Creating God In Our Image
The picture above was taken when in the doctor's office this past week. Before I get into updating you on my recent health news I wanted to share what has given me the ability to stay positive through this journey. It has not just been my strength of will as I am sure that would have failed but it has been my image of who God really is. I have recently been reading a study by A.W. Tozer called "The Attributes of God." In fact, I plan to preach a sermon series on the subject at church starting very soon. God's "attributes" refer to the character of God and the things that are unchanging (according to the Bible) about who He is. Things like His goodness, love, omnipotence (all powerful), omnipresence (everywhere at once), omniscience (all knowing) as well as less fun things like His holiness and judgment. As A.W. Tozer says "what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." I believe one of the main problems we have in our lives, and how we deal with our struggles, is we don't really know how God defines Himself, so we create an image of Him (much like the Israelites did in the wilderness with the golden calf) and then when He doesn't match up to our image of who He is we can lose faith. It can be very traumatic when what we thought God to be ends up being very different from our experience.
One of God's attributes, His goodness, has spoken to me very loudly over the last 6 months or so. Two days before this past Christmas a family in our church, who those at our church are all very close to, tragically lost their 12 year old son in a devastating accident. It was one of the most emotionally overwhelming experiences I have ever been through. At that time God led me to Lamentations 3 where the Prophet Jeremiah lists all the terrible things going on with Israel at the time (it was a really bad time for his nation) yet in the middle of tremendous heartache and devastation he declared that "the Lord is good." I began to speak about God's goodness at that time of great loss and continued to do so as my body got increasingly sick ultimately leading to the diagnosis of cancer. I believe it is being convinced of God's goodness that has brought me hope during this trying time. I have truly never once thought that God had afflicted me, abandoned me, or forgotten me. He is good, so He is incapable of doing those things. That doesn't mean what happened to me (or any of us) is good, but it means that His thoughts and actions towards me are good. I have been sure that good would be the end result, even if that meant the end of this life, good would somehow come.
As I write this I know that there are some who will read this who have experienced terrible pain and trauma in their life, much more than I have gone through, and after such experiences it can be hard to believe in God's goodness. So... we tend to create God in our image. We sometimes see God as one who changes towards certain people, we either think we can earn His favor in our lives if we behave a certain way or we decide that if He exists He was unwilling, or incapable to help us at our time of need. However, as we grow in understanding His "attributes" we are closer to knowing Who God is according to how He defines Himself rather than how we define Him.
This was on my my mind after I met with the doctor on my 48th birthday this past week. I happened to view my last CT Scan through the app on my phone just before I went in to meet with him and it looked really good! There were only 2 places identified on the scan (where previously there had been 4) and both were listed as "mild." I was excited to see evidence that the treatment was working and that so many of your prayers were being answered. I was feeling even more hopeful that the doctor would give me great birthday news and say "you are all clear, no more treatment needed." Unfortunately, although he agreed that the scan was really good, and he said it did not look like I would need surgery (all really good news), he also said that according to treatment protocol I needed to have a 4th week of chemo. He had spoken to the doctor at Duke Hospital and he had agreed with him. I told him I was really hoping to not need any more chemo as I was feeling so good and the scan was so positive, but he insisted that another week of chemo was necessary. As good as the news was from the visit, I found myself fighting discouragement as all I could think of was another week of treatment, followed by a week of fatigue and having to be "social distanced" from people I love for up to 2 weeks after my last day of chemo. I sensed at the time I was being short sighted but I couldn't shake right away the discouragement I felt. On top of it all I had prayed for a "birthday miracle," that no more chemo would be needed. My prayer had not been answered as I had hoped.
As I mentally processed what had happened and began to prepare myself for another dreaded week of chemo my mind went back to the goodness of God. I began to remind myself that God is good all the time. He did not have a "bad day" and not feel like answering my prayer as I had asked, He was not angry or neglectful of me. He is still Who He is and therefore I can trust Him through whatever life brings me. So... with His grace I will face another week of treatment asking for Him to somehow use me through this for His glory. Maybe this final week of chemo will, as my wife Cherish told me, "cut off the head of my giant." Or, perhaps there is someone I will encounter next week that needs some encouragement that I can give them and if I stayed discouraged I would miss that opportunity. Whatever the reason, I KNOW that God is good so I can trust Him to be with me and for me through it all. This is truly the source of my strength. It's not just having a "positive attitude" because if I had to rely on my ability alone I would have capsized in my emotions long before now. I am not not saying I have God figured out. I'm continuing to grow through this time in an understanding of Who God really is, not how I have created Him to be, and I'm finding it is truly inspiring to me. It is my prayer that through the prayers that you pray and the scriptures that you read that you will endeavor to do the same thing. Throw out the "golden calf" of any pre-conceived notions of God's character and let Him show you who He is for Himself. It's refreshing, powerful, and it will give you hope.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog. I am hopeful that it has blessed you. If so please share it with others. God bless.
Matthew, you have always been a Blessing to us, but even more now as we have read your Blogs and prayed for your speedy recovery! You are teaching me to be grateful in my afflictions! Compression fractures in my vertebrae have had me down for almost 2 yrs. GOD has never left my side during all the pain and you remind me of HIS LOVE IN THE TRYING TIMES! ✝️
Hi Janie. SO GOOD to hear from you. I have been praying for you as well. I have missed seeing you but it is good to hear your trust in God is strong. Praying He strengthens & brings healing to you. Would love to see you sometime soon.
I enjoy your blog and messages. You are inspiring in your faith and trust in God. I know that people have learned a great deal about facing and dealing with adversity through your walk with God. May he continue to bless you through this next round of chemo and the side effects that make it so overwhelming.
My thoughts and prayers are with you, Cherish and your children. If there is anything I or my family can do for you please let us know.
Debra. Thank you so much. I’m grateful for your kind words & for your prayers. Praying you are blessed real good today!