Stage four pancreatic cancer. Those words knocked the wind out of all of our lungs. As I ponder this diagnosis, the first thing I want you to know is that you are loved. Not only by the countless people who have been blessed by you, myself included, but by our Savior himself. Though the news shocked us all, it did not catch him off guard.
As I process this, I wanted to take some time to write to you, but why did I choose to do it here? It is for two reasons. First, I know you, and you do not want to this to be about you. You want to point people to the Lord of glory. The second reason flows from the first. Those of us who love you are all grappling with this devastating blow, and we need time to reflect on God’s good plan in all of this. If the Lord could bless me through the process, perhaps he bless others as well. Including people who do not know you, but are dealing with similar situations in their lives.
When we are hit with news like a cancer diagnosis, the enemy immediately tempts us to despair. Fear of what is before us begins to overwhelm. In light of that, it is important for us to remember that the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear; he has given us a spirit of power (2 Tim. 1:7). This will be crucial for us to remember in the coming days.
No matter how weak we are in our natural selves, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Remember who you are. You are a child of God, and his Spirit is living in you. Think about that for a moment. You have the Spirit of Power dwelling in you. No matter how weak your body may become during this ordeal, or ours as we suffer with you, it is not your strength that needs to be at work, it will be his strength.
In Christ, he will give us all that we need to face even the most difficult challenges of our lives. In your entire Christian walk, you may have never experienced the Holy Spirit’s power to the extent that you are going to need it in the coming days, but that is because you have never faced anything this daunting. Our Lord does not give us his power before we need it, but when there is a great demand, his supply will meet it. His strength is made perfect in weakness. Though there are a million things you may dread in the days ahead, you have this to look forward to; the power of God will be at work in you in ways you have only dreamed.
May we all rely on his power during this time, but the Spirit of Power is not all he has given us. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Love as well. There are two things to encourage us in this regard. First, he loves us. In times like this, Satan will bring every sin to remembrance. He will tell us we deserve this and more. He will tell us God has abandoned us. When he says this, he is only half-right. Our sins deserve so much worse than we will ever experience, but he has not abandoned us. Christ’s love for us is so great that he took every one of our wretched sins and bore the punishment on the cross. Through faith, the cup of his wrath is empty because he drank all of it. The bow of his anger is at rest because the Father took the arrows we deserved and pointed them at his Son and let them fly. His love is overwhelming. There is not a single drop of God’s wrath in what you are facing. It is only his love that is at work toward you, and his Spirit of Love in you will press this home as you need it.
The second thing we experience with the Spirit of Love, is that the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts. That means, not only does he love us, but he is our first love as well. You love him and you love others. This has always been evident in your life. This love is a result of the same Holy Spirit that gives you power. He is a Spirit of Love. This love will serve you well in the coming days. First and foremost, the Holy Spirit will use it to keep you from despair. As Martyn Lloyd Jones points out. Despair and depression are the result of self: self-pity, self-concern, etc. What you can expect as the Holy Spirit works in you during this time is that your love for him and others will grow tremendously. There will be many tears because your love will be so strong, but it will be an outward focused love which is God’s way of conquering discouragement during this time.
He has not only given you a spirit of power and of love, but also of a sound mind. This is another aspect of the Spirit dwelling in you that is going to lift your head during this time; a spiritually sound mind. The natural man does not have this. He cannot see beyond this life. Our prayer is that the Lord will heal you and that we have many more years together, but crossing the Jordan, whenever that happens, is not the end of our story. It is only the beginning. Eternity awaits all believers. What we experience in this life is only the introduction to our stories, and the most glorious part has yet to be told.
The Holy Spirit will be writing eternity on your heart in ways you have never thought possible. I am sure you are already beginning to experience it. It will be this spiritual insight that will be the most Christ-exalting gift of God you will be able to share with others who are still bound to the things of this world, and it will be powerful. However, this will not be without opposition. At times like this, the enemy will come to you and remind you of how we failed to redeem the time in the past, but the Lord will restore the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). This blazing bright eternal perspective he will give you will be a means to multiply the fruit in your life which will more than recover any lost time.
My heart breaks with you and your family as you face this. The sorrow will be great and the difficulty beyond imagination, but as you are in the valley of trouble, he will speak tenderly to you (Hosea 2:14). He has filled you with his Spirit who is infinitely greater than anything in front of you. Get ready because, in this darkness, you are about to see the brilliance of Christ’s glorious light and love like never before. He is a good Shepherd and we can trust him wherever he calls us to walk.
I love you,