Our church was stunned and heartbroken yesterday to learn that our dear pastor has cancer of the liver and pancreas and is only expected to live 6 months to a year.
He had been losing weight over the past few months, had been really sick the past few weeks, went to the doctor – thankfully a member of our church and long time friend – last week for tests, where it discovered both his liver and pancreas are full of cancer. The pancreatic cancer is incurable and inoperable. He is having biopsies this week to confirm it, and there is a small chance that what they saw on the scans is not cancer, but everything else points to it. They are planning to start chemotherapy in hopes of slowing it down to some degree, but of course that carries its own set of problems.
He is in his early 50s with a wife and three daughters, two of whom are getting married this summer, and the youngest is schedule to go to college in the fall.
He has been preaching through the book of Romans, and providentially we were in the latter half of chapter 8 yesterday, which was so applicable to his situation. As he spoke to us yesterday, one of his concerns was that we think in a right way about his situation, that we not think God is mean or unfair or unkind. He had different men from the church read passages like Psalm 23 and II Corinthians 4:7-11:
.But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
And II Corinthians 4:16-18:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
And II Corinthians 12:9-10:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We know and love and take comfort in those truths but sometimes we tuck them away for “some day…”
Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Not that there is anything inherently wrong with feasting or celebrations: God created some for the Israelites to enjoy, and Jesus attended a wedding. But when someone faces death, certain truths crystallize into sharp focus. All of a sudden the petty irritation that was bothering me that morning wasn’t important. I was reminded that death comes to us all, sooner to some than expected, but God’s grace so wonderfully provided that we can be forgiven; that heaven is real; that this life really is but a vapor; that however good it is, heaven is better. I was reminded that we weren’t promised a life free from suffering on this earth; in fact, the Bible gives us plenty of warning about it and promises God’s help for it and assures us that He really, truly is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Last night a line from a hymn kept coming to mind, “Eternal glories gleam afar.” I couldn’t remember what hymn it was from, so I looked it up this morning and was surprised to find it was from “I’ve Found a Friend,” a song I haven’t heard in ages. The stanza containing that phrase says:
I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! All pow’r to Him is given,
To guard me on my onward course, and bring me safe to heaven.
The eternal glories gleam afar, to nerve my faint endeavor;
So now to watch, to work, to war, and then to rest forever.
In situations like this, those eternal glories aren’t quite so far off: they are up close and personal.
This is going to be a heart-wrenching journey, especially for this man and his family, but also for our church as a whole. I know you all have your own churches and issues and prayer lists, but if you feel led, I’m sure all involved would appreciate your prayers.