Three years ago today, I received the phone call which any person would cringe to hear. The call came from my family doctor, and he said, “Terry, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but we have the pathology back from the incisional biopsy; you have cancer.” The moment was surreal and time seemed to stand still. The pain I saw in the face of my wife and three boys was beyond description…though I understood it because I felt it myself. Questions immediately began flooding my heart as I struggled to understand the purpose of this. I had surrendered to Christ when I was 18 and entered full time ministry when I was 22. Here I was one week removed from my 46th birthday and I am facing this huge valley. Why, Lord, why???
My story is not uncommon. Many have walked down the well trodden path of affliction and asked the same questions. In fact, I found a plethora of the similar questions asked by the writers of Scriptures, from Job to David, from Jeremiah and Habakkuk to the Apostle Paul. I was among friends!
We always hear how affliction changes our world. I disagree. The world remains fallen and in need of redemption. However, suffering changes us. It moves us out of the vanity of self absorption, youthful lusts and the idolatry of the American dream, and into the needs of others. It teaches us to count our days, redeem the time and seek God’s glory in all things. It makes us men…men of faith. Yes, if we have been born of the Spirit, we are all men of faith. However, when we have looked at death face to face, the certainty of our mortality becomes a constant and sober companion.
Regardless whether our affliction claims our life or not, the change it works in us is of extreme importance to our heavenly Father. Sure we want to survive, but sometimes affliction has much to do with working God’s Love into the core of our being. Our sorrows, torment and crying, all press us into the heart of Christ. Even as a believer, or a church leader, we experience a paradigm shift in our view of God, view of others, and the seriousness of our call.
I do not know how many years the Lord will allow me to live and preach His glorious gospel. But, as I’ve discussed with my lovely wife Susanne, I know this…the rest of my years will be poured out on the altar of God, not as a means of earning anything, but because His Love has arrested me on a whole new dimension. And I am, by His grace, a debtor to all men. (Rom.1:14)
Yes, cancer changed me. The world has not changed, but I certainly view it differently. And now I can thank the Lord for allowing to me walk down this road, and I glory in my infirmities, even the permanent side effects from treatment. Before cancer, I had heard about God’s greatness when in the valley of affliction through the testimony and biographies of old saints. However, now, I have experienced His tender mercies as He held my weakened heart in His hands of grace. My eyes have seen his faithfulness, up close and personal! (Job 42:5)
If you are in a deep valley, and need someone to listen…I’m here.
Because of His Grace,