The Hands of God…Kind or Harsh?

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties upon him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6, 7-ESV)

Last week I was released from the clinical trial for which I waited so long to qualify at the National Institutes for Health in Bethesda, MD. They did not like me and I feel totally rejected—just kidding. A recent CT scan showed that my pancreatic cancer is advancing and these trials have strict protocols saying that if there are indications the treatment is not working then the individual must be released. I applaud the research that is being done NIH by the doctors and nurses and techs. Though a huge facility, I was treated as an individual with dignity. My doctor is a believer who prayed for me every time we met. I have one more trip down there to have a final “safety check” and then that is it, unless they find another trial for which I might qualify.

At this point in my journey I am left with no treatment options. There are no more chemo, radiation, or immunological protocols that will work anymore and it would seem that it is just a matter of time until this pernicious disease ultimately steals my last breath. I say all of this recognizing that some of my readers are on chemo or another treatment and hearing this may be a discouragement to them. But please realize that even though these treatments did not cure me, God has used them to extend my life. Only 9% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer live 5 years from their diagnosis—I am into year 4. So, be thankful when there are treatments available and though they are rough to go through, they are a gift from your Heavenly Father. and your outcomes may be far different than mine. It has been a joy for me to see some of my friends ring the bell or hit the gong after they finish their course of treatment. (A typical rite of passage for the cancer patient after they successfully complete their chemo or radiation regimen.)

So now, how does one deal with the reality that there are no more treatment options? One thing’s for sure, it doesn’t make you want to go back on chemo, but it does make you more consciously dependent upon God and that you are in his hands. I’ve always believed that over the last 4 yrs., knowing that “man does not live by chemo alone,” but now when there is nothing else left it has become more real—I am in his hands. The hands whose fingers knit me together in my mother’s womb and created the pulsating universe. The hands which have protected me, guided me, disciplined me, and saved me. The hands from which nothing will “pluck” me in life or in death.

I’m not totally at peace about all of this, in spite of what some of you have concluded. I get frustrated with the ways of God. I just learned this morning of a dear sister in Christ who passed way last night a long illness and the pain the family is bearing, but even Jesus wept outside the tomb of Lazarus. However, sadness, frustration, and even anger at God doesn’t mean one does not trust him, as much as it indicates that we cannot bear the weight of our own existence and are helpless in spite of our own bravado or super-spirituality. So, we have a choice either to take things into our own hands or fall back into the hands of God.

Many of you have heard me talk about the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, composed in Heidelberg, Germany as a teaching tool for young people. The Synod of Dort approved the catechism in 1619 and it has become the the most widely used confession of the Reformed church, translated into many non-European languages world-wide. The questions and answers of the catechism were divided up into 52 Lord’s Days intended to be taught on each Sunday of the year with scripture references. (check it out at http://www.heidelberg-catechism.com)

I want to draw your attention to 2 parts which form the bedrock of my trust. So, no matter how much I kick and scream about my situation, this is where I stand:

Lord’s Day 1

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Lord Day 10

Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.

Q. What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?

A. We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love…

I don’t know what you are facing, but I hope you have a faith like this. Not a smoke and mirrors faith in a domesticated God, but a faith that can yell, and scream, and lament his “strange ways”—and yet still trust. A bottom-line trust that you belong to Christ in life and in death, because he died for you; that you are in the hands of God and that nothing will separate you from his love; that nothing will ever enter your life that has not first passed through his fatherly hands so you do not need to be afraid.

29 thoughts on “The Hands of God…Kind or Harsh?

    1. Cynthia

      You and your family remain in my prayers. Thank you for your lifetime of teachings.

      May the Lord bless you, and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you and lift up His face to you and give you peace . (Numbers 6)

  1. Karen Palchick

    Dear Pastor Dave, Gloria, and Family,
    We’ve been reading your posts and have been so blessed and encouraged by them. Thank you so much for exposing your heart, the very depths of your being for all of these years. Our prayers continue to be with you and we thank God for you.
    In His love,

    Karen & Rich Palchick

    1. Sharon Thomas

      Thank you, Dave for sharing your heart and God’s promises. You and Gloria are dearly missed. We continue to pray for you and your family.
      With love,
      Lloyd and Sharon Thomas

  2. David, Through my tears, I am so thankful that God put you in my life, and I had the blessing of your teaching way back from the beginning of your ministry. It was through you that Emil went forward one Father’s Day (much to my amazement) and accepted Jesus. I have had the privilege and advantage of following your ministry for many years. God has used you to challenge me and uplift me, for which I will be forever grateful. Thank you for your words of wisdom (I know they were really words God planted on your heart). Thank you, dear friend, and thank God that one day we will sit at His feet. With continued love and prayers, Carol

  3. While certainly this was not the expected outcome with the trials ending, for now, which means God has something else in mind. God never fails and is ever present in all things. Life is all an unknown from start to finish, but thankfully, “Your eyes have seen my formless substance; And in Your book were written All the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” Hoping to bring my eldest Granddaughter down to see you at BCC the 9th! “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” See you soon – Peace be with you

  4. Bill Berry

    So very sorry to hear this David and will continue to pray for you and your family.

    My favorite scripture is:

    Lamentations 3:21-24

    [21] But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

    The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
    they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
    “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

    Thankful for your life and ministry and that you are in the very strong arms of our Very Great and Strong King Jesus and His Father!

    “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:4-5

    Bill Berry

  5. Thank you Dave, for your encouragement. I know your words were in perfect timing with what I needed to hear, and have helped me to navigate the course of my life through some of my most difficult days. I have my doubts, of course, but God always reveals things to me that lift me up and give me hope for the days ahead. He is GOOD, even when I don’t understand.

    1. I can’t imagine what you and Julie have had to face. It breaks my heart when I hear and see the groanings of this sinful world played out in sickness, tragedy, and death. How can we not believe?

  6. Ken Meszaros

    Dave, I am truly sorry that the treatments are not working but am greatly encouraged on how you’ve handled this over the years. You have truly been an inspiration as I’ve struggled through my many health problems. I too have felt discouraged by what was/is happening but through you and others have come to realize that God is in control no matter how much we try to deny it. I could have easily quit and given up but I know that is not what God wants me to do. My brother has fought cancer for the last seven years and, after an experimental treatment last August/September, he is now cancer free for the first time. He too, quit chemo waiting to qualify for this treatment and is now on the road to long-term recovery. There will be many checks along the way but is confident in his prognosis for the first time. At first he was down but, being a believer, trusted God and struggled through all the nausea and sickness with a very upbeat attitude. I see this in you also. This may get you some day but your upbeat attitude is an inspiration to all who read about your journey. Thank you for all the years you preached at CF because you taught me a lot. I’m glad I can still read your words of hope, peace and love of Christ. I pray that God places his healing hands on you and cures you of this disease once and for all. Take care my friend and have a blessed day.

    By the way, I still can’t read a bank shot for the life of me. Never was very good at geometry!!

    Sincerely,

    Kenneth J Meszaros

    1. Thanks Ken, great to hear about your brother! I’m also thankful for the way you’ve hung in there during all the things you’ve had to endure. Keep reading the Word and don’t worry about those bank shots. Love to Anita

  7. Kevin Cody

    Sorry to hear this Dave. Thank you for your perspective. Jill and I will be praying for you, Gloria and the kids. As you have told us in the past,I know you live with “no regrets”.

    Trusting more and more –
    Kevin

  8. Jeff Longbons

    It sounds like it is time to be praying twice as much for you, Gloria, kids & grandkids. May the Lord continue to be your strength as you model to all about the essence of your faith. We love you Dave!

  9. Ellen

    Pastor Dave, thank you for your bold and yet tender hearted perspective on trusting the Lord. We miss you and Gloria in the community so much. We dream of visiting you in those gorgeous hills of Lancaster! And we also dream in remembrance of the days we were blessed by your inspired teachings at CF. You will always be a treasure in our family story. Much love to you. Tom and I are praying for your complete healing.

  10. David Carlson

    O Captain, My Captain…….
    Your health report has saddened me greatly…..just as Walt Whitman shared his sorrows on the death of Abraham Lincoln. You are leaving a wonderful legacy of accomplishments of your life in Schenectady, Wheaton College, West Point, Massachusetts, and back at Wheaton. As life’s embers slowly fade away, your glory and reward is to rest in the arms of your Savior for all eternity.
    Captain….I want to be with you there, too. And many of our old time Crusader teammates will be there praising our Lord with you.
    Dave “Coloma” Carlson – Wheaton College Class of 1968

  11. Bill McGee

    Dave, for reasons known only to Him, The Lord placed you on my mind earlier today. My heart was heavy, but I did not know why. The threads run deeper than we will ever know. Then our faithful friend, brother, and communicator, David C shared the latest update on your battle, and I knew why God had placed you on my heart. God knows those threads that run deep and uses them in His own way and in His own time to connect us. You have always been there, and will always be there, even until we see each other again in His presence. Always and Forever, Bill McGee

  12. Rick Benware

    Dave, I reread your blog (4/18) this morning. Jodi and I (& our family) have been praying for you, Gloria, your children, and grandchildren for some time now. We know you have been and continue to trust the Lord in spite of this extremely difficult journey. May the Lord provide you, Gloria and your family with His: perfect peace, comfort, strength, and wisdom each day ahead.
    “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3,4
    We love you, Gloria and your family very much, Rick

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