I sat terrified in a somber, white-coat environment, waiting to hear from the doctor after my recent test results had come back. I was not expecting to hear, “You have a brain tumor.” After that prognosis, I really did not comprehend much more. When you hear those words, life seems so fragile.
How could this happen? I was 22 years old and the epitome of health. I was a competitive dancer and avid runner. People like me do not get brain tumors, or so I thought. When you are young, you tend to think you are invincible. Yet I was given the gift of a life shattered for my good and God’s glory. In trial our dreams sometimes die. Then we are forced to consider what really matters and what is really important.
After I ingested all the information of my predicament, we decided to go into a six-month waiting period. The tumor was in a place that was not ideal for a successful operation. We decided to wait six months and see what happened.
False Gospel Exposed
These six months were one of the hardest waits of my life. But in the wait God teaches and grows you. However, I had many professing Christians (tainted by a false gospel) saying things to me that I did not expect: They blamed me for the tumor. These people meant well, I think, but they had a distorted view of God and suffering. Some said I had the tumor because of unconfessed sin. But didn’t Jesus take all of that sin on the cross (1 Pet. 3:18)? Some said that I did not believe enough about God’s healing power. But doesn’t God require faith the size of a mustard seed (Matt. 17:20)? These popular false beliefs are not helpful to the sufferer and are sinful because God rebuked Job’s friends for saying similar things during his time of affliction (Job 42).
Even as my body decayed, the prosperity gospel posed a greater threat to my heart and soul through these foolish, unbiblical words. But God had a greater plan. This trial drove me deep into the Word of truth where I got to know God and His character. I learned that the Bible isn’t about me as much as it is about God. He is central, not me. He was actually using this trial to expose the lies of the prosperity gospel both to me and those around me.
Biblical Lessons Learned
This time of knowing God and his true character was the best thing that has happened to me. From a more accurate understanding and careful study of God’s Word, I learned several lessons.
1. He will never leave me or forsake me (Heb. 13:5).
2. He cares for me more than I can imagine (Rom. 5:8).
3. He sent Jesus for my sin and the sin of the world (John 3:16).
4. Jesus came for the entire groaning creation, and He will one day make all wrong things right (Rom. 8:18-21).
5. Heaven is my true home, and for now I am a pilgrim journeying homeward (John 14:3).
6. Life is a gift, and only God knows the number of our days (Job 14:5).
7. The fire of affliction is the place where God really grows us (Is. 48).
8. Affliction is a wooing toward God (Hos. 2:14).
9. We learn to grow in Christ-likeness amid affliction (Hab. 3:19, Rom. 8:28-29).
Though sickness stems from sin in this present world (Genesis 3), it does not result from my sin alone. Though faith is important to please God (Heb. 11:6), it is not why some people are well and others are sick. God sends the rain that floods and the rain that nourishes on the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matt. 5:45). But only the believer knows, “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
After that long six months of waiting, the tumor ended up shrinking to a small spot. Today it has vanished. But not because I was living in super faith; some of the super faithful are never healed this side of Heaven. It is just the path God has laid out for me. He intends all things for our sanctification and His glory. We must be a people willing to learn to trust Him in good and bad and say with Job, “He gives and takes away, blessed is the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Though the brain tumor is gone, I continue to face affliction. I have learned much about how to respond to those who despise weakness. Do not let false gospels lead you astray. Do not dismiss affliction, for in that place of weakness God can show himself strongest. Learn to lean into him, pray to him, and trust his greater plan.
Angela’s story originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition February 9, 2015.