04 Oct Part 4 – Making the Most of YOUR Now!
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)
In January 2006, Dr. John Piper was diagnosed with prostate cancer. On the eve of his surgery he wrote a powerful message entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”. Just a couple of months later his dear friend and colleague, Dr. David Pawlison, was also diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he later added his comments to Dr. Piper’s original message. Their words inspired me three years before I was ever diagnosed. The message was a game-changer for me. It had never occurred to me to look at adversity of any kind as a great and rich “opportunity” to be maximized and not wasted. Even the opportunity of cancer. Because it’s not just about making it through cancer. It’s about making the most of cancer. It’s about making the most of the opportunity your have right now… whatever your “now” happens to be.
You waste your cancer when you are consumed worry, when your fear drives you to endless Internet searches about the cancer within you, or what the doctors are saying, what patients are saying, worrying if you have the best and right medical attention, worrying if you’ll have a reoccurrence… worrying until cancer becomes a ferocious mental preoccupation that consumes your every waking thought. Yes, it is good to acquire knowledge about what you’re experiencing. But allowing this knowledge to consume you with fear and worry is a waste of the opportunity God has given you. I considered deeply the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” The original Greek word translated “evil” means full of labors, annoyances, hardships; great trouble, pain…
Shortly after I was diagnosed I received an email from a godly woman whom I esteem and admire greatly. Her words were few, but profound, “When I learned of your diagnosis my first thought was, ‘Lord, you must love Punky dearly to trust her with something as important as this.’”
That’s when it hit me: “There’s an opportunity here.” I held onto the truth that the cancer card that had been dealt to me had first been shown to God, and in His great love a mercy He considered it all, seeing the end from the beginning, and said, “Yes, I’ll allow it”. This wasn’t a curse. I didn’t do anything to deserve this cancer. It wasn’t a punishment. God wasn’t holding a grudge against me. No, He was holding out a gift to me. A gift in disguise. My job was to open it up and put it to use.
I prayed, “Lord, I don’t want to waste this. Help me to make the most of what You’ve given me.” That prayer was my sanity. I began to focus on how I could do cancer well, and walk this adventure out in such a way that put the focus on God:
• At every doctor’s appointment a group of dear friends would join me not just to support and encourage me, but to pray that we would “be a blessing and bring a blessing” to every single person we’d come in contact with at the hospital and doctor’s offices, the diagnostic and imaging lab, the waiting rooms. We prayed for doctors, nurses, staff, technicians, attendants, receptionists, patients…that we would be Jesus to them in some way. And we had many opportunities to pray with folks along the way.
• Shortly after my first surgery I received an email from a man in our church whose young wife had just been diagnosed with very early stage cancer. She had two very young children and was devastated. He asked if I’d be willing to reach out to her, which I immediately did. Within a week we’d met for coffee, shared our fears, some tears, our faith, and a lot of hope and encouragement… and Kathy Anderson and I became the dearest of friends…“Bosom Buddies”. I would have missed one of the greatest blessings to come out of breast cancer had I refused to open the gift and reach out in love and friendship.
• My list of “Bosom Buddies” grew as I continued to meet with and encourage women who were newly diagnosed and in need of someone who spoke the same “language”. These life-on-life relationships forged through one of the most challenging seasons of life, knitted together with pink ribbons, and flourishing in the faith became for me the most precious of friendships. More gifts from the Great Physician, Healer, and victorious God Himself. Gifts I would never have had the joy of opening had it not been for the opportunity and gift of breast cancer.
When life pitches you a curve ball you’re apt to cry, “Why me?” But do you ever ask why not me? When you get up in the morning and have a perfectly good day I bet you don’t typically question it. At least I don’t. So on those not-so-good days, like the days you find out you have cancer, well, why not you then? Here’s my point: We’re asking the wrong question when we ask why. The question to ask God is what. What would you have me do with what I’ve been given?
Here’s the deal: Some of God’s greatest gifts come wrapped in some pretty ugly paper. But they’re gifts just the same. Your job is to open the gift. You can cower in fear, or you can step out in faith. You can get all self-absorbed or you can give yourself away. But in order to make the most of your now you’ve got to open the gift.
What “gifts” have you been given that are still waiting to be opened? Considering Dr. Piper’s message, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”, it can be applied to just about any adversity we encounter:
- Don’t waste your divorce
- Don’t waste your chronic illness
- Don’t waste your financial crisis
- Don’t waste your handicap
- Don’t waste your ( fill in the blank )
Don’t miss your opportunity. Take it to God, whatever it is, ask Him to help you unwrap the gift, and make the most of your now!
I love y’all!
xo – P♥️