As some of you know, I am undergoing a kidney transplant today, 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 possibly 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.”
6. You will waste your kidney disease if you spend too much time reading about kidney disease and not enough time reading about God.
It is not wrong to know about kidney disease. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Kidney disease is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of kidney disease if we read day and night about kidney disease and not about God.
7. You will waste your kidney disease if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with kidney disease: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your kidney disease by retreating into yourself.
8. You will waste your kidney disease if you grieve as those who have no hope.
Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your kidney disease grieving as those who don’t have this hope.
9. You will waste your kidney disease if you treat sin as casually as before.
Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had kidney disease? If so you are wasting your kidney disease. Kidney disease is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that kidney disease is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against kidney disease. Also think of battling with kidney disease. All these things are worse enemies than kidney disease. Don’t waste the power of kidney disease to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).
10. You will waste your kidney disease if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with kidney disease. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.
In your kidney disease, you will need your brothers and sisters to witness to the truth and glory of Christ, to walk with you, to live out their faith beside you, to love you. And you can do same with them and with all others, becoming the heart that loves with the love of Christ, the mouth filled with hope to both friends and strangers.
Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).