper's piece on "Don't Waste Your Cancer". It was written by Piper back in 2006 during his battle with prostate cancer. Taylor has offered it to the blogging community as a reflection in light of the new diagnosis and challenges facing Pastor Matt Chandler and his family.
The following outline from that talk could be read a million different ways. Simply insert the form of suffering or challenge you are going through for the word "cancer". (i.e. bedrest, disability, handicap, unforseen health problem, etc...) Although many of the points are medical in nature, the concepts & truths will still ring true.
- You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
- You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
- You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
- You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
- You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
- You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
- You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
- You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
- You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
- You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
This post was of great significance for me today...as I would consider the last two days some of the hardest for me emotionally during this time. I know you hear me say that sufferings are for good and God is sovereign. That is something I know to be true.
But some days are harder than others. Especially when I fail to take every thought captive and defeat it with that truth. There are times when the circumstances of this whole situation can be overwhelming. My sinful nature battles to sink my heart and overwhelm my mind with pity, depression & distrust in the Lord.
And it is times like these that I continue to "preach to myself" the wonderful truths in the Word that keep me on track.
One of the most gracious things the Lord has done for me during this time on bedrest, is to remind me of the sufferings & challenges in the lives of others. It keeps my mind focused on the things that are important, eternal & of true value. And it keeps my heart active in prayer for the many in this world who face challenges far more daunting than my own. It keeps one from slipping into the miry clay of self-pity & selfish orientation.
However, it can be downright depressing to sit and look at the state of the world we live in. And it would overwhelm our souls, if we did not know the One who is in control and did not have the promise of eternal life with Him.
My heart aches for the Chandler family. Their young children, his wife, their church family...all are faced with deep pain and suffering that no one should have to bear. But they do not bear it alone. Their faith in the midst of trial is already a testimony to the hundreds who are following their story.
I've been reading a short biography on Martin Luther and was shocked to read the severity of medical problems he endured in his life. One wouldn't know it from his prolific and exceptional writings. He had a deep love for the Scriptures and a desire to bring the church back to that place as well. He said that suffering, or as he called it "tribulation", was the "touchstone" to understanding the Scriptures. Read below as he describes it's importance.
"I want you to know how to study theology in the right way. I have practiced this method myself...Here you will find three rules. They are frequently proposed throughout Psalm 119 and run thus: oratio, meditatio, tentatio (prayer, meditation, tribulation)....[These rules] teach you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God's word is: it is wisdom supreme."
So in days of suffering...cancer, handicaps, temptation, trials, untimely death, unforseen challenges, wayward children, earthquakes, wars...may we be comforted by God's word.
And may we find peace in the knowledge that He is more powerful than any trial, more glorious than any cure and more gracious than we can imagine. I pray we will not waste these days that are given to us. They are numbered and by God's grace, they can bring Him glory.
"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:1-5