A little more than ten years ago, I went through a rather difficult time. I had noticed a small knot on my neck, went to the doctor, and was diagnosed with having a tumor in one of my salivary glands. According to what the doctors told me, tumors in this particular salivary glad typically have a 50/50 chance of malignancy. As if that weren’t enough, doctors also told me of three potential complications from the surgery I needed that would have an impact on my speech. Suddenly I went from being a busy, healthy person to being forced to acknowledge my own mortality, and to imagine what life would be like without being able to preach. It was disconcerting to say the least.
But during this time of trial, I can say that the adversity had a way of separating the dross from the gold in my life. Suddenly I saw with greater clarity than possibly ever before, the real issues of life. Those issues had nothing to do with sports (including my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers), bills, possessions, or any other such matters. The issues that became clear to me were my relationship with God, my family, and my friends.
During those few weeks, I had a lot of time to think; not about the daily routine, but about life in general. I was humbled by my dispensability. I became more aware of my inadequacies. And I was dissatisfied with the impact for good that I had made in this world.
Eventually, I had surgery. The tumor was removed, and the pathology report concluded that the tumor was benign. My fears were relieved, many prayers were answered, and I had a renewed vision of what is truly important in life.
Would I want to go through this experience again? Absolutely not! Did I learn anything from the whole experience? Without question! While suffering and anxiety are things we would rarely, if ever choose for ourselves, they are valuable teachers, nonetheless.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).