I might have been dead right now because of DSRCT (my cancer). God’s Providence and Contingency

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and cancerbobbysprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ~Isaiah 55:8-11

This post won’t be a popular one, because it isn’t controversial, and it simply represents a reflection on my part about a real life scenario that I was faced with back in late 2009 through much of 2010; so goes the reality of online interaction and blogging.

‘His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways his ways, says the Lord.’ Indeed. As many of you know I was diagnosed with a rare and usually deadly cancer called Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor (which is in the sarcoma family), or DSRCT. There is no actual protocol for it, in other words, there really is no treatment for it; they ended up borrowing the Ewings sarcoma protocol to treat me. But instead of getting into the nitty gritty details of how all of that played out for me (I have been cancer free for almost five years … a long story), I want to focus on God’s providential ways.

I met my wife, Angela, in Bible College in early 1999; we were married in late 1999 (in fact on December 18th, 1999), so fifteen years ago (of wedded bliss!) She is originally from Olympia, WA, and I am originally from Long Beach, CA. When we married we intended on heading back to Southern California once I graduated from undergrad in 2001. We in fact did head back to Southern California, but things didn’t work out; I couldn’t find adequate work to allow us to afford to live there, so we headed back to the Pacific Northwest (Portland, OR and eventually Vancouver, WA where we live now). I scurried around from low paying job to low paying job, and then to some higher paying jobs, and currently in a pretty good paying job (with sucky hours J ). But I am getting ahead of myself; as I was working for Toyota Logistics Services in Portland, OR (a good paying job with sweet medical benefits that essentially paid a hundred percent of all of our medical bills), in early 1999, it was then that I was diagnosed with my horrible diagnosis! We found out what kind of cancer it was, after a long ordeal (at first they misdiagnosed it as Lymphoma, which would have been better), and realized that we “coincidentally” lived right next to one of the only sarcoma centers in the whole country (United States) at OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, OR. We got hooked up with a great team of doctors, and they went to work on me. Again, without all of the details, miraculously, I made it!

God’s Providential Ways and Contingency

What I was thinking about was how God worked way before any of this cancer stuff ever happened. He had me meet my beautiful wife, whose heart is bent on the Pacific Northwest, and who is very open to healthy living (as far as diet and alternative medicine); she is a Pac NW girl! He had it so that I couldn’t find the kind of work in Southern California that would keep us there, and which essentially forced us back to the Pacific Northwest. He put me into a position at Toyota where my medical benefits (union benefits) were outstanding! And he put us in an area where we were right next to one of the only medical institutions that specializes in the family of cancer that I ended up getting (a sarcoma center).

I was thinking about God’s providential ways, and contingency in this context. What if I hadn’t met my wife, Angela? What if I had graduated from Multnomah in 2001, a single guy, and headed back to Southern California and did seminary there? What if I was in Southern California, and wasn’t next to a medical facility and specialists like this? What if I wasn’t married to a woman who was prone to alternative medicine (which I have been participating in ever since I became cancer free in 2010)? I might be dead.

 

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5 comments

  1. Juan C. Torres · ·

    I’m glad things worked out for you, Bobby. I really am. I would never want to take credit away from God for having worked everything out for your good. But I wonder what about the thousands of Christians for whom things don’t work out. What shall we make of this theologically?

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  2. Yes, I thought of this a lot, Juan during that time … it was a thought that plagued me. And I wrote this during that time about that:

    Something that has plagued me at points through this season is the question of “why” some folks die from cancer and some folks don’t. At moments the “enemy” has said ‘look they’re a good Christian, and yet they have died from their cancer; so will you’. The reality is, is that death has indeed been conquered by our Lord; so in moments like those, at the depth, I can say so what . . . but that’s usually not my response, truth be told — I want to continue to live!!!

    But it does cause you to wonder “why;” why do some die and some don’t? The Lord has pointed me to a particular passage of scripture to help with this real life issue:

    15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
    “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
    Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
    16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
    He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
    Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

    17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
    Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

    Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

    20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

    22Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

    This passage of scripture doesn’t necessarily answer the question “why” in detail; but it does say something to what can look very random (i.e. the fact that some die from cancer and some don’t). And that is that the Lord has a different plan for each one of us; He has tailored exactly how it is that He wants us to live out our lives in service to Him. For some that means He’s going to call us home (sooner) and for others of us later. This is what the Lord has constantly been impressing upon me through this season; that He’s in total control, and that just because “this” person or “that” person is taken through cancer, does not mean that I am necessarily going to go home through this cancer. In fact this cancer might just be a catalyst for something else the Lord has in mind for me and my family while on this earth.

    Now I’ve applied what Jesus said to Peter in this context to my situation; but this is just as easily applied to any and all of our situations and life circumstances. The reality is, is that there is nothing normative about any circumstances we face in life; in other words there is a special plan laid out for each one of us, and our particular life stories and circumstances all differ one from the other — according to the plans and purposes of the Lord for us. I think sometimes we all fall prey to wondering why that person or this person seems to “make it;” and others don’t. The bottom line is that the Lord is in control of each of our lives in very personal and intimate ways. (originally posted here: http://theevangelicalcalvinist.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/jesus-plans-and-the-circumstances-of-life/ )

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  3. That scripture totally helped! Thanks for sharing how you processed all this.

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  4. Considerations of provIdence and contingency lead us beyond moralism.

    http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2014/12/17/un-moral-christian/

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  5. Nathanael Johnston · ·

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” Something we always need to be reminded of. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person