Cancer & Preaching to Myself

Almost three years ago, in the Spring of 2010, I wrote a letter to a dear friend who had been diagnosed with cancer.  I wrote the letter because we had moved away and yet I still very much felt like her pastor – even if from a distance.  Today, I am realizing that so much of my need each day is to preach what I have preached to others to myself.  To remember the richness of God’s grace, the depth of His love, and the promise of His presence.  To think deeply about God’s sovereignty and His glory, even in the midst of suffering.  I want to do this while and as I have opportunity.  Here is the majority of what I wrote and my attempt to own some of the ways I have encouraged others – I know I have a long ways to go:

Here is what I would tell you if I were your pastor, and at times like this I wish I were!:

  First, I would tell you I love you and am so thankful the Lord has placed you and your family in our lives.  What a tremendous blessing y’all have been to us since we first came to Hampton Roads and still to this day.  While this past year has been good in many ways, one thing that has consistently been hard is that the Lord placed in Meridianville/Huntsville, rather than in your community. [Four years in, I could now write how thankful and blessed we are to be here in North Alabama and would’t want to change that one bit]  We are making new friends, but it’s nothing yet like the joy of our friendship with your family.  And you personally, have been an encouragement to me, particularly in my ministry these years too.  That has been invaluable to me and a certain fulfillment of the Lord’s command to encourage one another.  And I can only begin to imagine the love that your family has for you as you have been a loving, faithful, and compassionate wife and mother.  I am sure they have shared their love for anew in these recent days.  Regardless, of how we might describe the depth of such love, love of friends or family, it pails in comparison to the love of God.  That is the first thing I would tell you and remind you – God loves you far more than we can imagine on this side of glory, but not in a way that is only incomprehensible.  God’s love is demonstrable for we need only look to the Cross of Christ.  God’s love is not fickle, feeble, nor does it wane.  God’s love is not measured by our assessment of our circumstances, whether good or bad.  God’s love is not quantified or qualified in relation to how we feel, what we can see, or what we might hope.  And so, my prayer for you during these days is that “Christ may dwell in your heart through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (with thanks to Paul!). 

            Secondly, I would encourage you to find the balance between radical honesty about your frailty, struggles, doubts, and uncertainties, while at the same time being radically honest about your faith and trust in God.  I have always loved the “holy buts” of 2 Corinthians 4.  Paul acknowledges that we are jars of clay, symbolizing our frailty.  But – and it’s a big one, Paul also directs us to the power of God that was first displayed at creation and now in our recreation through Jesus Christ.  In the Christian, these are always joined together (Or should be) – an understanding of what we are, but always in relation to the work of Jesus.  So, even as you struggle today or tomorrow or next week in a variety of ways, don’t shrink back from being honest with yourself, your family, your brothers and sisters in Christ, or those who don’t know Christ.  Speak your doubts, your fears, your anxieties.  And then, as they are spoken, be prepared to hear God’s response of love and compassion for you.  It might come from His Word, by His Spirit, through a loved one, a brother/sister in Christ, or God may even use someone where you might least expect to hear God’s truth. 

            Thirdly, I would tell you that God’s care about you as a complete person.  So then, this isn’t just about what is happening to you or in you physically.  This also about your faith, your heart, your emotions, and your spirit – God doesn’t just redeem a portion of us, but all of us.  So, in that sense this presents an opportunity to prayerfully consider all of the ways that the Lord will grow you.  I am so glad someone directed you to “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” – I read a couple of years ago and am thankful for John Piper’s ministry.  I probably can’t say what he says as well, but the thrust of what Piper says is what I would say to you, perhaps more personally, if not as eloquently.  Here is an opportunity the Lord has given you to grow, not in spite of your cancer, but because of it.  Not a one of us would ask the Lord to grow us that way, but now that you are there, might as well take advantage of it.   This knowledge informs my prayers for you.  Yes, I pray for your physical well-being, but I also pray (and maybe more so) for your spiritual well-being.  

            Fourthly, I would tell you that this isn’t just about you.  That could sound harsh, but I think you would know the way in which I would say that to you.  Just as the Lord is doing something in you as a whole person, He is also at work outside of you.  I heard someone once say that God’s never just doing one thing, He’s doing a million things at one time or something like that.  In that sense, even as you may pray for yourself, pray also for how the Lord will glorify himself in a multitude of ways through this.  How might he use this to grow your church?  How might he use this to bring reconciliation with family members?  How might he use this to draw your whole family into an even deeper walk?  How might he use this to draw someone to himself? How might he use this in ways that we may not see today or tomorrow, or on this side of heaven?  Yeah, that’s would I say, it’s not just about you, but the Lord will use you for His glory.

            I probably would have more to say, but I know that talking too much is an occupational hazard.  So, if I were your pastor, I would also wait, watch, and pray, to see what else the Lord would lead me to say.  I would listen, knowing that I can learn/hear/be reminded of as much from you about the Gospel, the love of Christ, and our growth as Christians, as you might learn/hear/be reminded of from me.  Forgive any grammatical errors, since I would prefer to saying these things to you, rather than writing them.  My prayers attend this note. 

grace & peace…Adam

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Michelle on March 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Adam, you have embodied all the things in this letter. May YOU know God’s immeasurable love and may you CONTINUE to glorify God in your affliction.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Michelle on March 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

    We love too too, Adam. Even the little’s pray for you but we have to correct e to say Pastor Adam, not master Adam.

    Reply

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