There’s a guy who is often seen running around here, bandana on his head, beard keeping his face warm and boyish countenance looking a little older, and short shorts showing off his runner’s legs. If you didn’t know who he was, you might be a little surprised to learn that he is a pastor. Not just a pastor, but a darn good one. And he’s not even my pastor, but I’m honored to call him a friend. He’s also one of the smartest people you will ever meet. And one of the most humble. He’s a father, a husband, a leader of mission trips to other parts of the world and an incredible writer/blogger. He’s a source of comfort to so many in our community and even around the world. And now, he has cancer. While I usually don’t consider myself at a loss for words, all that comes to mind now is that it sucks. Plain and simple. It. Sucks.
I wrote a guest blog piece for him a while back called “Consider It Pure Joy” about the Book of James. I quoted the opening lines of that book of the Bible: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” My lay translation of that was this: Be glad that you are going through living hell right now because it will make you stronger. At the time, I was linking this passage in James with my alcoholism. Somehow I don’t think this young pastor or his family are considering any of this joy or feel the slightest bit of gladness right now.
So what happens when the one who gives the prayers needs the prayers? I have no doubt that he will have many many prayers heading his way. They have already started rolling in (or up). I am reminded of a similar situation when it was the doctor who needed the care. My father, who helped so many people over the span of decades as an excellent urologist and skilled surgeon, suffered a stroke himself just six months after he retired. A man who never smoked, hardly drank at all, was meticulous about what he ate and exercised regularly. I guess in many cases, if it’s in your genes, well, you’re screwed. A little like alcoholism. But my friend’s cancer? Don’t think so. He is another guy who takes excellent care of his body and mind.
My father learned what it was like to be the one lying in the bed being cared for and waiting anxiously for the doctor’s updates instead of being the one giving them. He was quoted in an article that was written about him called “When the Doctor Becomes the Patient” as saying that he thought every physician should spend some time on the other side (or in the bed) to gain an appreciation for what the patient goes through and experiences. He gained a new appreciation for the nurses, staff and physical therapists who helped him back on his feet, literally, as he was paralyzed on his right side by the stroke.
But what about the pastor? Is this the other side for him? Being the one needing to receive the prayers and blessings instead of being the one to administer them? He just wrote a blog piece himself that said “not only is my faith is expected to be a resource for me while cancer tries to kill me, it’s expected my faith vs. the cancer will be a resource to others too.” Yes, high expectations when you are public with your struggle. But you can see his thoughts are already turned to others in this tough time.
I wrote another piece recently called “Why Ask Why?” In this situation? Who the hell knows why. It doesn’t make any sense. But we are supposed to believe that there is a reason and that God has this all in his plans. We may not understand the plans and certainly don’t have to like them. But somehow we have to keep the faith. Don’t ask me why. I would ask Him.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
― Corrie ten Boom