Uncertain Journey

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”  James 4:13-15

Uncertainty is a problem for me.  I have talked already about how I am a planner and a scheduler.    For years I have seen time as the great equalizer.   Rich or poor, talented or not, and regardless of our education we all have the same amount of time in the day and the more that we can accomplish in a day the more successful we become.  This involves planning ahead so that some tasks can be combined within the same time frame.  Focusing on managing time has enabled me to pack more into my life, finding ways to juggle work, home, and church commitments.  Planning has also helped me to cut some things that I knew I didn't have time for, such as hobbies that I would like to pursue or sports seasons that I would like to follow.  I have often said that I don't have any hobbies, don't have time for them.

All of this is dependent on life being predictable.  Uncertainty is the enemy of planning.   Until January this year, besides minor allergies and occasional bugs, I had been blessed with great health, not just for me but for our whole family.   All of that changed in January.   Suddenly I found that not only could I not plan for a year down the road, the next week, even the next day became uncertain.   I didn't know if I would feel physically capable tomorrow of what I what I could do today.  Overnight what was predictable in my world became uncertain.  Early on in my sickness I was so weak that even walking across the room would tire me out. In some ways the uncertainty then was easier to handle.  At that time I was physically so limited that everything was overwhelming to me.   For instance, I tried for over three weeks to find the energy to make a phone call to the bank to work on the process for a loan but eventually made the decision to not move forward with purchasing a house because I honestly did not have the energy to speak to the loan officer.  So much of my life in the months of February through April came to a grinding halt as I simply didn't have the strength to do very much but try to survive the cancer that was draining the life out of my body.

Then by the end of April, following my first week of chemo things began to turn around. Although still not at full strength I began to feel more like myself, and then the planner part of me wanted to start kicking in.  I found myself frustrated recently when chemo got delayed because it forced me to change some other plans.  But, I'm beginning to realize that however I feel, my life for the foreseeable future,  is going to remain in limbo.    I finished my 3rd round of chemo this past Monday.  This coming week I have a CT scan to determine our next steps.  Just so happens that my next visit with the oncologist is on my birthday, so I am full of faith and hope that I will receive GREAT birthday news and be able to announce that I am through with chemo! If that happens it will be an amazing day and please be praying with me for that.  However, should that happen the uncertainty is not over.  At the very least I will need ongoing scans and doctor visits over the next 5 years to keep a check on things, at any time a scan has the potential to change my world again and throw a huge wrench in my plans.    What is beginning to settle into my mind is that this planner must get used to uncertainty and that is not sitting well with me.  

Although this is a problem for me I am beginning to realize that my predictable life really has never been as planned out as I thought it was.  As I look back over the last few years I see many things that happened that I didn't expect.   Changing work situations, raising children, moving into different ministry roles, have been huge changes that I didn't anticipate.  In March of 2020 when the pandemic hit, all of our worlds were thrown up in the air, and we had to deal with not only health concerns but government restrictions which impacted everything we did from work, to church, to eating restaurant food.   Looking back over the last 20 years of my life I see that as much as I thought I was in control of my schedule, my planning was at best an educated guess.   This doesn't set well with me but it is a very important revelation.    It's a revelation, that I'm only beginning to realize, God has been trying to get through to me for a long time.  

It is the uncertainty of life that Jesus is referring to in Matthew 6:34 when He says "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."   It's what the book of James is referring to when he says not to plan for tomorrow for we don't even know what is going to happen, but "instead say if it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."  I am finally beginning to see, although it is still very difficult for me to accept, that uncertainty is what should be expected in life.   Learning to live more in the moment and focus as much as possible on the things that are "important but not urgent" will make our lives richer and more rewarding.  Knowing that plans can and will change and that tomorrow is legitimately not guaranteed helps us to keep in our mind the things that really matter the most.  Uncertainty helps me to remember that just packing as many chores into a day as possible is not the most important thing in life.

And so as I write this blog I can actually see that the ongoing uncertainty of my health condition is a gift from God to keep my life priorities as they should be and I believe will result in better, more healthy relationships with my family, church, and others that God has put in my life.   With God's help (and it will take His strength) this planner is going to embrace uncertainty as James 4 and Matthew 6 directs us to do and in so doing will make my life and the life of those around me richer.   Ultimately I want to live with an eye on eternity and allow the unpredictability of life to help me focus on things that one day when I'm in Heaven I'll be glad I did rather than just packing my planner full of things that only mattered at the time.

Thank you so much for taking time to read this blog.  I pray that it has blessed you. If so, please comment and share.   I am now going to continue on with my day to see what happens, because I truly don't have anything planned for the rest of my day.  Maybe if I quit trying to pack so much into a day I'll discover I actually have time to develop a new hobby.  It's a new world for me but I'm excited to see what happens next!


Kelli Sluder - June 12th, 2021 at 12:50pm

This was a blessing to me Matthew! All of us get caught up in the day to day of life and tend to forget what’s truly important! Continued prayers for you and your family! We sure do miss you at work!

Matthew Chapman - June 12th, 2021 at 5:25pm

Thank you Kelli! I really appreciate the prayers & hope to see you all soon!!

Tina Miller - June 12th, 2021 at 1:31pm

I loved reading this! You give me so much comfort even in your own struggles. I have been praying for you and will continue to do so! I hope we all get to share some GREAT birthday news with you!

Matthew Chapman - June 12th, 2021 at 5:27pm

Thank you Tina! Great hearing from you. I’ll be praying for you as well.

Diana Price - June 12th, 2021 at 3:31pm

Praying for healing and restoration for your birthday.

Matthew Chapman - June 12th, 2021 at 5:28pm

Thank you Diana! Very grateful.

Carrie - June 13th, 2021 at 7:33pm

This is so very true for all of us, Pastor Matthew. That same scripture really gripped me earlier this week. May we all learn, as you are, to live trusting the Lord and holding our plans loosely before Him. He has ordered our every step! Much love and big prayers for you and all the Chapmans! I’m hoping and praying with you for a great birthday report! 🎉 Happy Early Birthday!!! So thankful for you!

Matthew Chapman - June 14th, 2021 at 2:11pm

Thank you Carrie!! We make our plans but the Lord directs our steps!!

Brenda Shupe - June 13th, 2021 at 10:26pm

Prayers for strength and healing. Your blog is truly a blessing to me!

Matthew Chapman - June 14th, 2021 at 2:12pm

Thank you Brenda. That means so much. God bless!!

Elizabeth - June 14th, 2021 at 2:56pm

Matthew, every week I read your blog and I am blown away with how you are rationalising your situation, with the wisdom from higher places of course! You are so right about how we plan so much but this COVID journey has helped me to be more flexible too! I will be thinking about you on your special day...22nd June and hope it will be a double celebration. You MUST write a book because you are gifted in your insights. As long as your lovely family get to spend lots of quality time with you too! X

Matthew Chapman - June 15th, 2021 at 9:12pm

Hi Elizabeth. Thank you so much for your kind words. You have been so encouraging to me. I am planning on writing that book. Got to work on the first part of it. I believe some of these blog entries will make up the middle part of it. I promise to not let writing the book take up family time 😊. Love ya.

Tammie Fenner - June 16th, 2021 at 9:43pm

Matt - Your blogs are an inspiration 💖 Many prayers going up for your birthday and for good news 🙏🏻🙏🏻 I pray it will be a great day of celebration. God bless you real good 😊

Matthew Chapman - June 17th, 2021 at 12:32pm

Thank you Tammie!!

Patsy Laws - June 22nd, 2021 at 10:42am

Good Morning Matt, You have always been an inspiration to anyone you came in contact with ! I will pray for you and your family and for only good news coming your way .

Matthew Chapman - June 25th, 2021 at 8:28pm

Hi Patsy. Thank you so much!! God bless you.