A few months ago, Bill Seal, one of our elders at The Village and a good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. Much like our lead pastor, Matt Chandler, it was a brain tumor. From what I’ve been told, the difference between Chandler’s tumor and Bill’s is that Bill’s was on a different side of his brain. I forgot all of the details as to why, but this was apparently even more critical than Chandler’s because of the location, and Bill is 67 where Chandler is much younger.
The doctors identified the type of tumor as a Glioblastoma, stage 4. This is the most common and, unfortunately, the most aggressive type of primary brain tumor. Given the invasive nature of this tumor, complete removal was impossible and further treatment was necessary. So they removed the tumor and then began the chemotherapy process.
I mention all of this, because Bill was able to make it to church tonight. I think he said that he was four weeks into his first round of chemo (if anyone reading this has more accurate info, please let me know and I’ll correct it). What astonished me is not just that Bill made it to church, but what he said tonight.
He held up his right hand and said that before all of this happened, he was very grateful to God for the “good things” He had given him in this life. Then with tears flowing and a crack in his voice, holding up his left hand to signify his cancer, he said that many people have come to him saying how sorry they are that this happened. His next words left me speechless. He said “No. This is God’s gift to me.” I wish I could remember his exact words after that, but he then said that the gospel he knew in his mind and truly believed in his heart before this happened he has now come to experience on a much deeper level, bringing Him closer to God and seeing the truth of the gospel more clearly than ever before.
Watching Bill walk through this has been such an encouragement for me personally, and I believe the rest of the church as well. We saw Bill get hit with some really hard news a few months ago, and he immediately began confessing Christ as Lord over this situation, loving, and good, regardless of the outcome. Now we have seen him call his cancer a gift from God, being grateful for what God has done in his heart through all of this. Much like the character of an epic novel, I cannot wait to see how God moves in Bill’s life, and in the life and lives of The Village as Bill walks through to the other side of this season of his life.
Many of us, like Bill, if placed in a similar situation would come to the conclusion that we really don’t have any control over our lives. The best we can do is steward well, as God grants us grace to do so. How many of us, though, would take comfort and joy in our lack of control? How many of us would rest in God’s sovereignty during such a trying time…and I mean truly rest, not just tritely throw around “God’s in control” lines to make people feel better? How many of us would be able to consider cancer as God’s grace toward us?
I’m still speechless (which is why this blog is so short). I’m still processing this, checking my own heart to see where I’d completely fail a test like this. Honestly, Bill’s talk just completely wrecked me, and I had to get my thoughts out there and share it with whoever reads this blog (and signing up for the email list on the right is a good way of letting me know who reads it consistently).
It’s my sincere hope that each of you would stop and think about this. I pray, for your sake, that this would wreck you like it wrecked me, so that each of you would press more deeply into the gospel and see the character of God in a deeper way than you have before.
For God’s glory, our good, and the joy of all people.