“What we thought was a cyst is actually a rare, locally aggressive but non-metastasizing, malignant tumor.”
It was a normal Friday afternoon, relaxing with my family, taking our kids on a public transit day and preparing for our move to Chicago when the call came. Hands shaking, heart pounding and sweat beads forming, the only words I heard were “malignant tumor.” It turned out to be a minor sweat gland tumor, but in that moment I didn’t know.
I began experiencing depths of fear and confusion I’d never known. In my head I kept repeating, “I want to grow old with my wife; I want to watch my kids grow up.”
Then came Sunday.
As I led communion at the morning worship services, I talked to a couple thousand people about the hope we have in Jesus, the life-transforming power of His death and resurrection, and how the power of death will one day be brought to its final resting place. I said it and tried to believe it.
Then came the 5 p.m. service.
The same words came out of my mouth, but this time it was different. I walked off the stage barely able to hold myself together, and as we began singing, I exploded into tears.
I just kept thinking, “I believe this, I believe this, I believe this.” I believe no matter how minor or how major this turns out to be, it cannot take Jesus away from me.
In the following weeks, the Lord rooted up idols and educated me in realities that I thought I knew but ultimately didn’t.
I learned there is no such thing as “minor” when it’s in your own body.
I learned how much I love waking up next to my wife and saying to my kids, “I love being your daddy” every day.
I learned pastors need pastors.
I learned cash will never stand up to cancer, only Jesus does.
I learned the depth of relationships in my life, how much I need the Church, and how there is no safer place for my soul than with Jesus experienced in the community of Christ.
I learned that too much of my hope is still in this life and I need the Lord to purge me and draw me deeper into Jesus.
Most of all I learned that in the darkest nights, when the love of my wife, children and church are unable to soothe the anxiety of my soul, Romans 8 is still true. “All things” are making me like Jesus, and nothing, not “death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Tumors, minor and major, are pawns in the hand of God – using tragic results of a fallen world to redeem us from the tragedy of the Fall, to expose shallow temporary hopes and invite us into deeper rivers.
If you are in the middle of a season like this, take comfort and know Romans 8 is for you. God is doing whatever necessary to flourish the gospel in your life today.
God is preparing you for your eternal years. He is purging you of fleeting pleasures that minimize joy and is drawing you into deeper pleasure in Jesus.
Death is not our friend: It is the last enemy that will be conquered. Until Christ returns to put death to death, it has a role to play. Its role is to remind us of the temporality of our lives, the uselessness of trivial pleasures and to anchor our hearts in Jesus.
I knew this before, but I know it now.