I am reposting a letter written to our church by my wife, Ruth, in 2010. It was written the day before she had surgery for her brain tumor. She was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, which is the most lethal form of brain cancer. The life-expectancy from diagnosis is 12-14 months. God has chosen to keep Ruth here with us. There was a reoccurrence of the cancer in October of this year. Our doctor at Duke has enrolled Ruth in a vaccine trial which has the goal of training her own immune system to attack the cancer.
This letter gives focus to all of us as we consider how we will spend our time in the upcoming year. Ruth’s attitude continues unchanged to this day. She wants her life to honor God. Here is the letter:
Twenty-five days ago, on the first day of April, God got my attention with with a malignant brain tumor. It’s been quite a month, and now I’m on my way to surgery, tomorrow morning. You all have been wonderful to us, loving and helping us in many ways, and we are very, very grateful for our church family.
But what I want to talk to you about today is that the most important thing about this brain tumor doesn’t have to do with my health. It might seem odd, but my health really isn’t what I’m thinking about the most. What has grabbed my attention, and what I can’t stop thinking of is this—
I don’t know how much time I have left in this life. It might be only a short time—or it might be many years. Whichever it is, I’m thinking a lot about how I want to use whatever time is left. I’m asking myself, “What does God want me to do with that time? What will please him the most?” I keep thinking, “I don’t want to waste any of the time he gives me. I want to use it well.”
These days I’ve had at home resting have given me a lot of time to think. I don’t feel sick. I feel fine … as long as I stay fairly quiet (which my family guarantees!) Because of the high dosage of steroid medication I’m on, I’m often wide awake at night, for hours. So I have a lot of time to pray and meditate—which has been a wonderful blessing! And I’ve spent time praying for you all, both as individuals, and as the body of Redeemer Church.
Let me tell you what I’m praying about for Redeemer. It goes back to what Bill preached earlier this year about a vision for Redeemer, God has a mission for us in this community: to find the lost and rescue them by telling them the good news about Jesus. Now, I believe that, and I’m sure you all do, too. And, of course, whenever the subject of evangelism comes up, I always want to make it a priority, and I intend to—but it doesn’t happen much. I’m too busy; it seems as though there’s never enough time to do everything I think I need to do, and witnessing never quite makes it. There’s something wrong with that, isn’t there?
BUT, now that God’s got my attention with this tumor, I find myself smack up against a question that challenges me all the time, day and night: how can I best please God with my time—for the rest of my life? What is the BEST I can do? How can I love him better and serve him more faithfully? Nothing is more important than that.
I keep asking myself: how many things do I do with my time—things that are fine and good in themselves—but things that keep me from doing more important things for God? That question is for all of us at Redeemer, too. As individuals, and as a church, what are the BEST things we can do to please our Lord? What do we need to change in order to love him better and serve him more faithfully?
So, during these nights when I’m wide awake and praying, here what I’m praying for:
I’m praying that God will get the attention of ALL of us—and give us a greater commitment to please him. It’s not a commitment we can drum up in our own strength, but God will give us that desire and commitment if we ask him for it.
I’m praying that God would give us wisdom about what does please him—that we would stop and really think about how we can love God better when we choose what we do with our time.
I’m praying God will give us ALL a vision for talking about the gospel at every opportunity, to anyone and everyone we can, because there is nothing better we can do with our time than tell the good news of Jesus Christ. That is God’s reason for tomorrow; it is our mission today.
The desire to please God, greater understanding of how to please him better, and a vision for telling the gospel. That’s my prayer for all of us.
That’s what has my attention these days; I want so much now to use every day to please God! That’s a very good and blessed place to be. God decided to give me a brain tumor to stop my busyness and get my attention, to bring me to this point. All I can do is thank him and praise his amazing grace.