My Uncle is fighting cancer, but it's not going well. His wife Shirley was instrumental in me coming to faith at Flamingo Road Church. His son Matthew wrote this. Wow:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
A close friend of mine shared these words of the Apostle Paul with me this evening. It's hard to reconcile all things working for the good of us through our flesh-wrapped minds when getting the kind of news we received about my dad today.
The cancer has returned. It's spreading, traveling along a nerve in his mouth, the reason for much of his pain. It's terminal, his doctor giving him the most sobering of numbers no one wants to ever hear: 10% success rate of treatment, likely 6 months to live.
To borrow a line from Paul a few verses later, "What, then, shall we say in response to these things?" Well, to be completely honest, this news is so what we did not want to hear. It's awful. Horrible. Why, after so much, has it had to come to this? I know that's not where Paul was coming from, but I can't hide the fact how terrible this really is.
In the world of marketed Christianity, you expect a good ending with situations like these, where prayers are answered abundantly, prosperity flows, and in the film version, Kirk Cameron smiles brightly into the camera amid happily ever afters. I know I've harped on this before, but unfortunately, that's not always the case in real life. Reality knocked out any notion of guaranteed deliverance according to the will of our prayers that had crept into our thinking with this situation. Jesus promised we'd have trouble. And Paul himself wrote the very words above amid multiple beatings and persecution in a story that ultimately ended with his own gruesome demise.
The moral of the story? Life can be bad. Really bad. But God is good. So good. I like to think as Paul wrote verse 28, he inked "And we know" in the biggest, boldest, most underlined letters possible. We know because we're sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.
So where is the good? We may never fully realize it on this side of eternity. But we've seen so much already. As physical health fails, spiritual health has been richly nourished. Despite already being a momma's boy, the relationship with my parents has grown so much stronger, and recent conversations--despite his inability to speak--and moments shared with my dad have become some of the most cherished of my lifetime. The sharing and praying and giving among friendships here, there, and other places across the country have been overwhelmingly amazing. That's just the good that's been visible.
My hope is that there's even more good, where God is richly glorified by this, with an impact the reverberates far beyond these days into That Day where the old has passed, death is gone, and every tear is wiped away from every eye. I like to think that's where God is working the most good, using the calling He's given us--both good and bad circumstances --for His purpose and His glory, regardless of what it does or costs to us.
All this said, we're not willing to throw in the towel. Especially when "Fight! Fight! Fight!" has been the rallying cry for the last 18 months. My dad wants to try the 10% option at least for a bit to see how he can handle the side effects, so that will start Monday. If it's too much to bare, he'll fight with his spirit. We still have faith, and we still have hope.
As Paul says in the second half of verse 31, "If God is for us, who can be against us"? Our God is greater and stronger (as Chris Tomlin sings along with his quote of Paul), and we know it's never beyond our Heavenly Father to still heal my earthly one. As my mom's uncle, one of the most amazing men of faith I know, said today, "They told me I had six months left 10 years ago." So to borrow another line from another favorite Chris Tomlin song: where He goes, we'll go; where He stays, we'll stay; when He moves, we'll move; We will follow... While our circumstances may be bad, "all His ways are good, all His ways are sure, and we'll trust in Him alone."
As for how we're all processing this, my parents are slowing coming to grips with this news, with conversation replacing tears as the night deepens and the more people they tell. My dad's one of the toughest, strongest people I know, and I've so admired the courage and resolve he's shown--especially dealing with everything without complaining or bitterness. He'll continue to fight, fight, fight all that he can. And my mom has been an amazing bedrock of faith, strength and caregiving through it all. I could not be blessed with better parents than the ones God gave me, and I so admire them for the battle they're enduring.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. They'll need it even more now. Thank you for fighting with us.