Dr. Death or Dr. Hope – it’s a choice!

When I walked out of a surgeon’s office a little over a month ago I was in a state of shock.  Five days earlier I had discovered a mysterious lump about the size of a grape on the right side of my neck.  A man I had never met before pointed it out to me following a Sunday service.  He noticed it because he had found a similar lump in his neck that led to a diagnosis of lymphoma.  He suggested I see a doctor. 

When I visited my family doctor two days later he expressed some concern and referred me to a surgeon who specialized in such things.  In passing, my doctor mentioned that another patient of his had just discovered a lump similar to mine, only to find out that it was cancer.  I’ll admit that made me a little nervous about seeing the surgeon. 

The surgeon, whom I had never met before, was a very matter of fact kind of guy.  He performed a thorough examination and went through what I perceived to be a battery of standard diagnostic questions about such things as night sweats, swallowing, shortness of breath, smoking, family health history etc.  

Then he sat back and in a very serious tone asked, “I see you are a pastor.  I assume that you have had occasion to talk to people about their mortality and matters of death?”  “Yes,” I replied, “that is indeed an important part of the ministry.”  All the while I am wondering, hmm, I don’t like where this conversation is going. 

He then proceeded to tell me that lumps like mine invariably were indications of serious illness.  He alluded to the gamut of the death rattlers such as lymphoma, cancers of the throat, jaw, thyroid, lung etc. 

He wrapped the conversation up by offering me three options.  “One, you can do nothing about it and lay awake at night wondering what it is.  Two, I can operate on it and try to take it out; but not knowing what it is makes that dangerous because disturbing cancer cells can cause it to spread.  Or three, you can get an ultra-sound and biopsy to determine more accurately its extent and what it is.” 

Then he added “You appear to be healthy for your age… take good care of yourself do you?”  “Yes,” I replied. “I run three times a week and get into a health club several times a week to do resistance training as well.”  “That’s good,” he said.  “That will help in battling this sort of thing.”

When I reached my car, slipped into the driver’s seat and closed the door I sat there for a time in stunned silence.  “Lord,” I thought, “I can’t believe what I just heard. Is that you?   Is your voice – the voice of my Good Shepherd – to be found in all this?  Is it my time?  Is this that dreaded news that sets in motion the inevitable chain of events that leads to the close of life on this side of glory?”

The conversation with the doctor really caught me off guard.  I wasn’t prepared for what I heard.  As I suppose is usually the case with such news, it could not come at a worse time.  I could not believe this was happening to me right in the middle of a major transition in my life while I am in the process of  spinning off numerous plans to fulfill some lifelong dreams.

After the initial shock from my appointment with “Dr. Death” wore off, I determined I wanted to try another surgeon.  After praying about it I called my family doctor and asked for second referral.  When I heard the name of the doctor he was now recommending I figured God had answered my prayer.  This surgeon’s name was Dr. Hope.  The referral set in motion several weeks of more doctors’ appointments, further tests, and much soul-searching. 

Despite the good Dr. Hope,  prayer, standing on the promises of scripture and constant confessions of faith this was a major spiritual battle for me.  However, the wrestlings of soul with regard to the brevity of life, provided a needed spiritual awakening that has brought me to some renewed assurances regarding my faith relationship with Jesus Christ.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, it reaffirmed for me that my strength and my hope in staring death in the face is the power of the resurrection and promise of eternity with Him.  Everything this life has to offer pales in comparison to that.  Our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15) and He is the one who determines our appointed day to step into eternity. (Hebrews 9:27)  We need to live our lives in such a way that we are ready no matter when He chooses to call us to our eternal home.

The very essence of this realization is that life both here and in eternity is all about living for Jesus, not for self.  God has used that revelation to do some pruning in my life by reprioritizing my thinking about what is really important in life.  The one thing that God put His finger on is that I must not be so presumptuous as to take my plans for my life for granted.  It’s more about seeking His plans for His life within me.

After two biopsies and a CT scan I finally found out a little over a week ago with some 90% certainty, that the lump is a non malignant cyst.  As you can imagine, that was a huge relief for me and literally sent me to my knees to thank God for His mercy.  A surgery to remove the lump is now scheduled for June 28.

Needless to say it has been a very sobering month for me.  I do not want to waste this opportunity to take seriously what the Good Shepherd has been speaking to me through all of this. 

On my next blog post I will share a few things I believe God has shown me to do as a result.  These are things that just might help you as well.

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