Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Glioblastoma and King Asa

Glioblastoma. The word was in the news' headlines last week when Senator John McCain announced that he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable brain cancer.

I remember the day I first read that word. On May 12, two days after a MRI showed a tumor in Ed's brain, I read over Ed's radiology report. I saw the words "Assume glioblastoma until proven otherwise" and a few keystrokes later had googled "glioblastoma." The startling statistics made me quickly exit the page and hope the pathology report would indeed prove otherwise. But ten days later the diagnosis came back: Glioblastoma Multiforme or GBM.

There are some words that almost instantly define who you are. Words like orphan, quadriplegic, blind, refugee, and GBM. For Ed (and for Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy, Beau Biden, and so many others) life can become defined as before GBM and after GBM.

I've had lots of time in the past two months to consider our reactions to a health crisis.

The first reaction is often fear. We are confronted with something we cannot fully control. We fear suffering and pain, both physical and emotional. We are afraid of the medical decisions, treatments, side effects, and the unknowns. We fear death and separation.

Anger is another option. When God allows our health to be taken, we find out how important our health is. Sometimes health has stolen the place that belongs to God and become an idol. When we lose something that we think belongs to us, something we think we deserve, it is easy to become bitter.

I've heard Ed say more than once in the last weeks that we don't think we are that person in James who boasts about what he plans to do. (You can read it here in James 4:13-16.) But when you are told your life, without a miracle, may be measured in months instead of years, you realize that God is right (of course) and that life is truly a vapor. Ed and I are trying to heed the command "For that ye ought to say, 'If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.' " (James 4:15)

I think it is normal and right to desire life. We want to care for our bodies as the temple of God, (1 Cor. 6:19) and God gives us wisdom to research cures for illness. I have spent hours reading medical information on GBM and the fine print of clinical trials. I could possibly find hope in the statistics that say that Ed's age of forty, his good health, and the location of his tumor all are to his advantage. But I think it is wiser to look at our human frailty and place our hope in God alone. 

A few weeks ago a Home Joys reader brought the story of King Asa to my attention. When Asa was a young man faced with an attack from a huge army, he prayed "Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power; help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude." (2 Chron 14:11)  And the Lord delivered Asa from his enemies and he experienced years of peace.

But when Asa was 36 years old, another enemy came against his country. This time, instead of calling on God, Asa took the gold from the temple of God and sent it to a neighboring nation asking for their assistance. And it seemed to work; they were able to drive out the enemy.

But God sent Hanani the prophet to King Asa. Hanani reminded Asa of God's deliverance in the past and told him "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." (2 Chron 16:9) He predicted that Asa would now have wars because he had not turned to God.

Did King Asa repent and turn back to God? No. He was so angry with the prophet that he put Hanani in prison. He also began to oppress his people.

A few years later King Asa had a disease in his feet. The Bible says that it was an "exceeding great" disease. Maybe God was hoping that a physical illness would help Asa see his need for God, but 2 Chronicles 16:12 says that "in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians." At age 41, the king that had started his career serving God and destroying idols, died. 

The lesson is obvious. When we look at the facts of our human weakness, especially evident with a disease like glioblastoma, we must trust God. Sometimes God's best answer to our prayers is a glorious life with Him. We don't have to fear the death of our physical body, but should fear the spiritual death that comes from a soul filled with bitterness. (Matthew 10:28)

O Lord our God, we rest on thee.


  1. These are wise words. Thank you.

  2. I love this post! Thank you for sharing. You are so good at expressing your thoughts in words. I, myself and many others are blessed by your gift. God is good. www.merryheartcrafts.com

  3. May you and your family continue to be strengthened in your faith and trust in him, whatever the days hold. Thank you for your openness.

  4. I think you've got it! And how beautifully written. I think that God wants nothing else from us than our fellowship and trust in Him.

  5. The wisdom in your words is amazing. I find myself in awe at the way you are able to share your thoughts and your feelings with us in this, probably the most difficult time you've ever faced. I thank you for this thought-provoking post as I thank you for all of the others that you've shared. My prayers continue to be with you and Ed and your family. May God bless you abundantly.
    Blessings, Betsy

  6. What a beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing your words, thoughts and life with us.May God continue to bless you and your family.

  7. Thank you for sharing this while you're going through this trial. Praying for you and your family.

  8. I am in awe that you write what you do..so inspiring.. in the midst of such trials. Whether you realize it or not, you are ministering to many! I have always been convinced that the Lord uses us when we aren't looking. You may think of it as small, but believe me, dear friend...it is mighty, and much needed. Bless you, and continued prayers from here!

  9. Once again, you've expressed thoughts beautifully as you're in the midst of this hard! Continuing to pray for you and yours, and thank you for the timely reminder! Randy & Eunice

  10. This post was very inspiring. I have walked the cancer journey and i understand your feelings. God is faithful Always!

  11. Though it might be hard, I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking us along this particular journey on which you and your family are traveling. I believe there is an impact you are making in my husband's and my life...and all the other readers. This entry forces us to think about many things. What a great reminder that spiritual death is far more serious than physical death.
    Oh dear Lord, please continue to hold up Ed, Gina and family.
    And help us all to hold our lives in an open hand before You.
    We need You, Lord; every hour we need You.

  12. Some things we are called to do are difficult but will bring great blessings that will unfold with time. Ultimately, God is love and love will sustain your family now and into the future. I have been a widow for 17 years. I was pregnant with our last (and a surprise at that) when my husband was called home. I did not choose this and in my weakness I would not have chosen this if allowed to choose even though my family has had such amazing blessings in these 17 years. It is difficult to navigate life without a companion but how could I deny it has brought us so close to God. Each day is a blessing with a lesson to learn. I will pray for peace in your hearts and family and that you can see and love the lessons in your life.


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