If you’ve been reading my blog or followed me on Instagram for any length of time, you’ll know that I am Christian. This blog post isn’t about quilting, or creativity or business tools particularly; it’s about a book that I’ve read recently, written by the pastor of my church. I should add that this is an unsolicited book review.
Almost four years ago, David McDonald, who is now the pastor of the church I attend, was diagnosed with Stage Four Terminal Inoperable Lung Cancer and was given not very long to live. Although I don’t know him very well, I still remember the shock I felt when we heard – healthy almost-fifty-year-old non-smoking pastors who are about to plant a new church in Darwin aren't supposed to get Stage Four Terminal Inoperable Lung Cancer.
By the grace of God, Dave now has no evidence of disease in his body and is still passionately teaching people about the Bible and Jesus, as well as still receiving three-weekly chemotherapy treatments.
Two years ago, Dave wrote a book about his experience, Hope Beyond Cure. It has taken me until now to read it, I’m not sure quite why. I bought it Sunday morning and finished it in one sitting on Sunday night whilst listening to Jonas Kaufmann’s glorious singing and with my dear son asleep next to me.
A little over four years ago my son got very sick and spent three weeks in hospital. For some of those three weeks we didn't know if he would live – it was the scariest thing I’ve experienced as a parent and I pray that I never have to again. He still has health ramifications from this event and catches everything that comes his way. This is the book I would have benefited greatly from reading at the time, had it been written then, although paradoxically I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind in the midst of it.
Christians and non-Christians alike have differing attitudes to death. At the time of my son’s illness, a well-meaning person who should have known better told me not to worry because if my son did die, we were certain that he would go to heaven and be with God. Although true, it’s not what you want to hear when your toddler is lying with tubes coming out of everywhere and the doctors can’t tell you what’s wrong. For three weeks we prayed desperately that God would allow him to live. Another person decided it was appropriate to tell me that it would have been better if we withheld treatment and let him die, as by letting him live we were changing the timing of his death and thereby allowing him to suffer further later in life.
So, what of the book? Dave starts by talking about his diagnosis and the weeks that followed – he is blatantly honest about his feelings as he faced what he thought was his imminent death. It was refreshing to hear that someone whose job it is to teach the Bible and encourage others about God was questioning God at a time of intense pain. I have an idea that “successful Christians” (what a ridiculous term that is!) are somehow above doubt and have got it all together.
The book moves on to ask the question – “if there is no cure, is there still hope”? Dave then clearly and methodically gives the reasons why Christians believe that God provides a Hope Beyond Cure. He references the Bible often throughout the book. The tone of the book is genuine and very straightforward without being at all condescending. Most importantly, it discusses the fact that Jesus was proved to be historically real and that His death and resurrection can therefore be trusted. It is aimed at people who have either experienced suffering, or are caring for someone who is and who is searching for answers.
One of the hardest things about suffering is that God doesn't promise to ‘fix’ everything for us. I have had chronic, often daily migraines since I was a teenager. I have prayed more times than you could imagine for them to be gone. This book served as a gentle reminder that as a Christian, there are no migraines, cancer or illness at all in heaven (happy day) and that we will be given new bodies, suitable for our new life there. There will be a time when there is no sickness, disease or death because Jesus conquered death when He died and was resurrected.
Another quote from the book that stuck with me is - “don’t let the good become the enemy of the best”. I've read that a number of times recently in a number of different places and it’s something I need to constantly keep in mind. We can get so caught up in the day to day minutiae of life and forget what is actually important. Facing death puts things in sharp focus.
So, what will change for me as a result of this book? As the risk of being terribly corny, it has encouraged me to live a more “authentic” life, one that is worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). This means there are changes to be made, specifically around the food I eat and the way I budget my time, most particularly the effort I put into building and expanding my business. Both are something I’ve been working on for quite a while now – perhaps this book has given me the impetus to keep going and not give up and indeed to step it up a notch.
I would encourage you to read this short book if you have ever wondered if there is reason to be hopeful. The book is available via Matthias Media. To read more of Dave's blog posts, most specifically about his journey with cancer, go to www.hopebeyondcure.com or www.macarisms.com.
Happy Quilting 🙂