I've Seen the End of You

Day 1 of 5 • This day’s reading


Not Everything Is Going to Be Okay

I’m a brain surgeon. I’m a Christian. A man of science and a man of faith.

Years of training and experience have filled me with knowledge, facts, things that are always true. Things I know. And I’m a firm believer in God’s desire and ability to heal, to repair, to make things right when all the doctors believe there’s no hope.

But sometimes my beliefs and my knowledge smash into one another. 

I spend a lot of time with patients who have terminal illness. Among the worst of the diagnoses is a brain tumor called glioblastoma, or GBM. For a long time, when I worked with these patients, I felt stuck in a crossfire between my faith—God can heal our disease—and my knowledge—This disease is 100 percent fatal.

How could I navigate this as a Christian who’s also a scientist—a scientist who believes that medicine doesn’t provide all the answers to life? My upbringing and my basic personality lead me to say, “Everything’s gonna be okay,” but when GBM is the diagnosis, everything is not going to be okay.

I have seen people face the worst diseases known to humanity who stood up to the test and became the best version of themselves they could possibly be, despite their bodies losing to their illness.

And I have witnessed people miraculously survive incurable cancers, people who were, nevertheless, rotted and malignant humans by the time they were “cured.”

What does this mean for us who are trying to find our way through life’s tribulations? That was a question I couldn’t answer before I experienced my own personal suffering: the sudden death of my nineteen-year-old son. The most important surgery I would ever perform would be the stitching to­gether of my faith, my doubt, and the things I thought I knew. 

I’ve come to realize the difference between survivors (even those who perish) and the dying (even those who live): the survivors have a prism—faith—that allows them to see through the pain and hardship to the hope and purpose and beauty in their lives.

The trick is to hold on to the light of faith in the darkest shadows of our experience.

What makes it hardest for you to hold onto your faith?