Dr. Kent Brantly,
The world and I feel as if we know you. Your story has been told for weeks, one of such tragedy yet immense hope. As a graduate of Abilene Christian University, I’ve been able to see firsthand the unceasing prayer and encouragement that has unfolded from your ACU family as a result of your illness. The people who know you love you, and the people who don’t know you want to meet you. We want to meet you because you stand out from the rest of the world—When the world would’ve had despair, you had hope. When the world would’ve clung to science, you clung to your Father. When the world would’ve been afraid to die, you weren’t.
And I want to thank you.
I sat in front of my TV alongside the rest of the world on August 2nd, and we watched you walk into Emory University Hospital. With our own eyes, we saw God make the sick walk again, and we were amazed.
Two days later, I had a doctor’s appointment for a lump in my neck. And five days after you walked into Emory, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The day after my diagnosis, you said this:
These new circumstances. As I read your words, I apologize and admit that I wasn’t thinking about you, I was thinking about me. But I don’t think you’d be offended by that—I think you’d be gladdened because that’s what you wanted all along, wasn’t it? You wanted people to hear you say, “He will give me everything I need to be faithful to Him” and figure out where they could be faithful to Him in their own lives. So I’m here to tell you, we did.
God often uses Biblical stories of men and women to give us encouragement and guidance, but I believe He uses the stories of living believers too. At a time when I most needed it, your story reminded me to stay faithful. I couldn’t help but think, “If Dr. Brantly can give all the glory to God while suffering an incurable disease, I can certainly do the same in the face of a curable cancer.”
News websites could not write one article about you without typing the word “God” over and over. You refused to let a single quote escape your lips that didn’t point straight to the Lord, and I want to thank you for that. Thank you for “counting it all joy.” Thank you for standing firm on the Rock though your world was a storm. Thank you for stepping in front of a camera when you could have stepped aside. Thank you for loving Jesus in this season.
On August 12th, I had my thyroid removed. On August 18th, I learned I will need one more treatment to make sure the cancer is gone. Two days later, I read that you were drawing strength from Daniel 3—a passage I have held dear for over two years. It reminded me again that trusting in the Lord is not about hoping for an outcome, but about hoping in a Person.
The next day, you were released from the hospital and said this:
You had the floor, and the world was watching. With live cameras rolling and millions waiting, you could have said anything. You chose to say, “All glory be to God.”
There’s a song called “Set a Fire” that says,
There’s no place I would rather be than here in Your love.
Three weeks ago, “here in Your love” for me meant “here in Dallas in Your love.” Today it means “here with cancer in Your love.” But the truth of the song still remains. I’d rather have cancer and Jesus than be perfectly healthy without Him. And I mean that with all I am. While the last month has taught me that “cancer” and “ebola” are two of the scariest words in the world, it’s shown me even more how “Jesus” is the most beautiful word. Truly a Word of Life.
It would be naive of me to pretend that the severity of thyroid cancer is anywhere near that of ebola. But I do know that trials of all sizes push us closer to Christ and help us understand, even just slightly more, how wide, how long, how high, how deep His love is. So thank you for helping me run towards that love, a love that takes illnesses Satan intends for harm and turns them into abundant goodness.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (MSG)