After the coldest night in the UK for 25 years (-17 degrees Centigrade) I felt well enough to go to church yesterday morning. I wrapped up well, a wise choice because it was very cold in church. It was good to be there and to see my friends - it must be 7 weeks since I have been. The sermon was on David and Goliath and I found it very helpful.
This past week's symptoms have been increasingly difficult. They are mainly the effect of the irinotecan which causes colic and diarrhea. Buscopan is only partially helpful. The meeting with my oncologist was encouraging. I discussed with him whether treatment every two weeks was essential. He told me that quality of life was important and I could go to three-weekly if that meant I could more easily complete the 12 courses. I will certainly have a three week gap over Christmas, but I am contemplating having treatment on December 11th rather than the 4th.
Last week was a particularly bad week for side effects and they were beginning to get me down. At one point I found myself very angry at the whole situation. I know that anger is part of the experience of most patients with cancer, but I have always been able to approach my illness pretty rationally.
My angry thoughts were, "Why has this happened to me?" "What did I ever do to deserve this?" "It's not fair!" "Why does God let this happen to me?"
Yesterday's sermon certainly helped me.
Like Israel I was facing massive problems. Mine mightn't be nine feet tall like Goliath, but it seemed too big for me to tackle.
But whereas to the Israelite army Goliath seemed unfaceable, to David he was an uncircumcised Philistine defying God. David not only had a proper view of Goliath, he had a proper view of God: not a leader who had gone missing, but The LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel.
David was also able to look at himself clearly. He knew that he had been anointed secretly by Samuel; he knew he had killed the bear and the lion when protecting his father's sheep; and he knew the hand of God in placing him precisely where he was to do the will of God.
Instead of complaining of our lot, we need to be aware that God is working his purposes out in us. If we were only given tasks that we could easily accomplish on our own, then we would easily claim the credit. But we are faced with tasks that overwhelm us and frighten us and come close to defeating us. Why? So that we realize that we need the Almighty Lord to accomplish them.
When we feel alone and deserted, then we need to turn to God - not blaming him for leaving us, but confessing that it is we who have stopped looking at him.
Psalm 10 begins: Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
But it ends: The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror.
The story of David and Goliath is well known. It was not the triumph of a littl'un over a big'un as it is popularly portrayed. It was the triumph over an upstart by the Almighty God who fights evil with good, lawlessness with justice, hate with love and haste with patience.
If there is a God, say some, let him wipe out poverty in Africa, sort out the cholera in Haiti, deal with the North Koreans, round up the drug-dealers, punish the pedophiles, stop the people trafficking, and rid the world of prostitution, pornography, murder, robbery, political corruption and fraud.
But God looks at robbers and murderers, prostitutes and pedophiles, drug dealers and even politicians and sees people who might be redeemed by the blood of his son, if they only had a second chance. So he waits.