Monday, October 13, 2014

What "bombs" do you fear?

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of how Germany’s bombings of London were intended to slap down the "stiff upper lip" of the British and render them as yet another victim of their blitz across Europe. Instead of crushing England’s will and thereby rendering them helpless to a Nazi invasion, the bombings actually increased the British determination to stand up to Hitler’s minions. How? The explosions created a long series of near misses that emboldened the victims to believe they would live through anything the enemy threw at them.

I thought of Gladwell’s description as I reflected on what happened to me about two years ago. In September, 2012, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This was the very disease that took my dad’s life in 1990. What I gained from watching him succumb to the invisible monster was the determination to keep a close watch to hopefully stop it long before it was unstoppable.

What did I lose? I lost a lot of joy because way too much of my time was consumed by worry and fear that I would get cancer and die. Virtually all that fear was baseless, but it destroyed many good hours (or days) nonetheless.

Two things happened in the Fall of 2012 that changed something in me. The first was when a friend — a man with a strong gift of intercession — was praying for me one day. I told him of my impending biopsy and my anxiety. He simply said, "You don’t need to carry that load anymore." With those words, he began to physically brush me off and prayed a prayer, breaking the power of fear that had gripped me. Amazingly, the anxiety left.

The second thing I experienced was something like the "near miss" Gladwell had described as the bombs fell on London. My biopsy came out positive. In the long night after getting the test results, I asked God for some word of confirmation that He was with me. Almost instantly He reminded me of two conversations that took place in the previous three months. The first was with a lady in the Dominican Republic who regularly prays for me and my family. "God told me to tell you," she said, "to not be afraid. He has everything under control." The second conversation, about a month later, was with a man in our church. "The Lord has placed you on my heart for the last three weeks," he said. "As I have been praying for you, He told me to tell you not to fear. Everything will be okay." A few hours before, I heard the dread words: "You have cancer." Now, as I reflected on those two strange conversations, I fell asleep and slept like a baby.

A couple days after that, I was sitting in a urology office in Phoenix, hearing a doctor recommend surgery and predicting that it would go well. Cathy and I knew that this was the right path for us and made the decision to schedule the operation in November of that year. The pathology of the removed prostate determined that the cancer had been more aggressive that the original biopsy showed and it seemed to be growing even more aggressive, but the news was good: the cancer was gone.

That combination of my friend’s prayer to remove the anxiety and the successful operation to remove the cancer changed something in me. Most of my old fears were neutralized. All of this brings me to something Jesus said: "Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?" (Matthew 6:27 New Living Translation) The obvious answer is, "no," but that doesn’t always break the power of worry for those who struggle with it.

For that reason, I’m very excited about the next installment of "From here to where?" at Stone Ridge Church this weekend. "From ‘What if?’ to ‘God is!’" promises to open up life-changing possibilities. I hope you can join us! If not, catch the podcast!

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