“I knew about God’s grace, but didn’t really understand its depths until I experienced the hardest trial of my life,” stated Chuck Gray. “As the Lord walked with me through a difficult situation, I truly began to grasp the depths of His grace and faithfulness at a level I never have before.”
This is how Chuck described the experience of dealing with the unexpected discovery of a tumor on his brain in the summer of 2016. “I had a stiff neck, some dizziness and was more tired than normal. But, like most guys, I brushed it off and attributed it to the aches and pains of getting older,” Chuck said. “At the urging of Susan (my wife) I finally asked my doctor if I could have an MRI to check out the stiffness in my neck. Getting that MRI was the first glimpse of God’s grace to me. If Susan hadn’t pushed me, I probably would have never gotten the procedure and who knows where I would be today.”
After having the MRI procedure in the morning, the doctor asked Chuck and Susan to come to his office that afternoon to discuss the results. In that afternoon consultation, the doctor told them the MRI revealed there was a tumor on Chuck’s brain. He was immediately referred to one of the best brain surgeons in the country at UCLA.
Because of excess swelling from fluid on his brain and other complications, Chuck was placed in an isolation unit for 10 days prior to his brain surgery. “That was a really hard time,” Chuck said. “Not only was I dealing with the shock of the tumor diagnosis, but I was facing the reality that it might be my time to go home to be with the Lord. Susan and I had some long talks about the fact I might not come home, or I might be limited or handicapped after the surgery.”
The sobering reality of Chuck’s condition hit Susan very hard. Susan stated, “I am a worrier by nature. Chuck’s diagnosis was a shock to all of us.”
In spite of the unexpected news of the tumor, the difficult surgery that lay ahead of them and the reality of potential post-surgery outcomes, Chuck and Susan experienced the peace of God as they never have before. “The passage in Philippians 4:6-9 was a real lifeline for us,” stated Susan. “When I had read these verses before, I always focused on Paul’s admonition not to worry or be anxious. This time the Lord impressed on me the importance of having a thankful heart and focusing my mind on the things that are true, honorable, just, pure and lovely. Thanksgiving is not what you usually think about when going through difficult trials. But, the Lord impressed on me if I truly desired the peace of God, these other commands were just as important as not worrying.”
The Lord used a few other instruments of grace to encourage Chuck and Susan through this very difficult journey. One was a message they heard from John Piper entitled, “Prayer Changes Things.” Through Piper’s message, they were reminded about God’s desire for an intimate and personal relationship with His children and that He longs for them to bring to Him their concerns and specific prayer requests. Another way God comforted them was through two songs written by Fernando Ortega – Take Heart, My Friend and Lord of Eternity. Chuck stated, “When I would wake up anxious in the middle of the night, I would play these two songs over and over and God would pour out His grace and peace over me.”
The primary way the Lord displayed His grace to Chuck and Susan through this trial was the love, support, encouragement and prayer they received from their Small Group relationships and the Pastoral Staff at RCC. “We received continual text messages, notes, visits and calls from people in our small groups and staff that were so comforting, reassuring and encouraging,” said Susan. “We sensed we were continually being covered with prayer and that gave us great peace. You often don’t realize the importance of your church family until you go through something like this.”
Chuck’s brain surgery last summer was successful and he has been progressing well through his recovery. While he never anticipated this journey, he is thankful that God has used this trial to reveal to him a deeper understanding and appreciation for His amazing grace.
“By God’s grace, my brain surgery was successful and I am on the road to recovery,” stated Chuck. “If God wills, I have been given a few more years on this earth and I want to use every moment I have for God’s kingdom and His glory.”