As I have been reading blogs lately I have been nearly overwhelmed with all the reports of cancer. Matt was kind enough to post an update on my own condition a few days ago, and I can think of at least 5 other bloggers and leaders I have become aware of in the last couple of weeks who are battling cancer.
When a doctor first told me I might have cancer last year I struggled with how much worry was legitimate. I was worried that I might be getting too worried, this shows how neurotic I am – worrying about how much worry was appropriate. A friend of mine comforted me that my worries were legitimate when he reminded me that there are few words in the English language that are scarier than the word “cancer.” As the legendary sportswriter Jim Murray said when he found out about his wife’s cancer – “The cancer has metastasized. The most terrible collection of syllables in the language.”
With all of this going on I am concerned that you, the healthy reader, may have undue worries and fears about your own future. A friend of mine mentioned to me last year that along with their love and concern for me and my family, many in our congregation were worried about themselves, could this happen to them. And, if my story and the stories of others cause you to eat better, get more exercise and pay more attention to potentially troublesome symptoms, that will be great. But I hope that will not mutate into fear.
One of the most helpful words for me during this struggle came from something I read by John Piper. He said something to the effect that part of having faith is having faith today that you will have the faith you need tomorrow. In other words, God gives you grace for each day’s trials (see Matthew 6:34). If you are not facing the trial of cancer (or some other thing) you don’t have the grace and faith you need to face it right now because you don’t need it. But when the day of trial comes, God will give you the grace and faith you need.
As to what this has to do with the overall purpose of the Evangel blog I would offer the suggestion that one of the great losses we have suffered as evangelicals is the loss of the practice of “soul care,” and we need to recover the tradition of ministers as “physicians of the soul.” Also, the ravages of the health and wealth gospel are well known to those who contribute to and read Evangel, and it is useful to remind us that the Christian message is uniquely targeted toward those who suffer and that the Christian church is uniquely called and equipped to minister to the sick and dying.
I can testify that Christ indeed is a very present help in a time of trouble and the gospel message is heard and understood most clearly in a time of suffering. I can think of no better time than Christmas to remind us all that indeed God is faithful.