As some of you know, I will be undergoing a kidney transplant Thursday, June 3. After six years of living with Chronic Kidney Disease, God has provided a donor in my brother-in-law. As I approach the surgery I wanted to convey what God has taught me in the blessed years since I was diagnosed. As I read John Piper’s essay, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer,” I realized that I could not improve upon his deeply biblical and theological words, so I have shamelessly copied the essay, with the exception of inserting the words “kidney disease” where Piper originally wrote “cancer.”
I write this on the eve of a kidney transplant. I believe in God’s power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Kidney disease is not wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory and that is why kidney disease exists. So not to pray for healing may waste your kidney disease. But healing is not God’s plan for everyone. And there are many other ways to waste your kidney disease. I am praying for myself and for you that we will not waste this pain.
1. You will waste your kidney disease if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
It will not do to say that God only uses our kidney disease but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming kidney disease, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your kidney disease is designed for you by God, you will waste it.
2. You will waste your kidney disease if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
3. You will waste your kidney disease if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
The design of God in your kidney disease is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your kidney disease (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.
4. You will waste your kidney disease if you refuse to think about death.
We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.
5. You will waste your kidney disease if you think that “beating” kidney disease means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
Satan’s and God’s designs in your kidney disease are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Kidney disease does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).