My travel clothes are hanging next to my bed along with all of the travel essentials: ear plugs, chewing gum, and travel guidebook. This morning I was supposed to be jumping on a flight out of the country with a group from our church to serve in Thailand and China for two weeks. I have the privilege of serving as Pastor for Global Disciple-Making at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. In this role I mobilize, facilitate and equip our faith family to make disciples of all nations through short-term mission trips and long-term church planting teams. My bags were all packed; the team had been trained; passport, immunizations, and visas were all in order; but I am not going to be able to make this mission trip.
Up until a few days ago, I was a healthy and adventurous 36-year-old husband and father of three, full of dreams and hopes for the future. My perspective and expectations about life were suddenly rocked Monday afternoon, like the ground shaking uncontrollably in an earthquake or when you are in a sudden car accident. While on a conference call to arrange the logistics for an upcoming trip to northern India, my head began to spin, and I felt like I was going to faint. Tunnel vision set in, and I completely lost all sight out of my left field of vision. At the same time a bright light began to flash repeatedly just where my vision had gone out. I was taken to the emergency room and in the waiting room began to loose all sensation in my left fingers, then my left hand, up my left arm, across my chest, down my left leg, across my face and finally my mouth and tongue. A few hours later I was informed that a CT scan and an MRI revealed a large mass in the back of my brain that the doctors believe to be a 6 centimeter brain tumor sitting on my occipital lobe.
If you have ever been through a traumatic event or natural disaster, you know that there is an immediate feeling of disorientation that occurs until you can regain your bearings. The worst disorientation for me came in the form of fears and concerns for my family. What will happen to my wife and kids when I am gone? Who will raise my children in the fear and admonishment of the Lord? Will we be able to cover the medical expenses related to this condition? The fog of these questions and doubts began to descend upon me, but in the middle of hearing the ER doctor explain what they found, I heard a voice, as clear and true as any, and it was coming from my mouth, but the words were truth from the Heavenly Father, not my thoughts. Even as they came out of my mouth the disorientation and confusion began to subside and greater clarity set in. The ER doctor stopped in mid sentence as he heard these words: “I know that God will use even this for my good and for His glory. I don’t know how it will happen, but I know that God is in control of all things and I will trust Him.” I will trust him with my family, my finances, and my future. I will not fear what this world may bring. I will trust in God.
The brain tumor did not catch God by surprise. God has known it was there long before the doctors discovered it. I am finite and fearful. He is infinite, all-knowing, and all-powerful. At it’s most basic element, Biblical faith is trusting in God. This is the Good News, the gospel, at its core. We turn away from ourselves and our control and trust in Him. We are unable to rescue ourselves from this life of sin and death, but God through the provision of his Son, Jesus Christ, has paid the price for our sin and restored us to right relationship with the Father. Faith is fleeing from self-sufficiency to Christ-centered dependency for salvation and for life. We often think about faith as a one-time event. There is an immediate reality to salvation that comes the moment we are justified before the Father. But my earthly father once told me that learning to trust God is what life is all about. This is learning to walk by faith. So I am thankful for this opportunity to continue to trust God and walk by faith. God is already using this brain tumor to transform me more into the image of Christ. I will submit to his plan for my sanctification. In the grand scheme of life, not much has really changed since Monday, I am just more aware of my dependence on God’s sovereign control over all things. I will continue to trust and depend on God’s plan for my life. I am His and He is mine!
So instead of getting on a plane to Southeast Asia this morning, I turned over and glanced at the reading material I had been given at the hospital and one of the titles caught my eye: “The Essential Guide to Brain Tumors”. So, I decided that I would begin to journal about this new journey that God has us on. I am entitling it “My Essential Guide to Life with a Brain Tumor”. I am inviting you to share in this journey with us as we learn to trust God through the challenges and the adventure.
6 thoughts on “The Essential Guide to Life with a Brain Tumor”
Jonathan, I am so proud of you, and so grateful for your ministry to me this morning as I read your post. I am praying for you.
Praying for you and blessed by your courage! (FBCA)
Jon, Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us in this way. Your words are beautiful and inspiring. I think about you everyday and pray for your healing and for comfort to your family. I know God will be good, as He always is.
You and your family are in our prayers. Know that many people at Fellowship Baptist Church are praying for you.
We print out your update and read it to our SS class for those that don’t have computers.
The Lord will see you through this difficult time.
In His Love,
Paul & Norma
Jonathan…I am inspired by the trust you’ve placed in our Heavenly Father… as together He walks you and your family through this journey. Although I’ve not met you personally I know who you are. The global outreach via the church media department is a vital part of my life here today as a missionary to East Africa. Actually, the first Secret Church I attended when you introduced us to the pastor from the middle east made a huge impact in my understanding my calling to the foreign field. I had already surrendered to the call but didn’t know where God was going to need me. Those minutes when you and Pastor Hanna spoke to us… helped me clarify that God needed me on the foreign fields. Last year, I traveled from East Africa to Birmingham in November for Secret Church….once again I was touched deeply. You, my young brother will reach others through this journey and impact their lives. Last year, He allowed me to contract Malaria four times and like you I chose to depend and trust that this was part of His plan for me, although it was not anything I would have chosen for myself. Just as you wrote…He wasn’t surprised by the illness I had to go through…but I can testify that over and over He has used what I went through as a platform to share how faithful and sovereign He is. I promise to pray for you each and every day…thank you for the impact you continue to make in my life.
Your sister in Christ,
Jonathan, I praise God that he has counted you worthy of this situation. I have long heard that the favor of God is not found in prosperity but in suffering. It is not a revelation that one comes to easily. I’m sure you are beginning to understand more clearly how this is more of a blessing than anyone else can see. God is using you and will continue to use you for his glory. I pray that his peace will comfort you and your family as you lean on the everlasting arms of our savior.