There is a wonderful song that Matt Redman wrote a few years ago called “Blessed Be Your Name.” As you may recall, the lyrics speak of having the faith and the grace to proclaim to the Lord, “blessed be Your name” — whether you find yourself in a land that is plentiful, abundant and everything is as it should be or, instead, in a desert land on a road marked with suffering.
To be totally candid, I must confess that I could never relate to the lines in that song about being on a road marked with suffering. Throughout my life, particularly since the Lord saved me about 20 years ago, He has blessed me with a life characterized by abundance and happiness – a wonderful wife and three children, a good job, nice home, and a wonderful church family. Along the way there have been challenging times, like everyone experiences, but without question our life looked much more like a life where all was as it should be, not a desert land filled with suffering.
Where was God? I can tell you with complete certainty, He was right there! — but it was different than I had ever experienced. And while it never seemed that God was angry at me or punishing me, he was clearly dealing with me with a seriousness and heaviness that seemed so intense it was almost suffocating – – as if I was being crushed by His greatness. Many nights I thought I was probably saying “good night” to Carla for the last time because I thought I probably would not survive the night.
During the months and years that followed those long, dark days and nights, the Lord has allowed me to recover almost completely and there has been no recurrence of cancer. I still experience some residual physical effects of the damage caused by the 63 radiation treatments, but God gives me grace each and every day to be joy-filled, content and to not grumble or complain about those.
Through this experience I also gained a new reverence for and fear of God. No longer do I view Him as merely a loving, heavenly father, who is just waiting on me to ask Him for something so He can answer my prayer. Of course, God is certainly a good and loving heavenly father one who hears our prayers and takes joy in answering our prayers, but he is also a great and awesome, almighty, holy God who is worthy of our honor and our reverent fear — a God who is sovereign and has a plan for our lives that is for our good and His glory, although it may be the furthest thing from how we may think our lives should look.
One final thing I want to give God the glory for is how He so graciously revealed to me during this season how much I loved this world, and how much I worried and fretted over the things of this world. It wasn’t that they were inherently sinful things, but my worship of them was. When I was so sick and didn’t know how many days I actually had left on this earth, I found that the things that had previously consumed my mind and often were the source of worry and anxiety really were meaningless in the light of eternity. Carla and I adopted a well-worn phrase during that time, one which you will still frequently hear us say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Obviously, we are supposed to live purposeful lives, but it is God’s eternal purposes that we should be whole-heartedly pursuing — investing in the lives of those around us, reaching out to the unsaved, serving in the local church.