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Finding God's Goodness Even in Suffering (Part 2 of 2)

Air Date 11/30/2017

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Pastor Peter Chin and his wife, Carol, talk about the struggles they experienced while planting an inner-city church, including a miscarriage, cancer diagnosis and home break-in. They discuss their fears, disappointment with God, and the miracles that happened along the way as they worked through their faith. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Carol Chin: And that’s when it clicked. And I said, “Is it something bad?” And he - he explained that there was - it was cancer. And that was the only thing ringing through my head after that point - cancer. I have cancer.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: No one wants to hear a doctor’s diagnosis of cancer or another serious illness, but that’s what Carol Chin was faced with a few years ago. It was just one aspect of difficulty and suffering that she and her husband Peter had to wrestle with. This is Focus on the Family with your host Focus president Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller and today: a look at God’s plan for suffering. How He can work through it and how He’s blessed the Chin family in the midst of sorrow.

Jim Daly: John, we heard quite a story last time from Peter and Carol Chin to build up our faith. And what a sweet couple they are. It’s unfortunate they’ve had to deal with so many hard circumstances but they are an inspiration to all of us and it’s not unique to them-- I know many listening right now are going through difficult times as well. Peter and Carol shared about planting a church in the inner city, having a miscarriage, having their home burglarized, then Carol’s diagnosis with a serious and rare form of breast cancer and a very unnerving health insurance mix-up on top of all of it. Get the download or the CD of the broadcast last time, ‘cause it’s packed full of encouragement in the midst of pain and you can get the complete story in Peter’s book that we’re offering called,Blindsided by God. Peter is a pastor in Seattle, Washington and he and Carol have five children.

Body:

Jim: Peter and Carol, it is so good to have you back. Thanks for being with us again.

Peter Chin: Thanks for having us.

Carol: Thank you. Yeah, I’m glad to be back.

Jim: Carol, I want to keep the story moving forward, because in the midst of this diagnosis with breast cancer, you found out you’re pregnant.

Carol: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, OK, you have that history of the miscarriage. You have breast cancer, and now the doctor says you’re going to have a baby. How did you react to that? And what was the doctor saying about your ability to carry a child, to give birth to a child? And all the fears you must have had that being pregnant during cancer treatment - what that could do to your child - process that for us.

Carol: Yeah, it was - it was crazy. January 5th was the day that I was scheduled to go in for my surgery - mastectomy. And - um - we’re going through all the regular routine preparations for surgery. And I was waiting to meet with the surgeon to go over the procedure. And before then I had, you know, given different samples. And they run their tests because I’m a woman. They have to check if I’m pregnant or not. And she came in and looked at me and said, “Carol, you’re pregnant. I’m assuming you’re keeping the baby, and everything is going to be fine.” And I just sat there. I didn’t have words.

Jim: What a blast of news, I mean, when you think about the context of what you’re there for...

Carol: Yeah.

Jim: ...And then to get that unexpected comment. Wow.

Carol: Right, new life in the face of something that’s potentially lethal. It was just - I didn’t know how to respond to it.

Jim: Did you - did you...

Carol: It was just amazing.

Jim: ...Consider that a blessing or a curveball?

Carol: I didn’t - actually, I didn’t know what to think of it. It was...

Jim: Just numb.

Carol: ...It was - I - I didn’t know.

Jim: Yeah.

Carol: It was - again, it’s just something so stunning and so shocking, so unexpected. Um, I just sat there. And she called Peter in. We talked about just going ahead with the surgery anyway, because it was so important to get the cancer out - um - to stop it from spreading further. And my surgeon reassured me that the anesthesiologist - because that was the main concern - me going - being under general anesthesia, while pregnant. She reassured me that the anesthesiologist felt confident thatthe baby would be OK during the surgery. And that was - we just had to take it one step at a time.

Jim: Yeah. Peter were you processing this? I mean, what are you thinking now?

Peter: In that moment, actually, it was interesting because when I heard the surgeon, I heard - I don’t think surgeons usually say that. They usually aren’t that direct about what you’re going to do. They ask questions. What would you like to do here? Instead, she was more forthright. She said, you know, I’m assuming you’re keeping this child. And it felt like God had placed those words on her lips. She could have said anything more neutral and more - you know, less leading. But it felt like - like God was saying something through her, that - that this child was - was from Him.

Jim: It caught your attention...

Peter: It did. It really...

Jim: ...In a positive way.

Peter: I mean, it didn’t sound like a doctor. It sounded like...

Jim: Yeah.

Peter: ...What, you know, a pastor, or someone, you know, a family friend might say. And it was in that moment that I - I felt for the first time, probably over the - you know, in that period, that God was truly present. And Carol had the faith to believe it. And I - I’m Thomas, even though my name is Peter. Like...

Jim: (Laughter).

Peter: ...I had to see it. And it was the sense that - as if God was saying, I am here. But He was here in a moment, in a way that I did not imagine. My - my understanding of “God, You’re here” is, oh, she’s been cured. We don’t have to do surgery. But instead, He was saying, no, I’m giving you a child. And that felt very strange, as if God was doing something in a way that I never could have ever imagined. And it made me think immediately of the annunciation of God answering the prayers of Israel through the child born of a carpenter. And, you know, Him answering something in extraordinary way that no one actually asked for.

That was what - we had never asked for a child in that moment. We had never prayed, “God give us a child, while Carol goes through treatment.”

Jim: Peter, to - to make this even more real for the listeners - and I know a lot of men will connect with what I know about your basement story - but you did have that tearful encounter saying, God, what’s happening? Describe what occurred.

Peter: Yeah, it was - it goes back to Google, again. It goes back to the Internet and just kind of - I was researching as much as I could on Carol’s cancer, and there really wasn’t any good news. There wasn’t any new developments. There wasn’t any new treatments. There was simply that this is one of the most lethal form of cancer, especially for young women. That was - that was the bottom line. There was no real, you know, second kind of thing to be talked about. And the more I read that, the more I kind of absorbed that knowledge, the more it began to dawn on me that this could be the end of my wife’s life. You know, this may not just be a chapter. This could be the end of it.

And when that began to really dawn on me, it - it really affected me. And I couldn’t imagine what my life would look like after that, and so there was one night where I had a terrible dream and kind of wept - you know, woke up weeping. And in order not to disturb Carol, I went, you know, downstairs. But it kind of - I was overcome with emotion. I had to go down to the basement to kind of separate myself from my children and from my wife - not to disturb them. So it was kind of a three-story kind of moment, you know, of mourning. And in that moment, I, you know, I was crying and just kind of really crying out to the Lord, asking, you know, where was He, what He was doing. And my sense, in that moment, was - you know, I relate this in the book - but that He was saying stop crying, that He was saying, it’s not going to help, that this is the moment where you have to stand up, and you have to be strong for your family.

And it made me realize that there is - there is space for a lament. I mean, there’s the Book of Lamentations and Ecclesiastes. And Jesus, Himself, laments in the Garden of Gethsemane. But when it’s time for Jesus to get up, He - He gets up. And He faces what’s in front of Him. And I think that’s - that was the moment at which I realized that there was a space for me to lament, but it was time for me to actually face the situation that was in front of us, to stop lamenting what could have been and what I felt should have been and the cards I wish I had been dealt, and instead, to play the hand that was right in front of me.

Jim: Carol, we can’t end this part of the story without telling us what happened. I think you referred to this, when you described your kids, it must be Jonathan. You referred to him as your special one.

Carol: Yes, that’s right.

Jim: So, Jonathan was born. And how is he today?

Carol: He’s perfect. He’s a perfect little...

Jim: (Laughter).

Carol: ...Typical little...

Jim: That’s a momma talkin right there, right? - he’s perfect. That’s good.

Carol: He’s difficult...

Jim: Yeah.

Carol: ...Six years going on 7-year-old.

Jim: So he made it through and was born healthy.

Carol: Yes.

Jim: And...

Carol: We waited until I was way - well into my second trimester of pregnancy before we began chemo, in order to make sure that all his little organs had the best chance of developing normally. And so - um - into my second trimester, we started chemo. And, I had about a month to recover from that from - between the end of chemo and the time that he was born.And then...

Jim: About a month. Wow.

Carol: Yeah, about a month. And then...

Jim: Every woman just went, what?

Carol: (Laughter).

Jim: I mean, a month to recover from chemo and then give birth to your child.

Carol: Yes. Yeah.

Jim: OK.

Carol: And then about a month after he was born, we began radiation treatment, which was a daily thing for about six weeks. But I - he’s great, and I’m doing well. And I just - I marvel at God’s design of a woman’s body and the way thatHe’s designed the pregnancy and the placenta and everything. I believe that the placenta is just an amazing organ. He - Jonathan was not touched by these incredibly toxic chemo drugs - so toxic that my nurse had to handle them with these...Terribly thick rubber gloves, thisred chemo fluid that - um - would actually pass through my urine, make my urine red. And I was told that I needed to be very cautious about, you know, my - after I had had that treatment. Um...

Jim: But the...

Carol: ...But it was so toxic that she, you know, she had to wear these thick rubber gloves. And it’s going through my whole body as a systemic treatment. But Jonathan was just untouched. And he’s...

Jim: That is amazing. I had never thought about it in that way.

Peter: Just to give some sense, before we even started chemo, we talked to very, very experienced doctors, who told us not to go through with the pregnancy, that they felt like this chemo treatment, because of its potency, because of what it does, which is kill dividing cells, which is cancer, that...

Jim: Which is also pregnancy.

Peter: Which is also what a child is.

Jim: Yeah.

Peter: That there was no way this child would come unscathed, because of that. And also that, you know, you can’t delay the treatment at all, because you don’t want the cancer to spread. So, you know, just do away with the pregnancy and go ahead with the treatment.

Jim: My goodness.

Peter: And that’s best. But we really felt that, again, that it was - this was God’s plan. We didn’t know why He had given us this child, but we did feel conflicted about that. And so even though this doctor had the best intentions and was actually a friend of ours, we went ahead with the pregnancy. Andlike Carol was describing, that - we were blessed to see Jonathan born bigger than either one of his sisters - so not low birth weight, born pretty much on time. So he wasn’t premature in any way.And yeah, no - you know, no - no effects that we could see at that time. So it was a real blessing.

Jim: And at this point, the doctor had said to you that having children in the future was probably not going to happen. Is that correct?

Carol: Right, just given the nature of going through cancer treatment.

Jim: So...

Carol: ...And the systemic...

Jim: Yeah, you had a different answer, and the Lord had a different answer...

Carol: (Laughter).

Jim: ...Because you had two more children.

Carol: Right.

Jim: I mean, that had to be incredible for you to get that kind of prognosis that your ability to bear children in the future will be zero. And yet, that wasn’t the case.

Carol: Mm-hmm.

Peter: And it felt - again, kind of what we’ve learned through this experience is you never tell God what He can’t do. It’s just not a wise thing to do - that when people - you know, when - when the doctors told us that we wouldn’t have children, we were somewhat OK with that. We had three children by that point. But then to find out we had a fourth was surprising. And then the doctors told us, well, that’s - that’s a fluke. It won’t happen again. And then we had a fifth.

Jim: (Laughter).

Peter: So we - we - just don’t tell God what to do. We don’t tell him what He’s not going to do or able to do anymore.

John: Peter and Carol Chin are our guests on Focus on the Family and if you’re connecting with their story, maybe you’re in a valley in your life, experiencing some hardship, be sure to get the book by Pastor Peter Chin called Blindsided by God. That details their story and is gonna help you overcome difficulties. You can also get a CD or download of this conversation. Our website is focusonthefamily.com/radio or our number is 800-A-FAMILY.

Jim: Peter and Carol, in this last few minutes, I think we need to help equip people. Your story’s unique. In many ways, your story has turned out in a very positive way, although there has been a recurrence, correct?

Peter: That’s right. A little over a year ago, Carol went into the doctor, and they actually didn’t want to do tests. They felt like, no, she’s past the mark where we’re concerned about this. But me being, again, the careful, cautious one, I advised her to go ahead and get the tests anyway. And they did discover a recurrence of her cancer, this time in a slightly different area. And so yeah, that was - that was shocking to us. And we were - you know, we were hoping that we were beyond that time period for it to recur. But at the same time, what I realized - that many of the things that we had experienced before came back in a positive way, that we were able to process this and mourn, but also to realize we’ve seen God before in a very similar situation. We’ve seen Him in doctor’ offices. We’ve seen Him in the midst of raising children.

And so what I - what I think is important is that there’s no happy ending as if, you know, God does one thing and you never suffer again. You will suffer again. And I think a lot of people who are listening, probably their stories may have not turned out the same. And maybe someone they loved did pass away. But to recognize that God is still there in the midst of - of even - no matter what our ending is, that He is present with us, even in the valley of the shadow of death. And so I think, you know, that’s - He still is with us right now, and He’s shaped how we’ve faced this, but also, you know, what will we look forward to in the future?

Jim: Carol, how about for you in hearing that news that you’ve had this recurrence - what - how do you process that? And what are you saying to the Lord in your quiet time today? What does that sound like?

Carol: Like Peter shared, it was unexpected. And we - we thought, since we had passed the five-year mark, which is, you know, a - a marker, by which typically recur - cancer recurrence is measured at nothing. We were beyond, you know, having to worry about that. But I cling to the promise inPhilippiansthat Christ is the source of thepeace that passes all understanding.And, you know, even when it doesn’t make sense, I trust that with Jesus in my life, I can have that peace that protects me and my thoughts and my heart. And so, I just really cling to the Word.

Jim: Well, and let me say, so often, when we’re suffering, and we’re looking for God, the simple things - that - that slight breeze, not thunder and lightning, as He works through our lives, we fail to recognize that slight breeze of the Spirit of God, because we’re looking for that strong, severe answer. And what I mean by that is that - that obvious answer. The doctor says, you’re clear. You’re good. Peter, you had the “angry woman” experience. Someone heard your story.And I think it’d be helpful if you could share that with us.

Peter: Yeah, that was - that was an interesting moment where I was sharing our testimony a little while after, you know, all this happened. And a woman came up to me, and you could see the - the anger in her eyes. And just - you could - I could - you could feel it kind of emanating from her. And as she came up, she said, you know, that’s a - that’s a nice story, but my story didn’t end that way, and my husband did pass away. And some - a family friend, I think, had stolen from them in that moment in that, as well.

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Peter: Her - through tears, just such - with such sincerity, not with bitterness towards me, but just - from a really difficult place, she - she asked me, “Where’s my happy ending?” Where’s my happy ending?” And in that moment, I had a couple of things that I could have said, or a couple of options of how to respond, but my response immediately was, tell me about your husband. Tell me what he was like. Tell me about your story.

Jim: That didn’t feel like a natural response for you.

Peter: No, it wasn’t. And the reason it wasn’t, it’s because previously, I would have tried to give a theological answer. I would have given her, well, this is what you should know. You should have known this X, Y and Z. But I think what suffering and that - that story of suffering had done, it allowed me to come alongside people who were suffering to have real compassion and the root word of compassion is’ suffering with.’ It’s not just - you know, understanding suffering people, it’s suffering with them.

And so it allowed me to engage her in a different way, and then to help her to remind her that we were never told that we’d be bulletproof. But we were told that God would be with us, and to pray with her that God help her to see where you are. If she’s not seeing you in this place, help her to see those small moments, like you were saying. And, you know, I corresponded with her some time later, and - that - she is beginning to thrive, finally. And she attributes that moment, not as the answer, but as just a changing point...

Jim: A change point.

Peter: A stepping stone along the way that gave enough time for God to continue the story in her life. And so, I really love that - that sometimes we don’t give answers. We give people help to get through a tough period, so that God continue to weave our stories so...

Jim: Yeah.

Peter: ...We can see what He’s really doing.

Jim: Well, and there’s so many directions in this. I mean, you think of your three additional children, starting with Jonathan, after you had your two in a healthier environment, without all the chaos, and then you’ve had three children since. And I would think, as a father myself, the Lord may have an incredible plan for all three of those kids, one of those kids in a very unique way, they’re to accomplish something for Him. And that’s a beautiful way to think about it, as well, that we don’t understand God’s plan for 10 years from now, 25 years from now, 50 years from now, other than He’s going to collect to Himself as many people as possible, so that the Kingdom of God is filled with His folks, right?

And, uh, I think in that context, what you’re sharing today does give people hope that if you’re in the pit of despair, if you do not feel God, um, I am hopeful - and I know you are, as well - that your testimony, your story will give, spiritual power to these folks to trust God no matter what, whether the answer comes - or it doesn’t - in the way that you want it to come.And, what your story does is encourage all of us to choose Him. That’s the better decision. So you put the cap on it. And then I want you to pray for folks. But, um, what are your feelings now at the very, um, kind of in the middle, still, of all this? Spiritually speaking, where are you today? Where are you headed?

Peter: Yeah, you know, I think the - that experience of that year has really shaped my theology and I think our theology, how we look at life, and how we interact with our family. It shapes so many aspects of our lives. And what I think it’s done, more than anything, is that it’s opened our eyes to the reality of suffering around us, that we are aware of suffering and its reality, both in our lives - so when Carol was re-diagnosed, it was shocking, but not nearly as shocking as before. We knew it. We knew this could happen this time. And even in other people’s lives, we’re more aware of - of how - how bad things can go. Um, but at the same time, we’re also equally aware of how present God can be. And those two things are not mutually exclusive. We can be aware of suffering and be fully present in it, while also being fully expectant of God moving. There’s a mystery in that, that it’s not that these two things cancel each other out, but that God is present in that pain.

And so that - that, I think, is the main thing I would kind of want a listener to go away with, is that, yes, suffering is real. And suffering is - is terrible. And it’s weightiness on us can be really, really horrific. But at the same time, God is equally real and greater still, that He can use - like you were saying, in the book of Romans - use all things for the good of those who love him. And so, uh, sometimes it’s just using our faith to give us enough time to see that actually happen - not giving up in the middle of the process, but allowing - a - God enough time in our story and our narrative to show, yes, I am present in the midst of the suffering. I’m doing something good and not giving up, before He’s able to really weave that into our story.

Jim: Well, you know, uh, in the U.S., at least - I think this is true for Canada - we often will say, “How you doing today?” And we give a polite response, because it’s the right cultural thing to do. “Oh, doing great, how are you doing?” “Oh, I’m doing great.” That’s not always the case, typically. But, uh, that comparison for me, in the Christian community, is that we’ve kind of absorbed that kind of casual reference, haven’t we? We don’t want to talk about pain and suffering within the Christian community, because it doesn’t fit what we want to believe about God, but God himself is saying you are going to suffer because of Me. And, uh, we need to be willing to embrace that, and to understand it and to still trust God, regardless of our circumstances.

Peter: It prepares us for the reality of life, and, you know, knowing those things. But it also allows us to see God more clearly. And the one illustration I love to use is the stars. You know, the stars are out even during the daytime. They’re out all the time.

Jim: We just can’t see ‘em.

Peter: You can’t see them because the sky is already so bright. And the time that you see the stars is when - when the sky becomes dark. And then you realize how plentiful they are, and how beautiful they are and - and, you know, how amazing they are. And it’s that contrast that allows us to see them. And so I think that’s what suffering is sometimes. Suffering allows the contrast for us to be able to identify what God is really doing.

When everything is blissful in our lives, sometimes we can’t see God, because it’s like looking into the day sky and not realizing how many brilliant things He has made - and sometimes, in the darkest moments, where you look up and you realize God is all around me. Because my life is so dark, I can see Him appropriate in that - appropriately now.

Jim: Let me turn to you and say if you’re suffering, we are here for you. We may not be able to make everything right. But we are willing to engage with you. We want you to call us. We want to help to the degree that we can help, provide, a resource, a tool, acopy of this broadcast,whatever we can do to be there for you. Um, do it. Don’t hold back. Life has difficulties - doesn’t mean you’re weak. And we are - um, we count it a privilege if you will make that phone call.

John: And our number is800-A-FAMILY. We’re online. We’re atfocusonthefamily.com/radio.

Jim: Peter And Carol, I can’t think of a better way to end this broadcast than for the both of you, if you’re willing, to pray for those that are still hurting. Um, as a pastor, as a pastor’s wife - everything, Carol, that you’re still going through - you and Peter both and your kids. Can you lift those up that are suffering?

Peter: Yeah, I’m happy to.

Jim: Let’s do it.

Peter:Father God, we do want to lift up those who are in, uh, the fight of their lives right now, God, and who have a hard time seeing you, Lord. And Lord, I pray that, through the Word, they be reminded that, we were never promised a blissful life, God. We were never promised a pain-free life. But instead, you have promised that you will be with us in the midst of our struggles, God. And so I pray that, uh, our understanding of who You are, our theological perspectives would be shaped by this moment, God.

I pray they would realize that, um, that their pain and their suffering is not evidence of your absence, God, but that you are present in this moment, Lord. And I pray that You would reveal that to each one of them, God - in your way, in your time, Lord - and that you would give them enough faith, enough perseverance, to allow You enough space to continue to weave their story together, continue to demonstrate that You are present in their moments, Lord. Um, so God, I pray for your spirit in their lives to give them that sense of strength and perseverance, to open your Word unto them, God - and for their - their spiritual eyes to be open - to be able to see the stars in the middle of the night, to see the brilliant things, the moments of love and care that You provide for all your people.

Peter: Amen.

Jim: Amen.

John: Amen.

Jim: Peter and Carol Chin, uh,Blindsided By God.Thanks for being with us.

Peter: You’re welcome.

Carol: Thank you.

Closing:

John: Well Jim, I have no doubt that God has been speaking to hearts right now.

Jim: Oh definitely! You can feel it! Maybe you’re like the woman that Peter described moments ago and you’re wondering why God has allowed you to go through such suffering and pain with no answers in sight. We want to encourage you to hang in there and keep trusting God. Call us for counseling. We can offer some initial input and provide you some biblical direction and discernment. Also be sure to ask for a copy of Peter Chin’s book Blindsided by God. We want to put that into your hands.

John: Yeah, we’ve got so many excellent resources here and we need your generous support to continue providing those and making radio programs like this. Make a donation today to Focus on the Family and we’ll send Peter’s great book to you as our way of saying thank you for your support.

Jim: In fact, John, I want to thank some generous donors who are helping us to double the impact of your gift today. When you contact us and donate, these dear friends will match your gift to double it and help others through the ministry here. So if you can give $50, they match it with $50 and your gift becomes $100. And we are excited and grateful to everybody to participate in that way at the end of the year.

Dora Lee from Texas recently sent us a personal note to thank, really you, for encouraging her family through many many hardships. Her husband left the faith for a while and suffered from depression, but he’s now back walking in faith with the Lord again. One of their children had a stroke as an infant and has some medical needs. She says, “Focus has helped me tore-framemy hardships and allowed me to be refined by the Lord through suffering. Thank you for all that you invest in sowing the good seed.”

Let me bend that to you that support us-- she’s thankingyoubecauseyoumade it happen through Focus! So thank you for that testimony and that acknowledgement of the Lord’s work in their lives.

John: Be a part of the ministry that Focus on the Family has to so many people through radio programs and resources. Donate, get the book, CD or download when you visit focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800-A-FAMILY.

Well join us next time as we hear some inspiration and encouragement to teens from Sadie Robertson.

Teaser:

Sadie Robertson: So, instead of being scared and running from these times, like, embrace it, you know and run straight for it and find your purpose and your passion and be Spirit-led.

End of Teaser

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Guest

Peter and Carol Chin

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Peter Chin is the lead pastor of Rainier Avenue Church in Seattle and a former columnist for Christianity Today. A graduate of Yale University and Fuller Seminary, his advocacy work for racial reconciliation has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, and The Washington Post. Peter and his wife, Carol, have five children. His book, Blindsided by God, focuses on Carol's courageous fight against breast cancer while pregnant with their third child.