Ten days after my diagnosis, I returned to the Cancer Care Center to have what I soon deemed to be the “worst doctor’s appointment ever.” The doctor kept leaving me in order to handle a crisis patient who had just come into the Center but should have gone directly to the hospital instead.
I was sitting on the exam table alone, waiting and wishing for some running shoes with which I could vacate the premises. However, as the time wore on I began to pray for the patient in the other room, the one who had just come in.
Finally, my appointment ended. Sam and I left emotionally drained and overwhelmed. The next evening at Bible study a friend requested prayer for a man related to a family in our church. Cancer had riddled this man’s body. He was without Christ and in a nearby hospital. After hearing this need, my husband and I chose a time to visit this man. As the day approached, we shared his situation with others, and people everywhere began praying for this gentleman who most likely would soon face eternity.
Due to a road trip that my husband needed to make, we were not able to visit this man in the hospital at our intended time. This caused me to think God might want us to spend a few more days in prayer before making the visit. However, several hours after the time of our intended visit, my husband phoned from the road. He had a strong sense he should turn around, that I should meet him at the hospital, and that we should we should go see this man immediately. In over 20 years of marriage, my husband has had such a strong sense only a few times.
We met at the hospital and bought a little gift for this man, a stranger we were hoping to get to know. After we entered his room, the man and his wife did not exactly welcome us with open arms. Interestingly, had we come to the hospital earlier as intended, we would not have met his wife.
However, as we had the chance to get acquainted with the couple, a cancer bond began to draw us to one another. We discovered two key things that evening. First, we learned that Randy and Penny’s support network during their ten-year cancer battle extended no further than three elderly parents. Second, we realized that the crisis patient for whom I had unknowingly prayed during my “worst doctor’s appointment ever” had been Randy.
Although we did not have an opportunity to share the Gospel with them that night, some Gospel seeds were planted, and we sought to build a bridge for further contact, which is exactly what the Lord accomplished. There was no question in our minds that the God of Isaiah 41:10 was our God and that He was strengthening us.
During Randy’s subsequent hospital stays, we had the opportunity to continue visiting him. We extended our friendship and received helpful input from a long-term cancer patient and his spouse, both of whom had a wealth of knowledge to share.
After all of my test results were finalized, there was no indication of any metastasized cancer elsewhere in my body. So the doctors determined my treatment would begin with a mastectomy. During my surgery, my husband and another pastor spent some time upstairs visiting Randy and sharing the Gospel with him. He told them he wanted his wife to hear the Gospel presentation too, since they always did things together.
Our attempts to get together with the both Randy and Penny were not immediately successful, but we were able to help enlarge their support network. Gracious individuals from our church were ready and willing to serve this couple by providing rides and house cleaning. These offers were accepted, and doors of communication slowly began to open.
The morning of my first chemotherapy treatment, we received a phone call from this couple asking us to come to the hospital. They had just received news from the doctor that Randy would probably not survive to summer’s end. We drove over to see them, praying earnestly that their hearts and minds would be open to the message of salvation. Later that evening, after hours of conversation, they both trusted Christ as their Savior.
The next morning the doctors informed the couple that Randy’s kidney function was failing. Our new brother in Christ would be leaving the hospital for hospice care at home. In the days that followed, God amazingly opened the door for discipleship with this couple. Then two and a half weeks after receiving Christ, our brother Randy went home to heaven, but not before expressing a new burden of theirs – that others hear and receive the saving message of the Gospel like they had.
As God continues His refining process in our lives, the evidence of His promised help has been tremendous. He has upheld us with the right hand of His righteousness. This is what John 15 refers to when Jesus describes believers as vine branches in need of pruning – a seemingly cruel process for otherwise good and healthy branches. Yet the process of cutting back those branches actually increases fruitfulness.
Humble submission to the all-knowing skill of the Master Vine-keeper, Who tends the gardens of our lives with all wisdom, produces more wonderful yield than had existed before.
It reminds me of a song called “Trust His Heart”:
He sees the master plan.
He holds the future in His hand;
So don’t live as those who have no hope –
All our hope is found in Him.
We see the present clearly;
He sees the first and last,
And like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him.
God is too wise to be mistaken.
God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don’t understand,
When don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand,
Trust His Heart.
For the next post, see “One Seed.”