Cancer Journal (08.07.29): On Waiting

Anyone who has done undergraduate or graduate work can testify that there are few individual lectures that are remembered long. Having taught undergraduate courses and having served as a pastor for a few years, I find this to be rather distressing. As a student, however, I know that this is the reality. I may be able to recall one lecture per semester (not per class), but that’s about it. (My apologies to those who labored on my behalf!)

One that has stayed with me, however, was Dr. Michael Barrett‘s lecture on Job in his OT Poetry class that I took in Fall 1997. Barrett couched his discussion of the book in terms of the conflict between our theology and our experience. As believers we know that God is great and that God is good. But our experience often challenges us at our very core. What bridges the gap between the two, Barrett explained, is faith. And this is no blind or nebulous leaping into the dark. It is understanding, affirming, and resting in what God has revealed about himself to be true. As I’ve often heard him say, “The object of faith determines the value of faith.” His charge to us as we studied the book was to interpret our experiences in light of what God says about himself, rather than change our theology in light of our experiences.

I certainly am not suffering as Job did. Nevertheless, Barrett’s lectures, now ten-plus years later, have been on my mind the past week. This has been for me a week of waiting. I went to the doctor’s on Tuesday the 22nd to have blood drawn before my chemo treatment the next day. It seemed to be a routine enough matter until I received a phone call saying that my white blood count was too low for treatment. I would have to return on Friday for more blood work to be done. When I did, my count was still far too low for me to endure another round. So the doctor prescribed a shot that would spur my bone marrow to produce more white cells. Finally yesterday my count was plenty high enough for me to be treated. In that I rejoice and exult in the Lord.

What surprised me, though, was how my heart quickly grew impatient and frustrated with the delays. That issue surfaced again last night. As with my first round of chemo, I was unable to fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning (some time after 4am). All evening I tossed and turned, wrestling in my mind with a myriad of questions that were variations of one: why God would not want me to get a good night’s rest? So for those hours, I again battled impatience and frustration in my own heart with what Providence had given.

During the night, though, God brought to mind something that Dr. Barrett pointed out in Job. We all know that great expression of faith at the end of chapter 1: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” (21). And again in chapter 2, he reasons to his wife, “We accept the good that God gives us. Shouldn’t we also accept the bad?” (10). But by chapter 3, Job is wishing he would have never been born. What happened? As Barrett explained, only one thing changed: the passage of time (2.13; 3.1). The passage of time combined with no change in his circumstance to move him from a faith-filled response to a faithless response.

And that’s where the Lord has brought me repeatedly in the past week. Days passed, and my white blood count stayed the same. Hours passed, and I still could not sleep. The circumstances didn’t change as time passed by–and therein lay the trigger for my impatience and frustration.

How gracious God is to bring us to repentance! How merciful he is to give us faith to believe him! How loving he is to relieve us of the burdensome weight of impatience and frustration!

So let it be my prayer that the Lord would help me, when I meet toil and trouble, ever to take as from a Father’s hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, until I reach the promised land.

Because my chains are gone and I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. Like a flood, his mercy rains. Unending love! Amazing grace!

Because God views me in terms of my union with Christ, not in terms of my ever-sinning heart.

Because the Object of faith–not the amount of faith–determines the value of faith.

Because of the kindness of the Upstate PCA elders (the Calvary Presbytery), who took precious time from their presbytery meeting to pray for me and our church family. What a great joy to be united with others in the body of Christ!

Because the youth group Mexico Mission Team returned safely (albeit rather ill) on Sunday afternoon. The Spirit worked in and through them. Praise the Lord!

That I would endure in faith and repentance. How I finish is more important than how I start.

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5 Responses to Cancer Journal (08.07.29): On Waiting

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about the struggles you’re facing and also how God has taught you in the midst of it. “Lord, please continue to strengthen Matthew through the power of your Word by the Spirit. Also, strengthen him physically so that he might be able to minister effectively in his church and, more importantly, to his family. Enable him to have a mind set on things above at all times, and I pray that he would increase immensely in the knowledge of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For Christ’s glory, Amen.”

  2. battlesman says:

    Matt, it is encouraging to see your Christlike perspective on this. Thank you for the blessing I got from reading this.

  3. Matt, Thanks for driving up the mountain and teaching me at TBBC…I am so grateful that gas was cheaper then for your sake….speaking of lectures you remember, I remember one you gave in our poetical books class….You had just been to a funeral of a friend that day and you took us to Ecc. where solomon tells us just how much we can learn from a funeral….I have never forgotten the truths that you shared with us that night as your heart had been stired by the death of your friend….grace and peace to you during this time…The saints at MHIBC at praying for you……phillip

  4. Anonymous says:

    Matt – Thank you for the encouragement this blog has brought to both my wife and I. We both read it and often discuss it’s themes together to help us grow in our faith. You and your family continue to be in our prayers through this trial. Regards, Peter Shisler

  5. C says:

    Speaking of waiting. My wife and I are also eagerly waiting on your next post!

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