Updated: Apr 18
You always took care of everyone. Now you are dependent on them. You took pride in your self-sufficiency; those days are gone. You may have once looked down on people; now you’re looking up, maybe from a hospital gurney. This may be the most humbling experience of your life, but becoming more humble may be one of the best possible outcomes.
I’ll never forget my friend Terry, who had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was pastoring a church at the time. Terry came to town to receive treatments from the nearby cancer center.
Sadly, the disease continued to progress rapidly. The day before he passed away, I visited Terry and his family at the hospital. As we talked, Terry told me how hard it was to have other people taking care of him, especially his widowed and beloved mother. He had never needed anyone. Single and successful, he had always had more than enough.
Standing beside Terry, holding his hand, I assured him that his family wanted to help him and that allowing them to do so was a great gift to them.
His sister had shared with me her fears for his lack of faith. He had never been the church-going sort. I shared with him the good news of Jesus. Just like we need other people, we all need God. God had given Jesus to be Terry’s Savior and to help him. We all need his forgiveness and his gift of eternal life. Terry didn’t need to be afraid of dying or anything else. He just needed to accept Jesus’ love and trust him.
Terry looked directly into my eyes, nodded, and professed his faith in Christ. As I prayed for him, we all felt the presence of God and the peace of Jesus Christ, which surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:6). Terry was at peace with God. He knew that God loved him and that he would live forever in heaven.
All of us can relate with Terry. Maybe your pride is equally noble, or maybe you were the king or queen of the world planning to take over. You’ve may have always considered yourself better than everyone, even if you wouldn’t acknowledge it. You were living large until cancer or something else came along. Now you feel small and needy. Thank God! Now you can truly live.
To read more about Terry and our friendship, and ways cancer changed us both, check out my book, How Cancer Cured Me.
For me, cancer has been a great corrective. Once a counselor gave me an article about humility. I immediately responded, “I don’t need that.” But I had plans to ascend to the top of my ministry vocation. I’ve envisioned being a world-renowned author. I often consider myself right and others wrong. Thankfully cancer’s gravity continues to pull my feet to the ground.
The Bible tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Our pride is a killer and preventer of peace, with others and with God. Like nothing else, it stands in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Of the list of seven deadly sins, it’s number one! Pride is subtle and sneaky because we also see it as a virtue.
As his disciples constantly jockeyed to be the best, Jesus told them, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?" (Matthew 16:23-25).
As the disciples' quest to be the best persisted, Jesus spoke more directly, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:11-12).
Allow cancer, or whatever struggle you’re enduring, to humble you. Seize it as an opportunity to be loved by God and to know and grow in Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Let go of your life and discover true life. Love people better. Embrace your role as a servant. The more you humble yourself, the more God will lift you up!
This week, on my way to work, a great song popped into my mind. “Lose My Soul” by Toby Mac, featuring Kirk Franklin and Mandisa, captures the struggle. The song sent my spirit soaring. Check it out!
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