Normally, I don’t talk about personal stuff with people outside of trusted family and close friends. I grew up in a “fishbowl” so I learned to guard my privacy with a winsome smile, nuanced words, and strategic deflection. However, God told me talk about what I am going through right now. So, here goes.
A little more than two years ago I heard those strange, almost disembodied words, “Brad, you have prostate cancer. We need to operate soon. Don’t wait.” Six months later the doc said they thought they got it all. L-o-n-g s-l-o-w e-x-h-a-l-e.
Then last fall everything changed. Not only did my doctor tell me the cancer had returned, but that it was “stage four metastatic cancer.” They could “extend my life by a few years,” but I was a dead man walking. I could feel the tick, tick, tick of the countdown clock.
And then my mind jumped back to a conversation I had with God the previous spring. He said, “Brad, you firmly believe in my sovereignty.” I replied, “Yes, Lord, I do.” He continued, “However, you often resign yourself to my sovereignty rather than embracing it. Sometimes you’re more of an Eeyore than a Tigger regarding the choices I make for your ultimate good.” Ouch! That stung a bit, but I realized He was right—again.
In that moment the book of Job came to mind. I thought of the scene where Job was sitting in ashes, covered in boils. He had lost his wealth, his health and all his children. In the midst of his utter devastation his wife exclaims, “Curse God and die.” Instead, he responds, “The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” As I pondered those words, I realized you can utter them out of resignation (fatalism), or with deep seated conviction. It seems pretty clear that Job chose the latter. But at that moment, it wasn’t about Job; it was about me and God. How was I going to respond?
God finished our conversation with, “Brad, I want to teach you to embrace my sovereignty.” I responded with all sincerity, “Okay Lord.” Amazingly, I then went on with life, giving little thought to what might be just around the corner. Silly, silly me.
When I heard the doctor’s death sentence last fall, I was transported back to the conversation God and I had months before. I knew I had a choice. I could either resign myself to the cancer, or I could respond triumphantly along with the Apostle Paul, “…to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I chose the latter. Please don’t miss this—it was a deliberate decision. I was able to follow Paul’s example because I trust in God’s faithfulness to the core of my being. That initial choice is changing my entire cancer experience.
You see, God is my coach. He wants me to succeed even more than I want to succeed. But like any great coach he knows His job is to make me do what I don’t want to do in order that I might become what I want to become. And what do I want to become, you ask? I want to become more like Jesus. That is the only path to deep and abiding joy, but it does come with a price.
My cancer is truly a blessing from the hand of the God who loves me dearly. It’s a hard blessing, and I would never have chosen this path, but I see it as a tangible sign of God’s deep, deep care for me.
When life’s inevitable curve balls come, my wife and I often ask each other the following question: “Are we viewing this as a problem, or as an opportunity to see God work?” In any situation, it will be one or the other. How I answer that question is always the result of how I view God. Furthermore, if I am focused on myself or my current situation, I will always have problems. You see, either my circumstances will determine how I see God, or my view of God will determine how I see my circumstances. When I view life’s curveballs as problems, it is always the direct result of an inadequate view of God or focusing on myself.
I have complete confidence God can heal me. I’ve seen Him heal others in amazing ways. However, I have no idea if He will heal me or not. He hasn’t given me any indication one way or the other. But I do know this, He is sovereign. He is in control.
The book of Job is crystal clear on this point. If I live it will be according to HIS sovereign plan for me. If I die it will be according to HIS sovereign plan for me. Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for the good, for those who love God, for those who are called according to purpose.” Please note that it never says all things are fun or pleasant. The context of Romans 8:28 is that we will suffer during this life, but God is in control and works everything for our ultimate good.
Let me close this conversation by asking you, do you have problems, or do you have opportunities to see God work? Your view of God will determine how you answer that question.
If you would like to develop a deeper view of God, my dad, Bill Bright, wrote an easy-to-read book about God’s character shortly before he died. He wrote it just for someone like you. It’s entitled, God, Who Are You Anyway?, How you view God will determine how you see and experience everything else in life.
GOD is the issue!