Throughout Carson’s treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I was continually amazed how God used him to impact others. Just shy of four years old on the day of his diagnosis, Carson showed tremendous wisdom for his age. Often, he would speak greater truth than he realized. Other times, he would ask a thought-provoking question at just the right time.
In today’s entry, I’ve asked my brother, William Dooley, to share an experience he had with Carson during our initial days at St. Jude. I remember this conversation well; and I am thankful that William captured it for your encouragement.
What Does it Mean to Be Brave?
By William Dooley
I’ll never forget my first visit to the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis, Tennessee. I was there to visit my brother Adam and his family, primarily my nephew Carson who had been diagnosed with leukemia a few weeks before, just prior to his fourth birthday. Carson was being treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and living in the Ronald McDonald House with his parents and little brother.
I have vivid memories of that day. It was the first time that I had come face to face with cancer-stricken children, seeing the bald heads and swollen faces that resulted from chemotherapy and steroid treatments. I saw the worry and exhaustion in their parents’ faces. My most meaningful memory of the day, however, comes from a conversation that Carson had with his dad.
Adam had been talking with Carson about the need to be brave during his treatments; he would endure much that would make adults afraid, and Carson was barely four years old. As we sat down for dinner in the RMH kitchen and dining room, my nephew asked my brother a question that I will never forget.
“Dad, can you still be brave and cry just a little bit?”
What?! This from a child who had not even begun Kindergarten?! Many adults don’t even consider such weighty matters! I don’t remember exactly what Adam said because, truthfully, it took me a minute or two to compose myself. After I got myself back together, I sought to offer Carson the best advice that I had.
“You sure can, buddy. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid; it means that you do what you have to do even though you’re afraid.”
Carson accepted all of this. With the faith of a child, he trusted what his father told him and did what he had to do. More than once over the coming years, I saw Carson being brave in situations that would have sent many adults running for cover.
My nephew displayed a faith and trust in his father that even the prophet of God did not display in 1 Kings 19. Elijah had just confronted the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. God had answered in a breathtaking way, and the false god’s prophets had been executed. Was Elijah’s confidence boosted? Did he continue to stand faithfully and firmly for the Lord? He did not.
The key to understanding Elijah’s response is found in 19:3, “Then Elijah became afraid.” Elijah became afraid, and he let that fear cripple him. God had used Elijah in a great way, showing Himself to be true, but a pronouncement from a wicked woman had made him fear in a way that undermined even God’s work in his life. We can learn much from Elijah’s crippling fear.
First, we learn that fear will distort our circumstances. As he fled, Elijah prayed that he would die (19:4). That makes sense, right?! I’m afraid that I might die, so just kill me! Elijah illogically focused on his circumstances rather than on God, and proclaimed that he had had enough. Elijah also demonstrated a distorted view of his circumstances when he told the Lord that only he was left to stand for the Lord. God corrected this misconception and sent Elijah back to Israel, ensuring him that He still had 7,000 people there who had not sold out to Baal.
Elijah’s journey also teaches us a lesson about the ways in which God will speak to us. Many times we are like the sinful Pharisees demanding a sign. We might demonstrate a lack of faith like that of Gideon, asking repeatedly that God send a “fleece” to help us trust Him (Judges 6:36-40).
Oftentimes, we desire a dramatic answer, some event that gets our attention. God sometimes speaks in that way. That is not, however, always the case. In fact, when God spoke to Elijah, there was damaging wind; there was an earthquake; there was a fire….and God was in none of them. He certainly could have spoken to Elijah through any of those, but He did not.
How did God speak to Elijah? He spoke to him in what is described as a still, small voice (19:12-13). Elijah had wandered from God’s path; he had feared for his life rather than trusting God. God could have “whipped him into shape” in any number of ways, but He spoke in a way that only Elijah could hear.
God is still speaking to His people, and he does so in any number of ways. He might speak to you dramatically, and He might speak to you in a way that only you can understand.
I’ll never forget Carson accepting what Adam told him simply because he trusted his father. Our Heavenly Father is speaking to us.
Are we listening?