Living in Light of Eternity
About the Guest
When someone battles through cancer, and then receives a clean bill of health, something remains--a nagging shadow of doubt. "Am I cured?" "Will it return?" "How long do I really have?" For Matt and Lauren Chandler, these and other questions find their ultimate answer in the Chandler's robust faith in Jesus Christ.
When someone receives a clean bill of health after battling cancer, a nagging shadow of doubt remains.
Bob: When Matt Chandler was diagnosed with a brain tumor, doctors told him that the prognosis was not good. They expected him to live no more than two or three more years. This Thanksgiving will be the three-year anniversary of that diagnosis. As of today, Matt’s scans are clear. He is cancer-free, but the ordeal is not over for Matt.
Matt: They’re still fully-convinced that this takes my life and takes my life in under a decade. They’re still fully-convinced of that. So, those are some of the things that you kind of have to continue to learn to walk in and learn to just kind of, once again, open-handedness in this. You know, “Lord, I want that. I want to throw the ball with my boy on the beach when he’s 16. I want him to be able to take trips with me. I want him to be able to do those things; but You are better, ultimately. I want to voice to You that I trust You. If You want to call me home, then, let’s go; but I’d like this—”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How do you walk by faith when the path God has you on is a path through the valley of the shadow of death? We’ll hear about that today from Matt and Lauren Chandler. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Have you ever thought, somewhere in the back of your mind, when you’re in the midst of a challenge, a struggle, that you’ve tried to be good and maybe you don’t deserve what—
Dennis: Oh, absolutely! It’s like, “Lord! Do You not know what Your servant has done for You recently?” [Laughter] It’s totally arrogant.
Dennis: It’s totally—it is terrible theology.
Bob: It is.
Dennis: It’s not the way God operates. He doesn’t give us what we deserve. If He did, we’d be crispy critters. He’d fry us because we don’t deserve good things to happen to us all the time.
Bob: That’s right. We’ve been hearing, this week, from Matt and Lauren Chandler. Matt is the pastor at the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, just north of the DFW Airport. He and Lauren have three children.
Three years ago, on Thanksgiving—they are coming up on the third anniversary of Thanksgiving weekend—where Matt had a seizure. The doctors found that seizure was because of a stage-three brain tumor—a tumor that, first of all, they said, “It’s got to be removed.” Secondly, they said, “These are deadly tumors.” They gave him a two to three years prognosis. They said, “Even if we remove the tumor and do radiation, two to three years is the life expectancy.”
As I said, they are coming up on three years. Right now, the scans are clear; but I had the opportunity to talk with them about what it’s like to live with this, in the back of your mind—literally and figuratively—as a couple. The reality that the doctors have said, “This is probably going to kill you sooner rather than later.”
Dennis: I think a story like this, Bob, needs to have the bookends—on the front and the back—of Scripture. I’m going to read the same passage twice because there are listeners who are going to identify, maybe not with the severity of the news that Matt Chandler heard, but with their own set of trials and suffering. First Peter, Chapter 4, verse 12, says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you as though something strange were happening to you; but rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may be able to rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”
All suffering has purpose. God has a reason for allowing suffering, for taking us through periods of suffering. Our character is refined; our character is revealed. As you are going to hear in Matt Chandler’s story today and in his wife, Lauren, you’re going to hear up-close and personal how two people—two good people; but nonetheless, broken people—process some life-shattering news.
Bob: You’ll hear how they deal honestly with that news, transparently; and yet, how they deal with it in faith at the same time.
Matt: Really, as a man who is not looking to escape—I love my wife deeply, I love our children deeply. I love our family. I love coming home. It has been one of the great gifts of God and one of the great joys of my life to be given the family that I’ve been given and the wife I’ve been given. I don’t just love my wife. I really enjoy Lauren—one of my best friends. I’m getting to like her more, and more, and more. I’ve always liked her.
So, to worry about, “Do I get this future? Do I get to be 60 and sip coffee with my wife in the morning? Do I get to be an empty-nester? Do I get to come back around in my 50’s and just have my wife to myself again, and have our home where we’re not cleaning dirty diapers, and we’re not having to magic-erase marker off the wall, and we can actually have nice stuff that doesn’t get destroyed in a year-and-a-half/two years, and really kind of enjoy one another?
But then, to look at this very real possibility of early—I don’t think anybody leaves early; right? But to leave, honestly, before I thought I would. It created in me—really, what the Lord stirred up and showed me is that I had some idolatry in my life. I had some confidence in me and my life—that, ultimately, is the kind of idolatry that you would never get in trouble for.
The Lord had to just really graciously go, “You love them more than I do?” or, “You’re a better provider for your wife than I am?” or, “Really, all your hopes and dreams about your family are built around you?” Those were the kind of gut-checks that the Lord was having with me in those early days. Then, one of the gifts He gave me—one of the really sweet gifts He gave me is that it was alright to mourn and alright to ask Him for things that maybe sounded selfish.
So, believe He’s sovereign, love Him more than anyone or anything else in the universe—but I want to walk my daughter down the aisle. I do. I want to see my boy become a man. I would love to see him get married. I’d love to see him be a daddy. I’d love to have grandbabies. I want those things. It’s not idolatrous for me to want those things.
Like everything else, I just need to have an open hand and say, “You gave me the breath. You gave me the life. It’s Yours to do with as You please; but ultimately, I have these desires, and I don’t think they are wicked desires.” That was some of the internal wrestle that was occurring as I was staring death in the face; but simultaneously, really wanting, what I think are real gifts and joys that God gives in means of common grace. He gives to a lot of men—even men who don’t love Him. That was the wrestle that was going on in my heart. God was stripping from me maybe some closed handedness and maybe some pride in my life towards the kind of husband I was and the kind of father I was because if you asked me, “I’m doing it right.”
Do we have Bible studies in our house? “Yes.” Do we worship as a family? “Yes.” Do we pray as a family? “Yes.” Do we engage our kids with grace and try to point them toward—their hearts toward Christ, all the time? “Constantly.” Are we perfect? “No.” But are we doing what the Lord would command us to do in the Scriptures? As a husband, am I? “Yes.” As a father, am I? “Yes.” Is my wife doing the same? “Yes.”
So, I had—God, help me. I had kind of, “You owe me this,” in my heart. I had no idea it was there. I had no idea it was there. Really, that was some of the wrestle that I was going through in those early days.
Bob: Lauren, did you, in these days, start to think about, “Okay, if we only have two years, I want to make sure we do Hawaii. I want to make sure we do this”?
Matt: We had already done Hawaii. [Laughter]
Bob: Did you start to go through the check list of, “Here’s what’s on the bucket list”? “Let’s get this done. We’ve got to get prepared for if I’m going to be a single parent.” Were you doing all that?
Lauren: No. I really believed that Matt had more than two to three years. I really felt like the Lord just said, “Today. Let’s just think about today.” Honestly, it’s interesting just what the years leading up to that had done—the Lord had done in me. I had a couple of miscarriages. I’d gone through some loss and—where you go through that thing of, “I don’t want to hope, and I don’t want to plan because then I’ll be disappointed.” But getting to just hope and just let that—like Matt said, letting that hope be in the Lord and what He would have. Have these desires, but being open-handed about them; and then, trusting the Lord that He would just bring what we needed.
When he was—early on in his ministry—we were newly-married. I would just get nervous when he’d fly, and I’d be home. I’d be afraid if something happened to the airplane, and I was left single—especially when I was pregnant with Audrey. In my mind, I’d play out these scenarios. I would play out, “Okay, who could take care of me?” That ended up putting just this wedge between us in our relationship. I didn’t even realize it. The Lord convicted me of making this Plan B and showing me that I was not trusting Him by making up Plan B. I was really causing a rift between our relationship, in my heart and mind, by making a Plan B and not being completely where I am. So, I’ve had years of guarding my heart and my mind against that when this comes into play.
We’re doing this Galatians study—Tim Keller’s Galatians study—with our church. He talks about—in Galatians, where he says that He has prepared, in advance, the good works that we would do. He points out that He prepares us for these good works that He has coming for us. I think for so long I had read, “Okay, He’s got these good works, and I’ve got to keep my eye out for them because I might miss them,” —but really focusing more on the Lord preparing us for these good works that He has for us to do. We’re not going to miss them because He’s shaping us so that we can walk through these good works—and just really seeing those years, leading up to this trial, as preparation—like He had been preparing me to deal with “two to three years” to just be, “Now,”—and to not have a Plan B, but to just trust the Lord for each day.
Ultimately, what I get, because I’m His, is Him. That’s really the only hope that lasts. That’s only the desire that’s fulfilled. It says, “A hope deferred makes the heart sick;” but there is a place where I can put hope where it’s not deferred. It’s in Jesus—that there is a desire that can be fulfilled. It’s intimacy with Him and knowing Him. Whether that means get two to three years with my husband or I get 20 to 30 years with him, just trusting Him with each day and not getting too far ahead of Him and of the grace that’s for that day.
Bob: Matt, when you get a headache now—when you start to get a headache, do you start to go—?
Matt: My doctors had been on—like every one of them—have been brilliant in coaching me through this. What I mean by that is—yes, anytime the weather changes, anytime the pollen kicks up in the air, anytime I get a headache, I go, “Oh, man! Is this it? Here we go.” Finally, I went and had a scan—a scheduled scan—and it was clear. I was, “Phew!” I just talked to my neuro-oncologist and said, “Hey, I get”—I have to remember, “I got headaches before this. I had some allergies before this,” because every time I get a headache now, every time I’m fatigued now—
One of the ways that the tumor was signaling—that we were unaware of before the seizure—was I’d kind of become anti-social. I didn’t want to go to parties. I didn’t want to go to events with a lot of people. I just thought the growth of the church and the pace of life that we had been living had made me a bit of a recluse, but what was happening was the tumor and where it was located was really making me kind of withdraw. So, anytime I feel like that, anytime Lauren’s like “Hey, what do you think about going to this deal with the Bleakers and the Pattersons?”—good friends of ours—and I go, “I don’t really want to do that.” I find myself now going, “Oh, no, no.” —“Let’s do it. Let’s go do it.” [Laughter]
I did have to figure out how to—well, what we call it is “the new normal”. I had to figure out the new normal. I have to preach to myself far more. Another really residual effect emotionally and spiritually from this journey is you just have morbid thoughts, all of the time. We were on vacation last year in Florida, and we’re playing on the beach. My son and I are just kind of digging in the sand. He’s five at the time. I see this teenage boy throwing the football with his dad. I mean, I have the thought, “I wonder if I get to do that.” I would have never had that thought before.
They opened up a new hospital here in town—a really nice kind of hospital, right down from our church. When they opened it, I thought, “I wonder if I’m going to die there.” Those are the kinds of thoughts that you are constantly having now—that I have to kind of hold in check. My wife laughs at me because she’s like, “What if we all die there? What if everybody we know—maybe that’s where we all go and die?”
Or on vacation, we took some pictures with some friends. In my mind, I’m like, “Hey, in that little video-thing they play at funerals, is this going to be one of those pictures?” It’s just like you’re stuck in that line of thinking because it’s very real. In some strange ways, it’s what Moses asked God for, “Teach me to number my days.” God’s kind of given this to us as a gift because I’ve still got to actively go in for scans regularly. They’re still fully-convinced that this takes my life and takes my life in under a decade. They’re still fully-convinced of that.
So, those are some of the things that you kind of have to continue to learn to walk in and learn to just kind of—once again, open-handedness— “Maybe I don’t, but maybe I do.” You know, “Lord, I want that. I want to throw the ball with my boy on the beach when he’s 16. I want him to be able to take trips with me. I want him to be able to do those things; but You are better, ultimately. I want to voice to You that I want these things—I desire these things, but I trust You. If You want to call me home, then, let’s go; but I’d like this—” That’s kind of the rhythm I’m in with the Lord.
The irony is, even talking with Lauren, that day on the beach—I mean—I go back that night. I was like, “Hey, I had this thought.” She was like, “I was thinking the same thing on my chair, reading my book.” It’s become this point for us, where we’re just really honest about, “Hey, this is a thought I had. I don’t want to hold that thought to myself. I want to share it with you.”
We’ve found some real peace with each other in this journey by me not harboring all these fears or her not harboring all these fears—kind of this joint rhythm of we want to express our desire for this before the Lord, while simultaneously saying, “But what You want is better than what we want. What You want will bring more joy than what we’re saying we want.”
Bob: Are you emotionally at the place where it’s, “Lord, if You’re ready to take him, let’s go”?
Lauren: No. [Laughter] I mean, I want him here. I want him here. I’m not at the place where, “If the Lord wants him, that’s fine.” I mean, I want him here. I want him here for decades, but I trust the Lord.
Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to Matt and Lauren Chandler as they have been sharing with us—bringing us into the middle of what life is like when you’re living with a diagnosis like they’ve received—that Matt’s brain tumor, his cancer—which, by the way, everything is clear right now. The news is good today; but the doctors say, “It’ll likely come back, and it’ll likely kill you.” Good reminder for us to be praying for Matt and Lauren—
Bob: —and for strength, and for hope, and for faith for them.
Dennis: I agree. I encourage our listeners to do just that. When something happens like this, you take a step back, and you go, “Why is this happening to me?” But the Scripture that I read, at the beginning of the broadcast, I want to read again—First Peter, Chapter 4, verse 12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when”—when, when—“it comes upon you to test you as though something strange were happening to you.” All of us are going to experience trials. We’re all going to die. You’re going to die of something.
The question is, “When bad news comes, are you ready for it?” Have you been building the faith muscle so that, at the time the bad news occurs, you’re ready to flex it? Don’t wait to start living when you get the news that you’re dying! You need to start living today. Jesus Christ holds the keys to life.
I think the message that Matt and Lauren Chandler have for all of us is, “These were lives that had been built upon the rock of Jesus Christ.” They’d been obedient to Him. So, when the floods came and the winds blew and beat against their house, it didn’t fall. Was it shaky? Was there fear? Was there doubt? Was there authentic processing? You better believe it. I can’t say I would handle it as well as they did, but here’s the question, “Everybody is going to get that kind of news, at some point—
Dennis: “What are you basing life on? Who are you basing life on —the words of Christ, in the Scripture, or of mankind?”
I have to quote—in my Bible—across from 1 Peter 4, I have this quote by the British theologian, John Stott. He was speaking of Christians who don’t have a biblical understanding of suffering. He said this, “Some Christians grin too much, and they groan too little.” They’re going through life, thinking that life is a lark and just having a good time. You know what? We’re all going to groan. We’re all going to groan. You don’t have to wish it upon yourself. It will happen; but you have to be ready, in the midst of the groaning, to walk by faith in Jesus Christ.
Bob: I had the opportunity to hear Matt and Lauren share the story we’ve been hearing this week when I was with them down in Dallas. We were working on details for the upcoming Super Saturday event—the Stepping Up™ Super Saturday event that’s scheduled for Saturday, February 2, 2013. That’s the day before the Super Bowl when we are joining with hundreds of churches, around the country, for a one-day rally—a video event for men that features Pastor James MacDonald, and Robert Lewis, Crawford Loritts, Voddie Baucham, Matt Chandler, Tony Dungy, Bill Bennett, Dennis Rainey, others—an event that is designed to challenge men to step up and be men.
Your church can participate in this Super Saturday event. In fact, you can lead the event at your church. All you have to do is get in touch with us, and let us know that your church is open to participating, and that you are willing to have guys come be a part of the event in your church location. If you call us today and you say, “We’re in. We’re going to be hosting a Super Saturday event at our church February 2nd. Here’s our church location—” we’ll send you, free, the event kit, the DVD’s, a workbook, what you’re going to need to be able to host this event. Again, we’ll send it to you free. All you have to do is pay for the shipping and the handling. The DVD’s and the workbook come to you absolutely free.
Call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like to join with us: 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. If you need more information about the Stepping Up SuperSaturday event or you’d like to see a little bit of what’s going to be involved, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and click on the button for “Super Saturday”. You can get the information you need there. Once again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Let us hear from you. We’d love to have you join us for this special event on Saturday, February 2nd. We’d be happy to send you out the event kit, at no cost, if you’re ready to sign up and register your event with us.
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Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”. Make an online donation. Then, you can select the blended family resources that you would like to receive as a thank-you gift—either Ron Deal’s book, The Remarriage Checkup, or a couple of CD’s for stepmoms and stepdads. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone and ask about the resources that we’re making available for step- or blended families. We’ll be happy to send one out to you as a thank-you gift.
Again, we so much appreciate your partnership with us. It’s a great encouragement. We just want to say, “Thanks for being a part of the team, here, at FamilyLife Today.”
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. Hope you can join us back on Monday when our friend, Voddie Baucham, is going to be here. We’re going to talk about the kind of young man he’s looking for to be an acceptable suitor for his daughter. What kind of guy is he going to have to be when he comes asking for Voddie’s daughter’s hand in marriage? We’ll talk about that on Monday. I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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