There’s a large, vibrant church in our community called Jesus is Reality that I’ve often heard about; you see bumper stickers all over town that simply say: “reality.” The lead pastor, Britt Merrick, is a 30-something guy from a serious surfing family and apparently an amazing teacher. Last week I learned from Kendra of Preschoolers and Peace that Britt’s young daughter Daisy has cancer. A large tumor was discovered last fall; after surgery and six months of chemo she was declared cancer-free; last week a new tumor was discovered. At Kendra’s recommendation I watched Britt’s sermon from last fall, given six days after Daisy’s tumor was discovered… It was, without exaggeration, one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever listened to. It spoke into the places of heart-wrestling, at the mother level, that recent months have presented… when my baby’s heartbeat was irregular; when my friend’s son died of SIDS; when my nephew was born 14 weeks premature. It spoke to me about parenting with a spirit of full surrender and trust in God. Britt’s sermon, “When my heart is overwhelmed,” was so powerful that I took some notes; I figured I might as well share them here. Bring me, O Lord, to this same place of parental conviction and peace…
–What I want to talk to you about this morning is, what do you do, as a Christian, when the doctor says to you, “Your 5-year old has cancer”? How do you deal with that; how do you process that? As the people of God, who know God, where do we go? Immediately, if you’re a Christian, your mind goes to Jesus… That’s where we go. But, how is it that we think about Jesus? What informs our thought processes in these times of life? What shapes the way that we handle that? And I’ve realized more than ever that what shapes that is the Word of God, the Bible. The moment we heard these things, our mind went to Jesus, but our mind took a certain route – and this is what I want to impress upon you. Immediately our hearts and our minds were filled with truth. Immediately our hearts and our minds were filled with the character of God… Immediately our hearts and our minds were flooded with precepts and passages and doctrine. And I didn’t have to open the Bible… it was just there. Because the Word of God is living and active, and it’s supposed to interact with us in these times of life. And we all have these times of life… Immediately it was a comfort and a light and a lamp and an instructor; immediately it took us to the feet of Jesus. Because we had done one simple thing in life: we had committed to reading our Bibles… What it did was, it protected us from the schemes of Satan. I don’t know if we always realize how wicked Satan is: that at the moment a doctor tells us that our little baby has cancer, he would love to come in and capitalize upon that. He has no sympathy; he has no compassion; he has no mercy; he has no shame. But the Word of God was like a shield against the schemes of Satan… The word of God comes in and informs and shapes our thought processes and emotions. And it was like this flood of the Word of God.
–We’re not always going to understand, when a 5-year old has cancer… Especially when it’s yours, because it’s always someone else’s. But we remember that God is in control. He doesn’t promise us understanding, he promises peace beyond understanding (Phil 4). Because of the word of God, we’re reminded that God is good and that God cares. (Psalm 56:8)
–So when we got the worst news of our lives, all this doctrine, all these precepts, all these passages, all this truth was already in there, and it kept us from going to that place of saying “Why?” I want to testify that by the grace of God this week, we’ve never said why? Because the word of God doesn’t necessarily give us the whys, and His ways are higher than our ways. “Lean not on your own understanding;” the Word of God already told us that. So it kept us from the unhealthy place of “why?”. And, “why me?”; which inevitably goes to, “How could you do this?”; which inevitably goes to, “Don’t you care?”; which inevitably goes to, “Are you really good?”; which inevitably goes to, “Can I believe your Word?”; which inevitably goes to, “Can I really believe in the character of Christ?”; which inevitably goes to, “Can I believe in the resurrection of Christ?”; which will take you to, “Can I believe in the cross of Christ?” And then where are you?
By having been fortified by the Word of God, we never had to ask why; we simply always said, “we trust you God.” I don’t say that to boast; I say that to encourage us. That’s no great faith of ours; it’s just that we read our Bibles and had that context from which to work. And then we’re able to deal with God when He doesn’t heal; then we have the faith for that… It takes faith to endure Christ not healing your daughter more than it does to see Him heal your daughter…
–My mom taught me at a very young age that she loved God more than she loved me. That affected me profoundly in my life; it’s kept me from idolatry of relationship…. Daisy has said to me, “Daddy, you love God more than you love me; and I love God more than I love you.” And that’s the most wonderful thing you could ever hear as a Christian. Part of the thoroughly corrupted human side of us feels a cutting when we hear our children say “I love God more than I love you,” and worries about what our children might think when we tell them we love God more than we love them. And yet this is the first and greatest commandment — and if we fail in that one we’re failing in all of them. And I’ve been tested in that this week…. There comes a time when Jesus has to show up on your beach, in the midst of your stuff, and say, “Peter, do you love me more than these?”
–I had to say to God in the middle of the night on Wednesday night, “God, if you let my daughter die tomorrow, nothing changes between me and you. Nothing changes between us, Jesus. I will yet praise you. You give and you take away; blessed be Your name.”