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My God Is True! Lessons Learned Along Cancer's Dark Road Paperback – August 1, 2009
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My search is over for the one book to give to someone battling cancer. This material is exceptional - the most helpful I have read on this subject. --Pastor Alistair Begg
One of the hallmarks of 'My God Is True!' that makes it stand apart, is not only the engaging modesty with which the story is told, but the framework within which it has been written - a deep sense of the undergirding sovereignty and grace of God, his faithfulness, and his wisdom - a recognition that his ways are higher, deeper, and wiser than ours. While this is the story of a young man's pain, his struggles, his journey through a valley of deep darkness, it is also a story of love - Paul's love for Christ, his shared love with his wife Christy and their family circle. It is a testimony to what it means to belong to the living fellowship of Christ's people, the church. --Dr. Sinclair Ferguson
About the Author
Paul D. Wolfe serves as Associate Pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia.
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I hope Mr. Wolf's books will be as helpful to you as it was to me. If I may, I should like to share something of my own cancer journey though it may be a little theologically geeky.
All my Christian life I have believed in the Sovereignty of God. God is sovereign therefore...this, that and the other thing. But "sovereignty" only speaks to God's "authority". I know many struggle with this, but for me, I've never really had an issue with the "authority" of God. He has the authority (the right) to do all his holy will. Whatever God does He has the right to do, even if it means I have to have cancer! I may not like God's use of his authority, but I cannot get around it.
Now people say God's ways are mysterious. But I've learned that its not that God's ways are mysterious but that his ways holy. God is holy and all He does is holy. Only that which is holy is good. God is good, his ways are good and all he does is good, even giving me the "gift" of cancer. (I know that is sounds weird, but less so when one has "the mind of Christ".) I have always had a kind of peace about the authority behind God's ways. It is His acting on that authority (sovereignty) that sometimes troubles me.
God is not only "holy" (good) and has the right (authority) to do all His Holy Will, and He indeed does all His holy will. Here Wolfe's book was a blessing to my attitude toward my cancer and indeed my whole life.
There is another word that goes with "sovereignty", an old word we rarely use -- "providence". The old puritans in particular talked a lot about the "providence of God". I never really thought much about God's providence until I was diagnosed with bone-marrow cancer. Since then I not only live under God's authority (sovereignty) but now I am newly aware of His providence, his actual doing all His holy will. Since my diagnosis God's providence has become a preoccupation because it's in my face. I cannot escape the fact that it is His holy will that is done, not mine!
There are great theological definitions of "providence" out there in the "theocloud" of confessions, systematic theologies, doctrinal dictionaries and the like. I think of it as God causing, permitting, directing and managing the affairs of all things for His Glory. If sovereignty is God's authority to do His holy will, providence is His actually doing that holy will.
This book was an immeasurable help to me and it had immeasurable impacts on my life. Here is how it worked for me. My "faith-tradition", if you will, includes this little question from The Westminster Catechism: What is the chief end (purpose) of man? Answer: The chief end (purpose) of man is to (a) glorify God and (b) enjoy Him forever. The latter (enjoying) is the result of the former (glorifying). How can I "enjoy" God with this incurable cancer and how at every level it has turned my life upside down? How can I enjoy anything with the physical, psychological/emotional and financial pain of Multiple-Myeloma?
Now this might not calculate right to some, but I think others will see the math of it, so to speak. God's "providence" is His working out all things for His glory; managing all things according to His holy (good) will; directing all things according to the often unknowable purposes of His will. On the other hand I am His creation, a "critter" made in His image who is supposed to glorify God so that I may enjoy him forever! Being the finite critter I am I have no means to second guess God actually doing His holy will.
If having cancer brings glory to God, then I accept that on His authority (sovereignty) God gave me or allowed me to have cancer (providence) which glorifies Him in heaven and on Earth. In having cancer I AM glorifying God who is holy (good). While it is a hard providence it is a good providence and in time I have actually become humbled that God would glorify Himself by choosing me and gifting me -- YES GIFTING! -- this cancer which in fact is an opportunity to tell the world my God reigns in the affairs of my life. He is hosed with glory through the spigot of my Multiple-Myeloma. My cancer glorifies God because it affords me a profound opportunity testify of Him and it enables me to fulfill the very purpose of my life--"To glorify God and enjoy Him forever".
My cancer gives me a path to also "enjoy God" because I have a tangible means to glorify Him by calling you, anyone and everyone to worship God for He directs the affairs of all things, like my cancer, which by definition is good because He is good who gave it to me, and because it also gives me a vehicle to tell you about his mighty works and that He is the God of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ.
How does that work? How is cancer "good for me" at a personal level. Well that is "higher spiritual math". Just like calculus is harder to understand than simple arithmetic, so is understanding how my life is better, how God is good and glorified by things like my cancer. Simply put, there is more for me through the cancer than the cancer itself. (Read that 2x)
The apostle Paul had an incurable condition he called a "thorn in the flesh". He prayed three times that God would take it away. God did not. Why? Paul tells us he had become prideful (strong) because of the revelations he had from God. I think he was saying he was turning the spotlight on himself, glorifying himself, because his revelations from God made him a "big-deal".
But the more Paul was prideful, aggrandizing himself, making himself a big-deal (strong), the less God was glorified because Paul was sucking-up all the glory for himself. So God gave him an incurable condition (thorn in the flesh) to humble him and remind him it is God who gets the glory not Paul. It was through the thorn that Paul spiritually grew in this area of his lie, now recognizing his sinful pride (strength). So repenting Paul became again humble (meek) so that God would get the glory Paul was giving to himself. It was through the thorn that God made this change in Paul's heart. God used the thorn to grow Paul's soul which was far more important, far better than the pain of the thorn itself. That is why Paul began to call his thorn a gift. Yes, he saw his condition, his thorn, as a gift from God: "...a thorn in the flesh was given to me...", i.e., a thorn was gifted to Paul because there was more for Paul through the thorn than the thorn itself. You can read about it in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.
Pulling it all together: Like Paul's thorn, my cancer is a gift from God to grow my soul! That's right, cancer is a gift! I know that might not calculate, but if you can do the higher spiritual math you will see it does and the answer is correct. God is glorified through my cancer. Through His providence God gave me the gift of cancer that I might fulfill a great purpose in my life, that I might glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That I might help others understand how their cancers or other conditions are God's vehicle to grow them spiritually, to draw them closer to God, to likewise glorify God so begin enjoying Him now and forever. It is through PROVIDENCE God does this, and that Mr. Wolfe helped me understand in new and unexpected ways.
I can't think of another better book I would give to another person with a life threatening disease. It's been five years since I was first diagnosed with Multiple-Myeloma and I'm still here. That too is a gift of God, one He chose to give me. Rather or not I am here five years from now is God's choice, His business. The longer I live past my first diagnosis the more I understand it doesn't matter so much if it's one more year, one more decade or one more minute. What matters is that I fulfilled the main purpose of my life, to glorify God and enjoy him forever, which includes today.
Earlier I spoke of cancer as being a hard-providence. When I was first diagnosed it was. But after the chemo therapies, stem cell transplants, and more it has become something else, a "gift", a gifted-providence, a privilege, because in my cancerous weakness God is glorified, and that is the chief end of my life, to glorify God. I now understand how Paul could say: "And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
During the year following the onset of cancer, God will increase Wolfe's faith and devotion to God and will teach him to trust completely in God. Mr Wolfe's test of faith prepares him for his next step in service to God as Associate Pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia.
This read will certainly increase the reader's ability to trust God to handle whatever test or trial may be occur as one's life unfolds.