Dooley Noted: Lessons from the Furnace (Part 2)

By Adam Dooley

Englewood Baptist Church

A decade after our family fight against childhood cancer, I am not only grateful my son is now healthy and thriving, but I also continue to be thankful for the valuable lessons the Lord taught us during those dark days. After sharing a few of those insights last week, allow me to mention two more truths driven home to me throughout the ordeal.

When a group of friends from Chattanooga visited us at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I was grateful for their encouragement. Their presence was a reminder of better days, and their gifts were tangible expressions of love that became a healthy distraction for my son when he was just weeks into a 2.5-year leukemia fight. Amidst the care package we received was also an unexpected blessing for me. A plain journal with a note from a friend suggested that I write down any wisdom or perspective I felt like God was teaching me throughout the treatment protocol.

Though I never set out to write a book about the ordeal, the ruminations I collected within that journal later made their way into Hope When Life Unravels. My prayer is that our experiences will be a blessing to others who are struggling, not just with a cancer diagnosis, but a trial of any kind. As with any book, however, the burden of every author is to speak as concisely as possible. Thus, every memory did not make it into the pages of my manuscript and, unfortunately, a number of spiritual realizations had to be omitted as well. Below are a few more principles that neither time nor space permitted me to share. If these lessons are helpful to you, please check out our entire testimony wherever books are sold.

1.  Fatherhood matters.  Why did God make me sick, Daddy? The question took my breath away. His big blue eyes peered over his medical mask and the plane engine hummed beneath us. My son was searching for answers, trying to make sense of the God who loved him and the trial that wrecked his life of innocence. That was just one of many moments where Carson looked to me for reassurance and stability. Children need an active, spiritual father to guide them through life. Motherhood is equally important, to be sure, but fathers play a unique role in the spiritual development and nurture of their kids. Because God expects husbands and fathers to lead their families, refusing to do so creates a damaging vacuum in the home. Teaching my children to love and trust God at all times is my responsibility. I must connect with them. They need my example. I should encourage them while also holding them accountable. I cannot delegate this sacred duty (Deut. 6:5-7). Though I would like to tell you this came natural for me, I cannot. Despite my view that my son should be a better kid because of his dad, in reality, I am a much better father because of him. Battling leukemia left no room for my laziness, and I’m grateful.

2.  Life is not about me, or even the people I love. Though I frequently wonder what God most wanted to teach us through Carson’s sickness, I realize this trial may not have been primarily about the Dooley family. Throughout the three-year journey, I continually reminded my son that God had a plan for his sickness even if we didn’t know what it was and even if it did not relate directly to us. With child-like faith, he accepted my assurance as true.  Amazingly, I do not remember one instance when Carson complained about his illness.  Perhaps those incidents are merely lost in the fog of our darkest moments, but I do not recall them. Instinctively, he seemed to know that more was at stake than the outcome of his suffering. 

The same is true for you.

How can I be so sure? The story of Job is often a source of strength for those facing hardship, but tucked behind the drama of the opening chapters is a powerful truth to help us face tragedy with a different perspective. After Satan mocked the notion that people worship God for who He is rather than what He does for them the Lord presented Job as a test case (Job 1:9-12). The real focus of the scene, however, is the glory of God rather than the character of His servant. Despite our tendency to look insatiably for the cause and effect behind every trial we face, sometimes we are mere background characters in much bigger story. Yes, we can learn important life lessons during seasons of pain, but even then, the promotion of divine glory is often the main agenda.

If you find yourself in a season of hurting, I’d love to pray for you. Please email me at the address below and I will gladly lift your name and situation before the Lord. Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.