Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Sovereign God

I'd like to begin with an excerpt from "Christ and Cancer" by John Piper.

God controls who gets sick and who gets well, and all his decisions are for the good of his children, even if they may be very painful and long-lasting. It was God who subjected creation to futility and corruption, and he is the one who can liberate it again. In Exodus 4:11, when Moses refused to go speak to Pharaoh, God said to him, "Who made man's mouth? Who makes him dumb or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I the Lord?" Behind all sickness is finally the sovereign hand of God. God speaks in Deuteronomy 32:39, "See now that I, I am he, and there is no God besides me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal; and there is no one who can deliver from my hand."

But what about Satan? Isn't he the great enemy of our wholeness? Doesn't he attack us morally and physically? Wasn't it Satan who tormented Job? Yes, it was. But Satan has no power but what is allotted to him by God. He is an enemy on a chain. In fact, for the writer of the book of Job it was not wrong to say that the sores afflicted by Satan were sent from God. For example, in Job 2:7 we read, "So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, and afflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head." Then after Job's wife urges him to curse God and die, Job says, "Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord and not receive evil?" And lest we think that Job erred in attributing to God his sores afflicted by Satan, the writer adds in verse 10, "In all this Job did not sin with his lips." In other words, it is no sin to recognize the sovereign hand of God even behind a disease of which Satan may be the more immediate cause.

Satan may be sly but on some things he is stupid, because he fails to see that all his attempts to despoil the godly are simply turned by God's providence into occasions for the purifying and strengthening of faith. God's goal for his people in this age is not primarily to rid them of sickness and pain, but to purge us of all the remnants of sin and cause us in our weakness to cleave to him as our only hope.

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him; for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives . . . he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:5, 6, 10, 11)

All the affliction that comes to the children of God, whether through persecution or sickness, is intended by God to increase our holiness by causing us to rely more on the God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9). If we get angry at God in our sickness we are rejecting his love. For it is always in love that he disciplines his children. It is for our good and we must seek to learn some rich lesson of faith from it. Then we will say with the psalmist, "It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn thy statutes . . . I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me" (Psalm 119:71, 75). That is my fourth affirmation: ultimately God controls who gets sick and who gets well and all his decisions are for the good of his children, even if the pain is great and the sickness long. For as the last verse of our text, Romans 8:28, says, "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose."

I have been learning a lot about God this past year. I have always professed belief in a sovereign God, but the events of this past year have forced me to live my theology out loud. Easy enough to believe in a sovereign God when the way is easy, the struggle comes when life gets hard. This past week I have also been focusing on realizing that a God who does all things to His ultimate glory is also a loving God who understands my pain when no one else does. Spurgeon writes the following in Morning & Evening:

Believer, rest assured that the heart of Jesus cares about your meaner affairs. The breadth of his tender love is such that you may resort to him in all matters; for in all your afflictions he is afflicted, and like as a father pitieth his children, so doth he pity you. The meanest interests of all his saints are all borne upon the broad bosom of the Son of God. Oh, what a heart is his, that doth not merely comprehend the persons of his people, but comprehends also the diverse and innumerable concerns of all those persons! Dost thou think, O Christian, that thou canst measure the love of Christ? Think of what his love has brought thee—justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal life! The riches of his goodness are unsearchable; thou shalt never be able to tell them out or even conceive them. Oh, the breadth of the love of Christ!

Through a records request we discovered this past week that I do have chromosomal abnormalities -- I've been told all along that they were not able to find any. A FISH test done at Barnes to check engraftment after transplant also showed a specific abnormality that allows us to know the specific type of leukemia that I have -- t(11;19)(q23;p13.1). It is still categorized as AML M4, but goes by the name mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) and in my particular case could present as either MLL-ELL or MLL-MEN (virtually identical). It is rare, affecting less thant 2400 people per year, with a median age of 19 and a median life expectancy of 6 months (most cases are infants, though all ages are susceptible). The chromosomes also indicate that I had a form of MDS prior to AML, as I had suspected. MDS can last for months or years before progressing into AML, so it is impossible for us to know how long I have really been sick. In light of this new information, we spent the weekend researching and contacted a doctor/professor currently studying this specific type of leukemia at the University of Chicago. I asked if he could point us to any specialists or clinical trials aimed specifically at MLL, and he said he wasn't aware of any, but that my current treatment "appears appropriate and state of the art." Decitabine is also the drug of choice per Harvard for treating this particular type of MLL. We consulted with my local oncologist yesterday and it is his opinion that the Decitabine is definitely keeping the disease at bay, though it is not yet achieving remission. We are going to continue with this course of chemo and the DLI as planned. I'm not sure what comes next if the Decitabine proves ineffective. My doctors are still doing research to ascertain the best options. Obviously it is our prayer that the Decitabine will prove effective in putting the disease into remission. It has been a gentle chemo, which I have greatly appreciated.

I have been amazed to realize that once again, God has gone before, and even though we just discovered this information, I am already on the treatment of choice. He truly is the One who heals -- the One who preserves our every breath.

I continue to need regular transfusions. I figured out yesterday that it is taking approximately 12 donors per month to keep me alive. They are strangers that I will never meet -- and a simple "thank you" seems insufficient. There are over 200,000 people currently living with forms of blood cancer. Do the math -- and please donate blood or platelets if you're able.

As always, thank you for your prayers.


april said...

Praying for you always, I often wonder how you keep up with it all. Life is busy but add treatment, fatigue, and research into the mix and it is amazing that you keep it all in check.

Above that, your faith continues to inspire. Just this morning as I was praying for another blogger with cancer (brain tumor) it struck me that so many wonderful people are weighed down by such illness. But we are all wonderful in God's eyes. He has no preference among us. He does not have favorites. But it is always amazing to see the strength which He endows us with through our trials. That, perhaps, is the greatest gift of all!

You and your family are continually in my happy to hear that your course of treatment is the best for you and that your disease is being kept out of reach for now! Praying for remission...


Anonymous said...

Praying for you Amy.
Love you,

Dawn said...

Such great insight and attitude. Blessings. I know God is working in your life and in your body. He is doing a great work.

Carey said...

Im praying for you. Thanks for the update. I check in on you all the time.

Kelli said...

I hope someday to be able to thank someone for the gift of an organ donation.

God has us all in His hands. I truly believe that.

Anonymous said...

Praise God for giving more clarity in what you're dealing with! Praise Him because you were already doing the best thing to treat it!! I am praying for you, Amy.

Linda said...

I'm praying for you Amy. Thanks so much for the update. We do indeed have a Father who loves us with an all-encompassing, unfathomable love. Blessings to you and your family.

Pamela said...

You have convinced me to give blood.

Kevin P. Larson said...

Amy, you have been such a huge encouragement to us. Please let us know how we can help you, Brandon, and Gary.

Kim said...

What wise words you have been reading and meditating on. I can tell it has given you great comfort. I'm thankful that God, through His hidden hand of providence, is bringing Himself glory and causing all things to work together for GOOD to you and your family. It is amazing and encouraging to me personally to see you walking in such faith through the most extreme of all trials. It must be so hard...

I am so thankful the chemo drug is keeping the disease from progressing!!! God has been so good to allow for medications to treat the body and allow for life to continue. I am especially thankful for that for you, Amy.

Our family continues to pray for you fervently.


Joyful Days said...

I am praying for you and your family.

In Him,


Anonymous said...

We're praying for you.
The Nail Family

Monica C. said...

Amy, it is so wonderful to read your words. And thank you for sharing those important lessons about the incredible scope of God's love and the breadth of His power. You remind us that He is always in control. God bless you, Amy.

Barbie said...

May our gracious and Sovereign Lord Make the chemo you are on affective and put your cancer in remission. And may you and your family have peace, hope and joy in the midst of this great trial.

Praying for you.

Carrie said...

We just prayed for you this morning, Amy. Thank you for sharing your blessings with us!
In Christian love,

Julie's Jewels said...

Thank you once again for the update. I'm thankful to hear that this treatment you are receiving now is working for you. We continue to pray for God's strength and His grace to abound in your life and those around you. We also continue to pray for the doctors that are treating you that God give them wisdom in how to treat you and the steps to go to next. God bless you Sis and may your faith continue to be strong as this process continues.

Linds said...

I am continuing to pray, Amy. You have such amazing strength and faith, and we are all learning from you as you move forward. God is in the miracle business.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to ask you if you heard about vitamin B17 also known as laetrile? If you put a search on the net you will find lots of info on this; It has proved successful in treating different types of cancer for alot of people.A friend of mine's sister used this and got cured. I hope you dont mind me leaving this comment but i cant not tell you. It may help you. I encourage you to do some research into this. I pray everything goes well for you. God Bless and keep looking up.

FunkyMonkeyJunk said...


I've never been in a situation where I've felt moved to donate blood. Today I am. But, I am 6 months pregnant. As soon as I've recovered giving birth, I shall do exactly that. It's not blood that you'll probably receive personally, but perhaps it will be just the thing to make a difference to someone. Thank you for touching my heart today and in the long run, possibly making a difference to someone in need.


Anonymous said...

Dear Amy, I've read your whole site and find it extremely Christ-honoring. Thank you. I am a 31 year old wife and mother and I wanted you to know that you have a friend in me--though we have never met--we are sisters in Christ and I will pray for you. God bless you and keep you during your journey.

Anonymous said...

Having worked at a major medical center for several years, I admire your proactivity. So many people get diagnosed with major illness or disease and totally shut down -- just following along like a robot. I wish more patients would would step up like you have -- taking an interest in your disease to the point that you can actually be involved in the decisions. I don't know, maybe its our fault for not being more informative, but it seems so many patients just don't want to know. Thank you.

Your words are also very encouraging. You've been through so much and yet here you are still writing of God's love...of God's sovereignty. very admirable. I doubt many people reading this truly understand what it is you've actually gone through, and go through each day. The physical toll on the body is very hard with a disease like this, not to mention the emotional and spiritual ones. You must have a strong support of family and friends to be where you are at now. I doubt I'd be where you are if it was me in your place. I'd have given up long ago, which just adds more strength to how strong you are, how willing to suffer for your family, how much you trust that God's way is best, even if unknown and harsh.

May God continue to keep you through this, may the Decitabine work for you, and may He prolong your days.

Thanks once again for your encouragement.

Lee -- China

Anonymous said...

Amy, It is so good to read what Lee wrote. As your mom I have seen you be very pro-active in learning about your disease, looking for causes, seeking out the best treatment options with Brandon. Thank you for not stopping, as Lee wrote, and becoming an obedient robot but rather an informed patient. I know from observation what an enemy this illness has been for you. There haven't been many friends for you to meet along the way. You are isolated most of the time. Your outings include treatment centers and doctor's offices. Yet I rarely hear you complain. You know the nature of this horrible disease and realize the risks that weddings and anniversary parties and drama productions and even a visit from family or friends can pose for you. You have taught me so much more about God's sovereignty and love than I knew before. I have hated this cancer and that it has invaded your life. But I am thankful for the hand of the Lord keeping you fever free and infection free for several months now. You are right -- it is the small miracles along the way that we need to praise Him for and acknowledge to others. I pray for you night and day. And I will love you always, Mom

robnt said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Amy, as they can reach the souls of even those who are not facing cancer but some other trial the Lord has seen fit for them to face.

May the Lord ever guide and keep you in His way as you wrestle with your theology, with this disease and just staying alive.

The Gould Family

Lauren said...

Amy, as always you are in my prayers. I've never met you but I am so thankful that through this site I have been able to pray for you!

God is so amazing and you have been such a testimony! Thank you so much for this post. I was praying today and felt called to check you site. God has spoken so much through you and I just wanted to tell you how much you have ministered to my life.

Amy, I do not know why God has placed this affliction in your life. I certainly don't want to presume that it is for our edification! However, you have been such a vessle of light throughout the time I have been reading your site. I thank God that I have been able to follow your journey. You have taught me so much. Thank you so much for allowing us to share this walk.

Amy, I pray for your healing right now. I give glory to God for setting you on the path to healing even before you knew your origin. God bless you and your family.


Rachel D said...

Love you. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Dear Amy, Everything that I could say, has already been said. Your life is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing God's Word. It says it all. Others have shared my heart as well. I am keeping you and your beloved family in my heart and prayers. Thank you for the update to focus my prayers and refresh my fervor. Love In Christ, Dot Marrocco & Family

Anonymous said...

You might be interested in this website for the freedom God allows in complaining about the tradegies he might send your way. It is an entirely online commentary on the Book of Job highly praised by Job scholars (Clines, Habel, Janzen, Crenshaw, Good) and the Review of Biblical Literature. Their reviews are accessible by a red button on the left hand column of the website.

Robert Sutherland