In May of 2012, a gastrointestinal surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital told us that, unless he performed surgery to remove cancer from John’s colon, my husband would die in a matter of weeks. Two months earlier, the same doctor told him he had the cancer.
I obviously didn’t like his diagnosis, and feared that (because of John’s Post-Polio) the operation would actually hasten John’s death. But thankfully, John trusted the many people who assured us that he had one of the best surgeons in the country, and based on their testimonials he trusted the surgeon.
John is alive today because he believed the bad news that he would die without surgery. The bad news caused anguish that I can’t begin to describe, and I wanted more than anything to deny its truth and behave as if nothing had happened. Yet, accepting the bad news eventually led to the inexpressibly wonderful news that I’d have more time with my marvelous husband. Looking back, I’m very grateful for the surgeon’s brutal words.
I’m even more grateful that Jesus spoke brutal words about human depravity, declaring that I could only escape eternal damnation by repenting of my sin and trusting that He alone would secure my entrance into His Father’s holy presence. I didn’t enjoy opening the Bible only to have it expose my selfish heart. But I needed to be confronted with the truth of my spiritual cancer.
Hungering for a way to have God’s blessing on my life, I scoured the Bible for wisdom. I didn’t understand much of what I read, particularly when it quoted Jesus. But one small sentence from His Sermon on the Mount spoke to me with unmistakable clarity that cut me to the core!
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. ~~Matthew 5:8 (ESV)
I knew how dreadfully impure my heart was, so I knew how damning the Lord’s words were. They brutally condemned me to an eternity separated from the God I longed to know. They condemned me to an eternity in hell.
I’d heard about Jesus’ love all my life, but these 11 words seemed savage and unyielding. Would He really judge my sin that harshly?
On January 20, 1971, the Holy Spirit used a high school classmate to tell me that Jesus died to pay for my sins. I’d wanted, mind you, her to add that He therefore provided salvation for all people, whether or not they followed Him…but she insisted on telling me the truth that salvation comes exclusively to those who believe in Jesus.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~~John 3:16
The “bad news” of such a narrow way of salvation came as gloriously good news to me! It offered me the eternal life that my inherent sin nature would have denied me. The Gospel came as good news precisely because the Holy Spirit had first graciously spoken the bad news of my spiritual cancer and my need for the Great Physician to take radical measures. I’m eternally grateful for the Savior’s grace to speak brutal words.