until Christ is formed in us...
Dear friends and family:
Many of you probably know by now that on Thursday March 2nd, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). For some information on this disease, you can check out http://www.nationalmssociety
.org. Our doctor told us to stay on the ".edu" or ".org" sites when investigating medical issues on the internet. Basically, MS is a disorder that comes about when the immune system attacks a person’s central nervous system. As a result, the coating of nerve tissues is stripped and communication is interrupted between the brain and areas which the CNS affects. MS has no cure and there are several different forms of it. It affects no two people the same, so it is a wait and see approach to learn how the symptoms manifest in my body. I feel really good right now, except for numbness and tingling on the right side of my body. Some inflammation in my brain caused some minor short term memory loss and slurred speech. MS can give me a good excuse for losing stuff now!! The symptoms have been more aggravating than painful. I am taking an aggressive round of steroids daily at my home via an i.v. My neurologist is hoping that the steroids will minimize the inflammation of my brain, so that
my symptoms will subside. After the steroids, I will take an injection every other day for the rest of my life or until they find a cure that will hopefully minimize or stop the effects of MS The medical research in the past 15 years has made multiple sclerosis a much less scary disease. The doctors tell us that it shouldn't affect life expectancy and that 75% of the people with M.S. do not have to use a wheel chair. In fact, some cases can be totally controlled.
In spite of all of this good medical news, our trust is not in statistics or in medical reports. It is in the sovereign God of the universe. We are humbled that our small present difficulties pale in comparison to what many of you are going through and what many of you have been through. However, our hope is that we can encourage others with the hope that we have by telling you what we have learned.
God has been good in giving us a reminder of the reality of the time between the times, when creation is groaning for reconciliation and redemption. Right now the universe is broken and filled with sin. One day it will be perfectly restored. The breaking down of my body has reminded me of my falleness as part of a rebellious creation and Adam's seed, and of the only One that did not suffer sin, death, or decay. It is a refresher that I am part of this falleness, and that I am in desperate need of a savior. It urges me toward hope in a final resurrection of the body in which sin, disease, and sickness shall be no more. It points me to a Christ that has
and will crush sin, death, and Satan under the weight of His foot. It directs me to the gospels, where the witnesses of Jesus' miracles ask, "Who is it that the elements of nature obey, that casts out demons, and who heals sickness?” The resounding sound of the scripture answers "The Lord Mighty in battle!" I have been reminded that this is not our home and that the sovereign God of the universe is working His plan out according to his good pleasure and will. I have been encouraged by Job that we should accept good and adversity from the hand of the Lord. Paul has exhorted me that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. His own perspective is that God does this so that we might not rely on ourselves, but on Him who raises the dead. Paul understands
that God's power is made perfect in his weakness. How sweet it is to meditate on the goodness, wisdom, and sovereignty of our Abba Father!
It brings no hope to Elicia or myself to hear of a God that could not have prevented me from acquiring multiple sclerosis. Can the Ruler of the universe not prevent evil, suffering, and sickness? The answer according to the scripture is emphatically, "yes." While we know that sin, death, and evil came about because of man's rebellion, we must remember that God's sovereign hand oversees even those things. Look to the book of Job and see how much power Satan has apart from God's allowance. Job attributes his suffering to the plan and design of God. Throughout scripture, we see this. When Joseph was sold into slavery, nearly murdered, and thrown in prison as a result of his brothers’ sin, he declares "what you meant for evil, God meant for good." In other words, God uses evil, suffering, sickness, and death to accomplish His purposes. He is not author of these things, but is in control of them. Paul sees his trials in 2 Corinthians 1 as instruments
from the hand of the Lord to teach him to rely on God. The greatest example of God using evil and suffering is in the crucifixion of Jesus. In their own rebellion and sin, the hard-hearted Pharisees horrifically crucified Jesus. However, We read: "this Man [Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. Acts 2:23-24 (NASB)"
Do you see it? Man is still responsible for his sin, but God is in control of all things. Where would we be without God's plan to use evil to accomplish His purpose on the cross?
Another problematic question we often have in relating to suffering concerns personal sin. Personal sin at the root of suffering is always a possibility because we know that God disciplines His children when they rebel, and He does this in various ways. However, we must see in scripture (i.e. Job, Paul, apostles, etc.) that God uses trials and sufferings to bring himself glory and to make us more like Christ (Romans 8). It is clear that sickness and suffering is a part of the fallen world, not personal sin necessarily. Sin and sickness are ultimately a result of man's sin in the fall and now sin reigns. People who say that it is always God's will to heal his
children are exactly right. The only problem with this type of teaching is that it promises healing in this world. When we consider the Christians of the past who have died, we can conclude that God didn't heal them in this life. So did God forsake them? No, this world is fallen, and, yes, sometimes God heals, but sometimes he doesn't (see Paul's thorn in the flesh). Our prayer should be that God would be glorified in our healing. We should pray for healing! However, we must remember that ultimately healing comes in the new heaven and new earth. When God promises physical healing, sometimes it is in this life and sometime it will be fulfilled in heaven. We are waiting for the moment that Jesus will return and stomp out Satan, sin, and death forever. Until then, we live in a broken world
and it is not always God's will to heal a believer in this world.
In light of all this truth, I want to encourage you to believe with us that God is in control of all things, and He knows what is best for His children. Ultimate comfort comes when we rest in knowing that not a sparrow falls from the sky apart from His will and that he cares more for us than the sparrow. Please pray for my healing. Please pray for Elicia, who is the most wonderful wife and encourager that I know. But more than that, pray that God's name would be glorified through our battle with MS and that people would come to know the Lord. His purposes can be mysterious, but we know that He is good. We love you and appreciate your prayers and encouragement so much. Please forward this on to anyone that might be interested. We hope that you will be encouraged in your own personal suffering to trust in God.
Brad and Elicia