Trained as an emergency physician, my entire career has been spent pondering, searching for, often finding and managing the worst possible eventualities in my patients. Chest pain is, first and foremost, a heart attack or pulmonary embolus. Abdominal pain is appendicitis, a ruptured tubal pregnancy. Fever with headache is meningitis. And neck pain from a car wreck is an unstable cervical spine fracture.
So it has taken enormous effort to ‘dial-down’ my response to my wife’s recent cancer, treatment and recovery. I drive her to distraction with ‘how are you feeling?’ I pester her endlessly to eat. I have imagined every bump or cough a metastasis. I have envisioned all the worst outcomes imaginable. I endlessly ‘catastrophize,’ as one pastor put it. And yet, God has seen us through so much. She is thriving, six months from her diagnosis and three months from her last chemotherapy and radiation treatment; almost three months from her life-threatening pulmonary embolus.
We have been through follow-up exams, and scans. Tense phone calls from tumor boards, anxious moments waiting for radiologists to make pronouncements. And now, one more thing remains. Tomorrow she has a little surgery to repair her scar. And she has a little scope and biopsy to follow up on her slightly abnormal PET scan. Despite the way my anxiety can run wild, despite the way that Satan gnaws at me with the barbed sword of fear, I know two things. Rationally, I know that it is likely she will have no problem, and no residual malignancy. She was treated as aggressively as one could imagine.
But I also know this, I have to know this: she is in God’s hands. This is no easy thing. I am a kind of ‘medical doubting Thomas.’ ‘Unless I put my hands on the report, unless I see the scan myself, I will not believe in God’s provision.’ But I have to move beyond that.
I have learned, thanks to this trial, my wife’s wisdom and the Word, that when God says He will rescue us from every trial, that He will ‘keep us from dashing our foot against a stone,’ when He says, ‘The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them from all their troubles,’ He means it from a larger perspective than we can comprehend. When He says He ‘forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases,’ it is true. But the meaning is beyond the temporal.
If not, then every believer whose loved one dies of cancer can only rage against a lying, faithless Father. And each of us, who will universally face the 100% morality of this life, will have cause to be angry with our Creator.
Some will be healed of their diseases, and we can pray for that, and we should pray for that. I do it every, single, solitary day. ‘God, Father, please heal my wife.’ So far, He has been faithful to that plea.
However, some will not. And I do not claim to understand why, nor do I hope to judge God with what Pastor Mark Driscoll calls, ‘three pounds of fallen brain.’ But either way, all of us will find our ultimate healing in the next life. So when we trust God, as I am learning, we have to fall back into His arms, trusting that either way, now or later, with immediate joy or joy postponed, we will find the healing we so desire for those we love…and for ourselves.
I was told by a wise man that we were facing this trial because ‘you can be trusted with it.’ I am only now beginning to understand. And despite my deep-seated, doctor-educated terror, I am seeing that God’s provision dwells mightily in some of the worse circumstances, and that if we would be a ‘light in the darkness,’ we have to be in the darkness.
God deliver us into new light, each and every one!
Please say a prayer for Jan’s surgery tomorrow.