Sunday, January 31, 2010

Faith in the Midst of Suffering

Matt Chandler is a young pastor in Texas. I've never met him nor heard him preach. I don't know a lot about him other than the face that he is a year younger than myself and is currently battling brain cancer. About two months ago, Chandler had a seizure at home and, afterwards, learned that he has a brain tumor. He is married and has three young kids.

It is natural for us to ask why these types of things happen to those who live relatively good lives and even have committed themselves to serving God and others. I have wrestled with those types of questions myself after seeing a couple of close friends pass away this past year from cancer. But I have learned that the Christian is not immune from the same kinds of suffering that anyone else deals with. We get sick, we get into accidents and we get cancer.

Chandler's perspective is well outlined in a recent Associated Press article where he gets to tell some of his story. You can read it here. As I've learned in my own life, it is often in our trials that we learn more about God and experience Him in new ways. Look at what the AP article has to say:
"Chandler never thought such a trial would shake his faith. But until now, that was just hope in the abstract.

"This has not surprised God," Chandler says on the drive home. "He is not in a panic right now trying to figure out what to do with me or this disease. Those things have been warm blankets, man."

Chandler has, however, wrestled with the tension between belief in an all-powerful God and what he, as a mere mortal, can do about his situation. He believes he has responsibilities: to use his brain, to take advantage of technology, to walk in faith and hope, to pray for healing and then "see what God wants to do."

"Knowing that if God is outside time and I am inside time, that puts some severe limitations on my ability to crack all the codes," he says. "The more I've studied, the more I go, 'Yes, God is sovereign, and he does ask us to pray ... and he does change his mind.' How all that will work is in some aspects a mystery."

Since falling ill, Chandler has gotten letters from the governor and pastors in Sudan. He has tried to steer attention to others, including a 6-year-old Arizona girl with cancer.

At church, he has deflected sympathy with reassurances that this is a good thing, that he is not shrinking back. Chandler has preached the last two weekends and is planning trips to South Africa and England. He recently lost his hair to radiation but got a positive lab report last week and feels strong.

"The human experience commonly shared is suffering," said Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle's Mars Hill Church and a friend of Chandler's. "If he suffers well, that might be the most important sermon he's ever preached."
Having seen several close friends walk through the cancer journey, I know that sometimes God chooses to heal and sometimes he chooses not to. He knows the reasons behind that and we do not. Matt Chandler provides a telling example of how we can suffer and still trust God through it all.


Stephanie N. said...

Hey Scott, thanks for this post. Matt Chandler is well-known and well-loved here in Texas. I thought of two old blog posts of his that you might really enjoy. You can find them both here:

scottmcrocker said...

Thanks, Stephanie.