Brain Tumor a Blessing?

He has made all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Sometimes, when the answers to our prayers are slow in coming, we wonder if we can truly trust God.  Could there be an unseen purpose behind His delay?  My friend Bethany learned that God may have reasons which we don’t understand until later.  She also came to realize that His timing is for our good and His glory.  Above all, He can be trusted.

GUEST BLOG: By Bethany Kortekas

“A brain tumor? I have a brain tumor? Lord, we have been going through tests and doctor appointments for the last two years for unexplained infertility, and now a brain tumor?”

Adam and I have been married for five years and were excited about having a family. When we were not able to have our own, we started exploring our options: adoption, foster care, kidnapping, or even not having children. We talked to several families about their journey and discovered embryo adoption. When a couple has gone through In Vitro Fertilization, the doctor uses the couple’s eggs and sperm to create babies for them to carry. Sometimes a couple is not able to carry all of the children created by the doctor in this process. Currently there are 600,000 embryos in medical storage waiting to be implanted or donated to science.

When we realized that we could adopt embryos and still experience childbirth ourselves, we were excited to start the process. We put our profile on Miracleswaiting.org and told friends on Facebook to pray with us. A friend out of state contacted us and suggested she talk to her co-worker. This lady had four embryos left and had recently been asked by her medical storage to donate them to science. She had agreed and had all the paperwork notarized, ready to mail that day, when she got the call from our friend that we wanted her embryos. It felt like a sign that God had saved those babies for us!

However the normal legal work and medical approvals dragged from weeks to months. The implant we had hoped for in December pushed to January to April and then finally in June, I went to the doctor about something unrelated and they discovered something. The doctor found that I had a tumor on my pituitary gland, which is right between my eyes. The doctor explained that this tumor grows off of the hormones that increase during pregnancy. If we had become pregnant on our own or if we had been able to implant our embryos when we had hoped to, the tumor could have grown to impair my vision and I could have gone blind!

Now, I am not sure how you view prayer, but it can be easy to assume that if you have a good enough request, God will give you whatever you want when you want it. Sadly as Christians, we can become so self focused that we forget about the sovereignty of God. Our God has the whole picture.  All  of the past, every angle of the present and all of the future. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

Did God know that I had tumor that could have blinded me if I had conceived a child? Absolutely! Was any of this a surprise to Him?  Did it mess up His plans for us to adopt four embryos? No! If He says wait to my prayers, I can trust that He knows best.  He is orchestrating things for our benefit or for the benefit of others. As I look over my life, there is no doubt that I would rather have God’s best for me than whatever I originally picked out. My vision is too small and my choices are too self-serving.

Currently my tumor is under control with medication.  We’ll find out the results of our implant in May, and I have to be honest. I am hoping for twins! However, we know that whether these first two embryos will finally rest in our arms or in the arms of Jesus, that prayer is a power tool to remind us that God is in control. We do not have to worry about the future because God is using His timing for our benefit that ultimately gives Him the glory. What an incredible security that gives us as we pray!


Trained by our Trials

Trials are the food of faith. –George Mueller

I’ve been thinking a lot about how hard it is to wait for answers to my prayers. God’s delays can be frustrating. For an impatient person like me, waiting can be one of life’s more difficult trials. When God seems silent, I can fall into the trap of thinking that if I just pray harder, memorize more Scripture, or pound harder on the gates of heaven, I can move God’s hands.  And I have to admit. I do love those times when God gives an immediate “yes” to my prayer. But more often, I find the answers are painfully slow in coming.

I’m not always a good sport when God says “Go slow,” or “grow,” or even “no” in response to my prayer request.  Sorry to say it, but I can sound a bit like my friend’s three-year-old daughter who, in the middle of a tantrum, howled, “But Mommy, all I want is what I want when I want it!” Isn’t that how we all feel at times? What’s so wrong with wanting what we want when we want it…especially when what we are praying for is a good thing?

I’ve come to learn that even though my prayer may be within God’s will for my life,  I may still have to endure lots of waiting before the answer comes.  I look at our three grown children and remember how fervently I prayed for them. The long years of infertility sometimes left me wondering if we would ever have babies. I persevered in prayer for a total of about 108 months. And though God did heal me and I finally got my “answers,” the journey required much endurance and many tears on my part.

So why didn’t God just give me those babies when I wanted them? I probably won’t know all the reasons for His timing until our first conversation in heaven. But I will tell you this. I don’t think a drop of the waiting was wasted. From a purely practical standpoint, He knew just which children He wanted to give us and the precise moment each of them needed to be born. But beyond that, I truly believe He used those long months to prepare me to be a mother.  That season of my faith journey also drew me much closer to Him.

I believe that “wait training ultimately prepares us for our dream.  God knows exactly how to use the times of waiting for our good and for His glory.  Someone once said, “We grow great by our dreams.” That may be true, but we are trained by our trials.  So stand firm, dear friend.  Let’s draw encouragement from God’s Word as we wait for the answer to our prayer.

Consider it sheer joy, my brothers, when you encounter various kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance carry out its intended purpose, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4 MOUNCE).

 

 

 

 


Waiting for Hope

If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:25 ESV).

 Are you waiting for something? Maybe it’s the fulfillment of a dream or the resolution of a long-standing problem.  You’re waiting for a spouse, or a baby, or a wayward child to come home.  Or you’re anxiously awaiting a medical diagnosis, waiting for healing, waiting for hope.  Whatever you’re waiting for, I’m sure you’d agree that waiting is hard work.

When we wait, our hearts hope for something we can’t see.  There’s no earthly guarantee that what we hope for will ever come to pass.  We risk disappointment.  That’s why hope can be scary.  It requires both faith and courage.

Many of us decide that hope is too dangerous, so we play it safe. Better to lower our expectations. Adjust to life without dreams. Be a good sport. The problem with playing it safe is that we close ourselves off to the life giving beauty of hope and the rewards of patience.

The Bible encourages us to wait for hope “with patience” (Romans 8:25).  Instead of patience, some translations use the word endurance. What does it mean to wait with endurance?  We discover an interesting secret by looking at the Greek word for endure, hypomeno.  It actually comes from two words:  hypo or “under” and meno or “abide.”  Meno is the same word Jesus uses when He encourages us to abide in him (John 15:7).  So hypomeno, or endure is to “abide under” a time of trial as we wait for hope.

Bottom line?  We learn to stand our ground as we “abide under” our circumstances and “abide in” Christ during our times of waiting.   Abiding will help us hold onto hope as we wait with endurance.

Will you be able to stand your ground as you wait for hope?  It’s a muscular journey and you can’t endure apart from Jesus.  Resolve to abide in Him daily.  Rely on the Holy Spirit. Stay filled up with God’s Word.  Wait for hope with endurance. 

Ponder this thought: Abiding in Jesus helps you endure as you wait for hope. 


Watch for His Return!

Look Up! The personalized license plate on the car in front of me caught my eye. Look up!  Two simple words right out of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus was reminding His followers to pay close attention to the signs of the times.  “So when all these things begin to happen,” He explained to them, “stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28 NLT).

Today is Easter, a time when believers all over the world celebrate a risen Savior.  The Resurrection of Jesus changed everything. But there’s more to the story. He is coming back.  How fitting that Easter Sunday is the final day of our 21 Day Watch. We’ve been watching for signs of God through His Word and His work all around us. And we’ve been alert to His perspective of world events—God’s big picture.

Jesus also wants us to be watching for His return.  But I’ve noticed that some people become so fascinated with the “end times” that they retreat into a form of  spiritual escapism. Is this the best we can hope for?  Clinging by a thread of sanity while we wait for Jesus to rescue us from this messy world? Surely we were made for more.

What does it look like to be ready for Jesus’s return?  I like Paul’s instructions to the church in 1 Peter.  These believers were fiercely persecuted.  They were always in danger of getting killed so they had plenty to worry about.  Early Christians lived  in continual readiness for Jesus’s soon return.  So Paul reminds them to live with the end in mind.  But he doesn’t tell them to become obsessed with signs, retreat to a survivalist community, stockpile their goods or take up arms. He simply tells them to be ready by living as faithful believers:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:7-10 NIV).

Dear friends, we are Easter People! We’re to remain alert and watchful so we can pray, for prayer helps us stay connected to God. We’re to love each other in community, forgiving one another, inviting others into our homes. We’re to serve each other and share God’s grace using the gifts and resources He’s given to us. We’re to share His Good News with the least and the lost at home and around the world.

We keep watch for Jesus’s return by being faithful.  We remain ready by doing the same things  we should be doing every day. We keep watch by doing God’s will. Then when Jesus comes, He’ll find us ready for His return.

Come soon, Lord Jesus. Keep us alert and watchful. And while we wait, may we be faithful to answer Your call to a hurting and broken world.  Because of Easter! 

 

 

 

 


Day Twenty: Share His Joy

This is Day Twenty of our 21 Day Watch.  I hope you’ve noticed God in ways you may have missed if you hadn’t been watching.  I’ve become more aware His tiny whispers and answers to my prayers.  And it’s made me wonder.  How many times have I missed seeing God simply because I wasn’t watching? Watching takes energy. It requires alertness.  But it’s so worth the effort.

We become more watchful when alert to danger. For Christians in many parts of the world, these are dangerous times. Kenya is still reeling from the Somali terrorist attacks on Christian college students that claimed over 150 innocent lives. Reports continue to pour in from Iraq and Syria where Christian communities suffer at the hands of ISIS. We’re tempted to become anxious when overwhelmed with so much bad news.

But we can learn to calm anxiety by enlarging our view of God. That’s why we’re asking God to open our eyes to His Word, His work, and His big picture.  I remind you: God is not caught off guard by troubling world events. Nor is persecution of Christians a new thing.  As Paul tells Timothy about the many hardships he’s endured for his faith, he reminds him:  Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12) NIV).  Now that’s a Bible promise we don’t often hear often quoted.

I have traveled to many countries where Christians are persecuted and I’ve noticed a curious thing. In places where believers suffer most intensely, their joy seems to be the most vibrant.  For example, I was talking to a friend from another country whose ministry takes him throughout the Middle East.  I wondered how he dealt with fear, since he faces danger daily. He was rather nonchalant as he answered, saying simply, “Oh, I’ve just learned to trust God for protection.”  Then he went on to talk about his absolute joy at seeing so many in his part of the world who are meeting Jesus for the first time.  I noticed the same joy and lack of fear among evangelists I met recently in India.  These men and women were so filled with excitement as they watch the growing number of new believers, despite growing persecution.  Do you suppose their joy in sharing the Gospel makes anxiety about personal issues seem small in comparison?

Their example has inspired me to become more watchful for opportunities to share God’s love with others.   I have a friend who is getting to know Jesus for the first time, and I must admit. Seeing her faith spring to life gives me incredible joy.  I suspect Jesus is especially close by when we’re telling others how much He loves them.  After all, it’s what He’s called us to do.  And as we’re faithful to His Great Commission, He promises to be with us.  He gives us His Presence.  We share in His joy. What on Earth could be better than that?

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).