Friday, December 2, 2011

The Terminal

The yellowing sky confirmed the wisdom of the forecasters, a tornado might well be just around the bend. With one eye scouring the landscape I dutifully herded my then seven children into our basement. One of them, worried, asked me- “Are we all going to die?” Tender hearted father that I am, I told the truth- “Of course…but probably not today.” We survived the weather that day, but we are all still terminal.

As my wife continues her valiant fight against leukemia she too occasionally asks me to look into my crystal ball. She wants to know if she is going to make it. The doctors don’t know, and they are considerably more knowledgeable than I am. So I tell my wife what I do know- “I don’t know if you are going to get well or not. I do know that that day was appointed before all time. Nothing will make it a day later, nothing a day earlier. Cancer cannot determine when you go home. Only your Father can.

God can and does give clues, from time to time. The Bible affirms that He opens and closes the womb. That doesn’t mean that Abraham and Sarah didn’t have reason to be surprised. That Denise is ill, that it is this kind of cancer, that form of leukemia, this other test result suggests that we have more reason to worry about her than me. Seeking to decipher all these clues causes us to ride a roller coaster of hope and fear. I have come to learn, however, that my confidence on a given day is likely more tied to how poorly I slept the night before than it is deciphering the results of a CT scan.

My calling then is to rest in, to believe, to be comforted by what He has spoken clearly. Providence is His, but there He speaks a strange language in muted tones. His Word, on the other hand is both loud and clear. We know, for starters, that God Himself is behind this. God will either defeat the cancer He has sent, or He will have sent the cancer that calls her home (Isaiah 45:7). We know that whether her time is sooner or later, it works out for the good not only for her, but for her husband and children (Romans 8:28). We know that whenever He calls her home He will at the same time heal her fully (Revelation 21:4).

Insofar as I am able, by His grace, to believe what He has revealed, I am able to be at peace about what He has not revealed. Insofar as I seek to learn the secret things, I will fail to believe what He has revealed. One thing we know for certain- He is good. He loves us with an everlasting love. That doesn’t answer the question of the day or the hour. It just makes it not so important.

It is a good and proper thing that I should, and you as well if you are willing, pray that God would make Denise well, that He would allow us to grow old together. It is, however, a better thing to pray that I would be a faithful husband to my love, and a faithful father to the children He has blessed us with. It is less important that He believe me and my conviction, that the kingdom would be better with her here. It is more important that I believe Him and His promise that the gates of hell will not prevail (Matthew 16:18), and that He who has begun a good work in us will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 6:10). This train is bound for glory.

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Timothy Bryson said...

Praying for Denise (and you) - for peace, wisdom and God's will to be performed.

Wonderful insights - thank you!

Jessica said...

Thank you for this beautiful post, it has been such an encouragement for me today.
I will be continuing to pray for you and your family.

Tim Bayly said...

Yes, we're all terminal, and some will enter unspeakable joy long before the rest of us. But may our Good Father not allow Denise that blessing so she may stay continue to strengthen you and your children for many years to come. We're praying and love you.

NewKidontheBlogg said...

You are so wise, RC Jr. Yet I ache for you and your family.

Living well in Jesus and dying well in Him is what we all want. We don't want the suffering, or an untimely death. May God get the glory in this situation and sustain you. May you and Denise be surrounded with love and support at this time.

Praying for your family,
Carol Noren Johnson

Ron aka TheOldGeezer said...

Amen! God is in control!

Dan Seifert said...


Your family is on our minds and in our prayers daily. Praying you grow old together. Thanking God for you both.

Dan & Lisa Seifert

Ben Curell said...

You led a short conference many years ago to a small congregation in southern Michigan, Pastor Sproul. I think it was titled, "Who is God?". That night you watered where my Dad and others had planted, God made an increase and I was converted.

I wept then, and I weep now having read this post. I pray that your wife, who has supported your labor for our Lord (including a trip to southern Michigan), will be healed. God bless your family.

R.C. said...

Thank you Ben for the prayers and the encouraging word. Our prayer from the beginning has been that God might use this challenge to bring in another of His elect. What a blessing to know that years before God was pleased to use me in the process of adopting you into His family.

Doug Ummel said...

Many of us in Bloomington praying for your family. May God encourage and strengthen you as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Prophet Among Them said...

I was diagnosed with Leukemia (CLL) in March. No symptoms and virtually no change in ministry routines. We are all terminal. Some of us have an inkling of what might take life from our bodies but nothing can take Eternal Life from our Spirit because He lives we too live & that ETERNALLY!

Pastor Tom Fillinger
CEO, IgniteUS, Inc.
Columbia SC

Beth said...

Amen! I, too, have found great comfort in the fact that God is good and he is eternally loving. This helps us, along with the numerous promises that you cited, to trust Him when we don't understand the "why's". My husband and I are praying for Denise, you, and your children.

Grace said...

Thank you for your post. I was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in May 2003. My husband was diagnosed with cancer in Dec., 2005. The Lord called him home in Feb. 2006. I never thought he would be the one to be with the Lord first but that was His plan for us. God has given me amazing grace through all of these years and still does.
I know He will do the same for you. I have never know such deep pain and yet at the same time experienced such deep abiding peace and joy. I will pray for you and Denise. Grace

Sean said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful praise of our Redeemer, you and your family are in my prayers. I just linked to this story on my FaceBook with the following comments:

R.C. Sproul, Jr's wife has leukemia and is quite ill, to the point of being in hospice care now. To my Christian and non-Christian friends... PLEASE read this link (it isn't long), it is a great example of how the Christian can praise God in the face of deep personal anguish. May my Christian brothers and sisters and I remember to praise Him in pain, not just in pleasure, and may my non-Christian friends see this as one more thing to challenge your disbelief and spur you on to trust in your Creator and come to Him in faith and repentance.

Is there any meaning or purpose in your sorrows or those of your loved ones? Could you respond in a similar manner? Please join me in praying for this family and praising our Lord Jesus Christ no matter our situation.