By Jeff Denton
Not what I was expecting to hear from the doctor. But surprisingly comforting at some level.
It sure explained the extreme sickness I was experiencing. It explained twenty pounds of weight loss in three weeks. It explained months of pain that had been increasing.
I had convinced myself I just wasn’t aging well. I was a wimp to the natural aches and pains that come with an older body. It had finally reached an unbearable level. Like the old tombstone that reads, “I told them I was sick,” I finally had a diagnosis that matched the level of pain I was experiencing. I told the doctor, “It’s a relief to find a cause that makes me not feel so insane.”
Of course, it didn’t immediately answer the, “What’s Next” question. And, it sure didn’t even pretend to address, “Why me?”.
As a pastor, I’ve stood at the bedsides of those who’ve died, next to infant caskets, and with those who’ve lost a loved one in both expected and unexpected ways. I have a theology that addresses why evil, pain and suffering exists in this world. So, I didn’t need to wrestle with the “Why me?” question.
Yet, I’ve lived a pretty clean life. I’ve never smoked or drank alcohol. I’ve only had sexual relations with one woman my entire life. I even take one step back from the microwave when waiting for my morning muffin to warm up. Doesn’t that guarantee me some exemption from a certain set us illnesses and afflictions?
What I do know is that “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) It hopefully doesn’t shock anyone to know I believe what I preach. Like the Apostle Paul in that passage, I believe I have more to do here on earth. I don’t want to cut that intentionally short as long as there’s purpose for me here.
But, also like the Apostle Paul, if God says I’ve accomplished what I was put here to do, then I’m not afraid of what lies beyond this life. I’m reconciled to God through faith in Christ. I know the glory that awaits because of my faith. Not because I deserve a great eternity; but because Jesus paid the way for me when I didn’t deserve it.
I agree with the great D.L. Moody, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody…is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.”
I discovered three verses in the bible that I have called my “life verses” for around four decades. From 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I strive every day, not always succeeding, to live with Joy, Prayer, and Gratitude. Hopefully that’s not a shock to those who know me. That didn’t change because of a diagnosis. The approach I hold to life doesn’t change because of my circumstances. My circumstances bend to my attitude because of the choices I made far in advance.
Cancer isn’t changing how I live, or my attitude in life…or death. It also doesn’t mean I’m going to take up drinking, smoking, or sleeping around. (Sorry ladies and potential drinking buddies.)
Cancer doesn’t change who I am. It just becomes part of the story. And I control my perspective.