Teaching Men How to Fight Like a Girl
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood..." Ephesians 6:12
The biggest mistake any person makes is to try to fight cancer in their own strength. Cancer patients and their family need to know they are up against an enemy that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Cancer has the capacity to disguise and camouflage itself from being located even by the most sophisticated imaging systems. As I have stated before, it does not fight fair. The unseen enemy I refer to is not microscopic cancer cells. This enemy is real, and yet invisible. These forces of darkness are organized into a massive army of evil and guided by a person whose mission in life is to steal, kill and destroy. Just when the fight seems to be going well, or life begins to settle down, the enemy emerges from hiding and hits with the fury, and the fear of a sneak attack. Prayers for healing that appeared to be answered can evaporate in the midst of an unexpected firestorm of spiritual doubt and depression.
When Dr. Olivares shared with us that he believed cancer was generated by an evil source, this struck a common chord in our hearts. We left his office, and discussed what he had told us, and shared it with our two daughters. We decided that this was the man we could trust us to walk with us down this long road through the maze of new vocabulary words, powerful drugs, endless paperwork, and possible surgery. Dana and I both felt relieved that this highly skilled medical professional had sized up our opposition with pin point accuracy. He would not be the last person in the field of medicine that would point us to prayer as our only hope of defeating the enemy.
Jesus says a great deal about prayer, but He makes a clear distinction between meaningless repetition and believing prayer. "When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do for they suppose they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." Matthew 7:7-8
Our hope in prayer is not based on how well we pray or how much we pray. Those who knew Jesus best remind us in God's Word that our confidence is in Who we pray to, not what we pray for. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him." I John 3:22
The Apostle John went on to clarify the call to prayer as a process of placing confidence in the Father's best for our lives. "This is the confidence which we have before Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him." I John 5: 14-15
As I write these words the summer is ending, and September will soon be here. I met Dana on September 9, 1974. It was love at first sight for me. I was convinced of God's will for my life in an instant. For her it would be a more prolonged process of clarification. This delay often seemed like a denial of God's plan for my life. It caused me a great deal of concern. I would ask Him often, "Did I misunderstand?" Through that two year waiting period, God taught me to focus my prayers on what was best for Dana, and not on what I wanted for myself. It was hard to do, but I began to pray, "Father, I want what is best for Dana, and if I am not that person that will be a part of Your best for her, please bring that person into her life, and give me the grace to accept Your will for both of our lives." This was a very hard prayer to pray at first. As I was faithful to pray it, I could begin to hear God's response, "Trust Me." The process of praying this prayer began to purify my motives. I began to understand that the kind of love God intended for me to express to my wife would always need to be focused on what was best for her, and not what I wanted from her.
Praying for Dana's healing from cancer seemed to me at first glance to be an unselfish prayer. The more I prayed for her healing, God began to reveal to me that my motives for praying for her were not altogether unselfish. The fear of losing the woman I love with all my heart was a great motivator to pray. It confused God's best for me with God's best for Dana. I am still learning how to process what God taught me through this.
Birth and death are two extremes of the human experience. People all over the world respond with great joy at the news of the birth of a child. Announcements are sent out, gifts are given, parties are hosted, and a general feeling of good will is generated in the hearts of people who witness the occasion. When death comes it receives a different kind of reception. It is held at arms length, and fought off to the bitter end as people hold on with a white-knuckled grip and clinched teeth to the last breath they or a loved one can take. It is not pretty, and it is not a party. Tears flow, grief remains, and a hole in the heart is left behind where a loved one once lived.
I am well grounded in the scriptural teaching of life after death. I believe in the promise that to be absent from this world is to be present with the Lord. I know heaven is my home. I am aware that I am just passing through on a pilgrimage to my final destination. Still, I am not in a hurry to go, and I want those I love the most to stay with me here as long as possible. If I could get my mind and heart around this, I would rejoice as much as when a saint goes to heaven as when a baby is born. As a matter of fact, if I had a proper perspective on life, I should probably weep when a baby is born knowing that they are facing the prospect of middle school. This world can be a tough place to live and it is often a fight for survival in a very hostile environment.
As I began to pray for Dana's healing, and for her to receive relief from the attack of an unseen enemy, God began to take me back to my first prayers I ever prayed for her. I had to face that I wanted her here with me, more than I wanted her to be with God in heaven. I knew God would eventually provide Dana with healing; giving her a new body in a new home with Him. I just didn't want Him to do it now. I was praying for what I wanted, and not interested in conforming my will to His. If His best for her involved taking her from me, then God and I had a real disagreement about His will for my life.
This was not an easy road to walk down, but I would be less than honest if I did not admit that it took me a good long while to release Dana into His hands for whatever His best for her would bring. I did not write my prayers to God down in black and white. I did not have the courage of King David to leave a recorded legacy of this struggle between God's will and mine. I did draw comfort from what I read in the Psalms. It helped me to know that I was not the first man to question whether God knew what He was doing.
There is a long way between MY and THY. When Jesus prayed in the Garden before His crucifixion, "NOT MY, BUT THY WILL BE DONE." It was a template for every prayer that we will ever pray in a crisis. Jesus was honest to God. He asked to be relieved from drinking from the cup coming his way. Through personal, prolonged, private prayer He yielded His will to that of the Father. A greater good came from what God had in mind for the life and death of His Son. Thank you Jesus for taking my place on the cross. You had a choice and You chose God's best for me rather than demanding personal preference for Yourself.
Scripture makes it clear that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but this fight will reveal to us that there is still a huge part of our own flesh, and personal preferences that must be yielded to God's will. Praying for the crisis to pass or for the healing to come are not signs of weakness. Neither are they flags of rebellion. Prayer is an honest response to an overwhelming attack from the enemy. As a person prays they seek marching orders from their commander in chief. The order of the day comes from God's word, "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, stand firm." Ephesians 6: 13
"It is amazing what God can do with a broken heart, if you give Him all the pieces." Samuel Chadwick