Thursday, October 6, 2011

SHADOW OF DEATH: A Journey There & Back

The publishing of this blog is really a post script. These are the thoughts I had from June and July of this year. As I review it, it was prior to getting the results of the biopsy and then prior of the results of the CAT scan. What I experienced and learned from that time until today, I hope to get down on this blog soon. I am recovery well, but struggling with motivation. I will try to publish soon. 
SHADOW OF DEATH: A Journey There & Back
The shadows caste by the obscurities of the unknown, can be scarier, and more unsettling, than the realities we may be facing.
The Psalmist wrote: “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil...”
The Apostle Paul wrote: “If God be for us, who can be (or stand) against us?”
King David also wrote: “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come from? From the LORD, God the maker of heaven and earth.”
Sometimes it can be a long walk through the valley of the shadow of death. To walk through the valley, you often must walk down into the valley.  So we walk down into.. then we walk through. But what are we walking through to? To get to the other side? Or to get back to where we started from? It’s not the other side that has me worried... it’s the down and through that I am concerned about. To me down and through speaks to the process. Death is one thing...  dyeing is another. What is going to take place in the process of bringing me through to the other side? Thank the Lord it isn’t something you must do every other day. If I must walk through, I want to “.... walk and not faint.” It is reassuring to know the Lord Jesus Christ, and to have the confidence he can deliver me in times of trouble. The biggest trouble we must all face is death. I base my faith in Jesus Christ upon his past performance of raising from the dead, and the promise - he will be with me. “.... for you are with me...” 
“They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint...”

Back in July I began to let some family and friends know I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I have learned a lot about many things since this summer. One of the most comforting points, is that most men will die with prostate cancer, but not from it. (If it is detected early enough,) In my particular case, I see doctors regularly to ensure I can live as long as I can in good health. I am reminded that a “wise man sees trouble coming and takes appropriate action, but a fool doesn’t and suffers for it.”
I was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2011, just prior to my 55th birthday. What a bummer... major B U MM E R!
“All things work for the good for those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” When you’re facing a death-sentence, it takes faith to believe this. 
I know the Lord can deliver me, but even if he doesn’t, by his grace, I will still have hope, faith and trust in him. I have some great examples that have gone before me which have shown me the way - first, I first consider what Jesus endured... and then look at some other examples.
Meshack, Shadrack & Abendigo (MS&A) were facing a death sentence and were to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Daniel, likewise was facing a death sentence and was going to be thrown into the lion’s den. In each case, they counted on the one who they placed their faith in to deliver them... one way or the other, God was going to deliver them! In both cases, God did deliver them from the destruction of their death sentences. No one can say what their personal anticipation(s) were in these situations. The one certainty we know of is that they had to “go through”... the furnace... the lion’s den. Perhaps they were facing the “.... the valley of the shadow of death...” The word “thrown” to me, makes me consider something that took place rather suddenly. The examples cited of MS&A and Daniel are clear regarding their anticipation of the nasty consequences they faced if they continued on their course of conscience. Thrown into the fiery furnance... thrown into the lion’s den. It is not that you aren’t aware of the consequences of your actions - you just don’t expect things to happen so quickly. In psychology, it’s refereed as a type of “normalcy bias.”
Lessons learned: Just because you’re not fireproof and you would burn easily when thrown into the fire, doesn’t mean when you are thrown into the fire, you’re going to get burned. Or just because your tasty, and lions get hungry and eat tasty people, doesn’t mean you’re going to get eaten if you’re thrown into the lions’ den! I would say that both examples would qualify as “storms” they were facing.
Jesus said: “Is this world you will face tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” So how can we prepare for the storms (tribulations) coming our way in this life? Jesus gave us some good advice. Building on the rock, hearing the words of Jesus, and putting them into practice, can be very beneficial, especially when the storm comes - and it will come. Matthew Henry wrote: “.... those who have not put the words of Jesus into practice, have been building their house upon sand, and and when the storm comes, when they need shelter the most, it will fail them.” Said another way, those who put the words of Jesus into practice, have been building upon rock and when they need shelter the most, it will stand and not collapse on them, keeping them safe from sudden destruction.
Maybe we should be “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” every day - metaphorically speaking of the life of the spirit. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus said, “not my will, but let your will be done.”  We must be willing to lay our lives down for the cause of Christ. “Unless a man is willing to loose his life, he cannot save it.” It is the process of how we live our lives and how we lay it down that determine how the Lord is glorified. 
Psalm 112: “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land: the generation of the upright will be blessed.... He will have no fear of bad news: his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the and he will look in triumph on his foes...”

A steadfast heart that trusts in the LORD will have no fear of bad news. How do you determine a steadfast heart that is trusting in the LORD? 1- You fear the LORD. 2- You find delight in his commands.
I was informed a year ago, I had a moderate swollen prostate. My PSA level was 2.7. I was advised to keep a watch on it. Any change of conditions to my normal life activities.
I year later, my PSA was 4.2 - nearly doubled. My doctor recommended I see a urologist for an exam.
I saw the urologist for an examination. He reported I had moderate swelling and that he felt hardness on one side and a nodule on the other and recommended I have a biopsy.
I had a biopsy (15) and was told I have cancer and that since it was located if both sectors of the prostate, because of my age, I should have in removed.
He recommended that I have a CAT scan in order to determine if the cancer was contained in the prostate or had infected the other tissue surrounding the area. If the cancer is not contained, that would be a game changer.
I am awaiting my CAT scan. In the meantime, I am seeking the LORD for relief of this malady and researching alternative medicine remedies. I am also looking for the best surgeon, if that is the course I am to take. “All my days are in his hands.” 

For the past year, I have been numbering my days. “Teach me to number my days” King David said. I took it literally. If man’s life is three-score and ten, that’s 70 years. The example then is: 70 years x 365 days minus 55 years x 365 days will give you the number of days you have left. As of my 55th birthday this past July 12th, I have 5475+ days left. Understanding, there my be an accident or some other unforeseen circumstance, cancer as an example, my cut you short. I have been thinking that the LORD will add to my days in this life, as I serve him and follow his commands. So I believe the LORD has more than 70 years of days for me, and that I will see my children's, children in this life. (cite reference) Although I am currently being told, I may be cut short. “.... He will have no fear of bad news: his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear...”

When you consider, you have burned-up 55 years of days = 20075 of the 25500 and only have 5475 days left to serve the LORD, it brings this life into focus by framing it with the reality of your mortality! And that reality helps you focus on eternal life. Thank you LORD, “.... we are pilgrims and sojourners here...” Almost everyday, I read a Psalm that corresponds to the day of the month and write next to it the number of days I have left to serve the LORD. It helps me to remember, that my days are in his hands and that need to express my thankfulness and gratefulness to HIM for giving me another day.

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