As I walked away from my friend Adam’s hospital room, I was struck by what he was about to do. In a couple of hours, he was going to voluntarily allow someone to put him to sleep so another man could cut open his skull and take something out of his brain that didn’t belong there. Wow. Think about that for a minute. How do you DO that?
We had gotten together a few days earlier to talk about his upcoming cancer surgery. He said that it was good to be with someone who knew what cancer was about, and it’s true that my own recent experience with breast cancer had created a bond between us (you can read about that here and here). I was glad that I could encourage him, but to be honest, losing my left breast sounded very different to me than brain surgery.
What does it take to submit to that kind of an operation? What core convictions were necessary to keep Adam from running out of the hospital and getting as far away from a scalpel as possible? I think there are two:
“I will be much better off when this procedure is done.” Adam knew that he could not ignore the news that there was a malignant lump in his brain – the consequences would be lethal. He also knew that, whatever pain would come as a result of the surgery, it was necessary for his long-term health.
“I trust the people who are operating on me.” Adam was literally placing his life in the hands of his doctors, confident that their skill would allow him to wake up to a better life. In this case, happily, they did their work well. He came home a few days after the procedure, and was there to welcome his students to his classroom when school started this week.
On a recent Sabbath hike, I realized that God calls us all to a similar mindset. As the Great Physician, He is constantly operating on us – in fact, long before such surgeries existed, He told His people that they needed heart transplants (Ezekiel 36:26). He is shaping us, changing us, removing that which harms us and keeps us from pleasing Him.
Those same two convictions are necessary to this process:
“I will be much better off when His work is done.” I want what He wants for me – to be like Christ. So I welcome His examination, and I willingly submit to His surgery, even when it hurts. I know that in the long run, I will be glad for it.
“I trust the One who is operating on me.” I know that He works for my good and for His glory. He knows what He is doing, even when I don’t. Especially when I don’t.
Those convictions allowed me to pray this prayer on that hike – I invite you to pray it with me:
“Lord, there is in me that which doesn’t belong. I admit that I don’t hate it as much as I should – some of it I cling to, although it is bad for me and dishonors you. I trust You, and know that I will be better off when You change me. So even if it hurts, change me.”
The cancer needs to go. That process can be painful. But as any cancer survivor could tell you, it’s worth it.
If you would like to subscribe and receive future Sabbath Thoughts posts as an e-mail, please click on “Follow” in the lower right corner of your browser window.