It seems to be the question everyone is asking, “If God is all powerful and He controls everything in our lives, then why would He even think about letting something as terrible as cancer, war, loss of job, divorce, or any of the other dreadful things that come upon us, happen to His children?”. Well, before I answer that, let me tell you some of my background.
I was the Pastor of Children and Youth at Calvary Monument Bible Church for 12 years. My responsibilities involved overseeing the Sunday School of about 300 students (both Adults and children) and approximately 50 teachers. I also oversaw the youth groups, both Jr. High and Sr. High and the directors and staff of each of those ministries. Ministry kept me very busy, as you can imagine, and the Lord was blessing. However, there was a feeling of restlessness within me. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was feeling, but I knew the Lord was calling me out of that church. As my wife and I listed the pros and cons in making this decision, the pros certainly outweighed the cons, and that is why, along with much prayer, we decided it was time to leave that ministry.
It was February in 2005 when we made the decision, but we decided to wait to formally to announce our decision until the beginning of the summer. We ran a summer camp at our church, and we didn’t want to jeopardize the preparations for that ministry. But within a few weeks of making the decision, something strange was happening with my eyesight. I was seeing double. I was driving down the highway and I saw two cars in front of me. The only problem was, there were not two cars, there was only one. I knew something was wrong and so I made an appointment with my eye doctor.
What was the problem? Was I under too much stress? Did I need a stronger prescription for my glasses? Had I been hit on the head and wasn’t aware of it? It wasn’t that simple. As the doctor examined my eyes, he also was perplexed, but he gave his professional diagnosis: “I have no idea. It could be 200 different things”. At that point he sent me immediately for an deep tissue MRI which set off another difficulty I had dealt with all my life: claustrophobia!
The MRI was itself an impossible situation, but not nearly as bad as the news that followed it. The tests showed that I had a brain tumor. As we drove home that night a million thoughts were rushing through our minds. We didn’t have the report from the neurologist yet (we wouldn’t see him for another 3 days), and so a lot of our questions would have to wait. At that point we didn’t even know the answer to our number one question: “What are the treatments for the tumor?” But as it turned out, that wasn’t the only question we had that night. Jacqui looked over at me, and through her tear-filled eyes, she asked me: “Do you still want to leave the church at this time?” At that point I looked over at her and gave her the most honest answer I could: “Yes. God has called us to leave, and we will leave.” This was before we had the report that what was in my brain was a pituitary tumor and it was pressing against the ocular nerve, thus causing the double vision.
I have often compared our story with Abraham, whom God called out from his home to travel to a land “he knew not of”. Abraham couldn’t look into a crystal ball and see the future, but he knew the God Who planned the future. He knew the One who later told Joshua “Be strong and courageous.” Both Abraham and Joshua obeyed in faith. Now I am not comparing myself with either man, not by a long shot, but the principle is the same: when God says to do something, you do it. Was our next move without disappointments and discouragement? Not at all, but Jacqui and I were being faithful to a God who first was faithful to us. He has loved us throughout our journey, and He continues to lead us, wherever that may be!
Testimony of Bill Stoner
Bill is a retired pastor who continues teaching, discipling, and working with children through the church and by substitute teaching. He loves to serve his Lord.