The Gospel Coalition recently published an interview with Chandler by Justin Taylor at One Year Later: An Interview with Matt Chandler, in which he said some important things (IMHO) about the importance of understanding the role of suffering in the Christian life.
What role has your theology played in sustaining you throughout this year?
I’m not sure how men and women without a strong view of God’s sovereignty and authority over all things handle things like this.
There were at least 3 meetings with my doctors early on where I felt like I got punched in the soul. In those moments when I was discombobulated and things felt like they were spinning out of control, my theology and the Spirit were there to remind me that “He is good and He does good”—to remind me that God has a plan for His glory and my joy that He is working. I was reminded that this cancer wasn’t punitive but somehow redemptive (Romans 8).
It sounds like the Lord not only prepared you personally for suffering, but also enabled you to prepare the people at your church by teaching them about the theology of suffering?
When I arrived at The Village 8 years ago, we started growing with young men and women almost immediately. (I was 28 at the time, and I’ve heard you tend to draw those a decade behind you and a decade ahead of you.) The average age back in those days at The Village was in the early 20s. If there was a funeral or I had to run to the hospital, it wasn’t because an 80-year-old died or was sick. It was a baby that went down for a nap and didn’t get up, a young husband who went fishing and drowned not coming home to his wife and 3-month-old son, and on and on I could go.
I learned that, at least at The Village, there was no real understanding of what was going on in suffering. The theology most people had been taught was erroneous. They felt lost and confused. Over the next few years I would return to the subject of suffering at least monthly trying to weave it in as often as I could. Although most people would rather not hear about the subject, everyone is going to experience it. Therefore, I desperately wanted to help shepherd the men and women of The Village through what is a reality in a fallen world.
In the weeks and months leading up to Thanksgiving I was still doing this, mentioning the reality of cancer in my sermon on Sunday, November 22 and reminding the men and women at Southern Seminary on November 12th out of Hebrews 11 that sometimes we are faithful and do exactly what God wants us to do and we get mauled by lions and overrun by armies. It was a drum on which I was constantly beating and continue to beat. The great mercy of God in it all was that while I was purposefully preparing God’s people, He was purposefully preparing me.Does reading this make you wonder if you would be ready for such a trail? It sure makes me thin!. However, it is also important to catch the truth in one other comment in the interview:
If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself on the evening of November 24, 2009, what would you have said to prepare Matt Chandler for the year ahead?
I think I would hug myself and just say, “He’s prepared you.”If we walk with the Lord, and know His truth, He will prepare us for whatever we will have to face. He is sufficient.