Temptation– As I was watching the chemo drip through the IV, I began to feel like I was stranded at sea. Literally feeling sea-sick and emotionally feeling both lost and abandoned. Sarah sat next to me but I was still under attack spiritually as thoughts of loneliness crept into my heart and covered it with a mist that took away my peace. All this time leading to this temptation I felt God’s warmth but it was drifting away and being replaced with a heavy fear. I was thinking about death and though I hid these feelings, something else- a lie- was also being whispered into my heart.
Guilt– So many people have given to help me and Sarah during this time. Many have also cooked meals, brought soup, and given sacrificially. I have received over 100 messages of people praying for me continually, and fasting and spending time with God on my behalf. Many have taken time to research alternative medical options and even offered to send me to facilities that would help me. All this to say the enemy has a way of taking blessings and warping them into thoughts and feelings that draw us away from God’s love. He whispers thoughts like, ‘you haven’t earned this,’ ‘you’re just wasting everyone’s time,’ ‘Don’t let your cancer become everyone’s problem,’ and ‘Just take care of yourself; don’t ask for help.’
Shame– To my human ears these words resonated and I felt guilty that my wife has to take care of me. That many of our plans have to change because of me. I am costing everyone so much money and I truly do not deserve this kind of grace.
Redemption – This week has been a big process and like Christian and Hopeful from Pilgrim’s Progress I was trapped in the Giant Despair’s dungeon in Doubting Castle. The giant wants them to commit suicide, but they endure the ordeal until Christian realizes that a key he has, called Promise, will open all the doors and gates of Doubting Castle. Using the key, they escape. The key for me came soon after I confessed my thoughts and feelings to Sarah. She had to remind me of the promises of God and that we have already been redeemed.
(Click this link to see specific scene from Pilgrim’s Progress or watch the whole film below)
Reconciliation– Both Sarah and I agreed that we need to spend more time with God reading from scripture and seeking His heart. We decided that during the church message we couldn’t just listen and remember what was said, but we both needed to write down our thoughts and engage. So many times before we had come out of church feeling great but not being able to remember exactly why we felt that way. I am so glad I wrote down what was happening in my heart during the message because now I can turn back and reflect on it. This Sunday a guest pastor spoke at our church about several points from 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 which speaks about the old becoming new, being an ambassador for Christ, and reconciliation. The message provoked several important questions to ask myself like, what am I willing to give up for the sake of my new life in Christ? Would I be able to wash the feet of my enemies? A wall in my heart broke down as I realized what it means to have been reconciled with God. With the falling of this wall came down all the guilt and shame that had been seeded in my heart and I felt God’s spirit heal my heart.
Another great blessing that God has shown me is that the reconciliation God has done in my heart is God’s greatest desire for all people. We don’t need to do anything to ourselves to reconcile to God. You can’t make yourself good enough to approach God, or bad enough to be unapproachable to God. Satan wants you to believe in yourself and when you fail from one of his many temptations he will trap you in despair. The truth is that the only one who can ever save us, the only one who has died on our behalf, the only one who can transform the human heart and reconcile us to God is the one by whom all things were created. Jesus the Jewish Messiah is who we hope in and the desire of His heart is to be reconciled to us.
It is my joy and privilege while I am here on earth suffering in a fallen world to implore you on behalf of Jesus to be reconciled to God and allow Jesus to the surgery that no earthly doctor can perform and give you a new heart. Pick up a Bible and read one of the Gospels (accounts of Jesus), and if you think Jesus is not for you please just humor the guy with stage IIIB cancer and read just one. If you are not sure what God looks like, sounds like, or what God is, don’t be afraid to honestly ask Him to reveal who He is. I am telling you from pure experience that you will not regret finding out.
It is my prayer that those who are trapped like I was in any kind of despair whether it be a physical vice, an existential wandering, a worldly identity, or just a lie being whispered by the enemy- that you would take hold of the promises of our Creator and be free and healed in Jesus’ name.