From Pastor Adam: For those who don't know John, he is the father of the precious little boy named Johnny who was in the same kindergarten class as our daughter, Jaylee. They were not only classmates, but also friends. We counted it a privilege to know Johnny before his sickness, but an even greater privilege to watch him and his family rely on God's supernatural provision during such a difficult season of treatment, disappointment and ultimately Johnny's departure to the arms of Jesus last October. We received this note from John earlier today and I continue to stand in awe of the grace of God all over this family. I hope it touches you the same way it touched us:
On Christmas Day I overheard Tracy telling a friend “This has been the best year of my life.”
How could a year that opened with her oldest son in perfect health and closed with him dead from brain cancer be the best year of her life?
To paraphrase a favorite pastor’s sermon on Romans 8 – “In all things – God.”
In anguish over unexplained decline in health – God.
In heartwrenching diagnosis – God.
In uncertain treatment – God.
In miraculous response to radiation – God.
In apparent open door to cutting edge experimental treatment – God.
In unprecedented regrowth of tumor – God.
In crushing disappointment – God.
In the peace and joy of a six year old who knows his time has come – God.
In the comfort and sustaining grace over a broken hearted family – God.
We have tasted, and we have seen – the LORD is good. We have shed more tears in 2015 than perhaps in all our other years combined. Yet we rejoice. We rejoice through the pain – not in spite of it, nor as if it were not there. Thanksgiving was harder than I had anticipated. Christmas was a mix of bitter and sweet as our family celebration of Jesus’ birth was notably quieter, and we reflected that Johnny now worships his Savior by sight and not by faith. But years’ end brings swelling confidence in the goodness, kindness, and faithfulness of Jehovah.
This year we encountered a God who keeps His promises. We can say at the end of 2015 that we know God better. I am tempted to grit my teeth as I type this as unbelief yet battles faith in my heart and tears stream stinging down my face – but IT.IS.WORTH.EVERY.TEAR-EVERY AGONY, EVERY WAIL.
With David in Psalm 23 – I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but I did not fear the evil that did befall me – for you have been with me. Your rod, your staff – they have comforted me.
With Paul in Philippians 3 – I count everything as loss – even the dreams and plans for my son – because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things.
This is radical – and the kind of thing over which people fall away from the truth.
Any strength I have is from God. I am no Greek scholar, so I cannot speak with authority on the following – but hear me out on Philippians 4:13 which says “I CAN DO all things through him who strengthens me.” Athletes put that verse on their cleats and students claim that as a promise of achievement before exams, however I think the verse means the near opposite in context. I think perhaps the meaning is better understood “I can SUFFER all things through him who strengthens me.” Verse 12 mentions hunger and need, and verse 14 speaks of sharing in trouble.
I have endured all things through him who strengthened me.
The truth in this is hard – and I urge you not to regard lightly the deep things of God.
The matter of suffering is a real source of unbelief for honest atheists. They say, “I cannot believe in a God who would allow…” fill in the blank.
Well, our blank is…”a healthy six year old boy to die of an inoperable, incurable, aggressive, progressively debilitating brain tumor.
Yet we believe. And for that, we glorify Him. Our faith, a completely rational response to all that we can see and know – is still a gift. It is a treasure, hidden in our clay vessels, to reflect the value of Him who gives, not him who has received.
If you read the words of Jesus He makes clear to his disciples (and all who follow after Him) “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16) and “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14)
But, I tell you in this trial we have not been alone. It was like a burning oven to us, but like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego we found “the fire had not any power over us – our hair is not singed, our clothes are not burned.”
I hope to one day enumerate all those to whom we desire to give our thanks. I hope to share recollections of the joy of being Johnny’s parents. But for now, here find that your prayers on our behalf continue to be answered graciously. We are sustained by grace and comforted in our pain. We rejoice in the near six years of healthy life that Johnny experienced, and we treasure the memories we had opportunity to make this year. We tremble at the faithfulness of God to grant our son such peace, joy, and assurance of glory-filled redemption in the presence of His Savior through weakness, pain and death. We see that in 2015, the Lord drew near to us.
We start 2016 with grateful hearts. Our gaze is lifted Heavenward. Through our tribulation, the grip this world has on our hearts has been severely weakened. For this we glorify God.