It’s Thursday evening, and I head in for surgery to remove a tumor from my stomach before the sun rises on Monday morning, so I’m counting down the final days, and feeling somewhat relieved. Relieved not to have this blurry mountain looming in the foreground anymore.
People ask if I am nervous for surgery, and I say that I am not really, but am more nervous about the after effects. Maybe I am too much of a literalist, but I can’t be too nervous about whatever happens while I’m knocked out; It is the waking up that is scarier to me. I had wished for a clearer picture of how my surgery would go, but I won’t really know the extent of it until it’s over. Maybe I will have a small scar, or maybe a huge scar, maybe my stomach is intact, or maybe the bottom of it is missing, and it’s been rewired back together. Maybe I’ll feel better eventually, or maybe worse. I just don’t know. I know there will be more tests, and more appointments, and potentially follow up treatments, but all that comes with another measure of haze.
It strikes me again, that this is true for everyone, but adversity tends to make you consider it. Ecclesiastes 7:14 “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”
I need to find contentment with not knowing the future, but trust that God knows. Not only does He know it, but He has planned it. He knows better than me what is good and right for me. His plans are higher than my plans, which He has so often halted.
As a great hymn says:
“Whatever my God ordains is right
Though now this cup in drinking
Bitter it seems to my faint heart
I take it all unshrinking
My God is true, each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart.”
Whatever God ordains is right. That truth could be a hard pill to swallow, especially if not grounded in a right understanding of the fall, God, heaven- everything. In fact, that statement could be understood harmfully without a well-rounded knowledge of the sovereignty and goodness of God. This is why Theology matters for life, for everyone- male, female, pastor, flock; Whoever lives, needs to know truth about God in order to live as He intends us too.
So many things that happen in this world don’t seem to make any sense. Not only do they not make sense, they seem wrong. They seem wrong, because they are wrong. Murder is wrong. Rape is wrong. If someone breaks in and steals from you, that’s wrong. Those are moral wrongs. Then there are results of the fall like death, disaster, and disease which are also wrong in the sense, that they were not a part of God’s original creation. These things hurt people, and grieve God.
A quote that has stuck with me from Joni Eareckson Tada is this: “God permits what he hates to achieve what he loves.”
This is crucial when you face a trial. I must know that God does not enjoy my pain or sadness. He is not a sadist. God loves me, which is one of the most complex and simple truths in the universe, but once again, when fleshed out in the truths of the gospel, His love offers tremendous strength and joy in any circumstance.
When I go through the fire, or under the knife, He is with me. All the these things that feel bad, and in a very real sense are bad, can and will be used by God to serve my greater good- the good of my soul. So when I say, or sing “whatever God ordains is right,” I am saying- whatever miserable condition I might find myself in, as a common result of living in this fallen world, God Himself has seen it fit for me. He has given it the nod, though perhaps it might even grieve both Him and I; He has seen and planned that it will work out for the ultimate good of my soul.”
Those higher purposes that God has in mind are so much better than my priorities. God values what will be for my eternal good, while I often look to my temporal good. He wants me to know Him, to glorify Him, to be made more like Him in bearing the fruits of the Spirit. He wants to work to make me a more loving, kind, patient, humble, merciful, gracious, generous person. He takes my value system (basically I just want to have fun everyday) and He turns it upside down.
The Christian life is war friends. It just is. But we have a loving Father who is always about disciplining those He loves, we have Jesus who intercedes on our behalf, and the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts. All we can do is submit to the process, and pray like I needed to today “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word (Psalm 119:25)!” I have been up and down, and up and down again, so many times that now and again I fear I won’t be able to get back up. “The righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity (Proverbs 24:16). Sometimes I think for me, it would say 10,000 times, but perseverance means that carried by the grace of God, I do get up again 10,000 times.
God has a plan for me in my illness, though it seems at times He keeps making my life smaller and smaller. He has ordained what is right for me, and for you, whether you are in times of trouble or prosperity. He loves His children, who have been adopted through the blood of His son Jesus Christ, and if He is for us- who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?
Please pray for me, that this surgery will go well, and that God would be with our hearts, helping me and my family to trust in Him, and that His work would be accomplished in us.
Here is a version I enjoy of the hymn “Whate’re My God Ordains Is Right” from Indelible Grace for you to enjoy.