Radical Trust

A year ago life was good, full and rich. I couldn’t have asked for more. My marriage was great. My sons were doing well and had wonderful wives. The first grandchildren were on the way. My ophthalmology practice was at its peak. Life couldn’t be better.

With life going on so well I didn’t have much impetus to put down deep spiritual roots. It was easy to let the things of God slide. Spiritually I was on cruise control. My quiet time suffered and I was too busy to pray. Still I was walking with the Lord, but not growing deep in my relationship with Him. Often a nagging thought came to me, ” You’re going to grow old and slip into a very comfortable retirement, fuss about the fiber in your cereal and clip investment coupons. You will die never leaving the shallow water spiritually.”

Every winter I developed a cough that usually lasted on into the spring. Last year when July rolled around, I was still coughing. Since my tennis game was good, I didn’t worry. I did tire easily but my one to one exercise was strong. A tennis partner suggested I get a chest x-ray.

I was seeing patients one afternoon when my doctor walked in with my films. He pulled them out of a manila envelope and held one up to the light. I gasped. There was a big whole in my right lung.

Great fear riveted me to my chair. Flash backs of my mother and brother suffering and dying with lung cancer flooded my mind. I was frightened at that first glance at the x-ray, but strangely I rejoiced. I knew the Lord Jesus was not going to leave me were I was spiritually. He would take me into the deeper water of knowing Him and complete the work He began years earlier when I first trusted Him as Savior.

My doctor said, ” You must go into the hospital right away.” The very next day my lung was removed. Positive nodes required radiation and chemotherapy. Then metastasis was discovered in my left lung, right shoulder and hip. These new areas were radiated and ten weeks later I went back to work for three hours a day. It seems only reasonable to do so for work defines who I am. I enjoy helping people and it was therapeutic.

One day after I performed a cataract operation, I used a rolling chair to go out and speak to the patient’s family. It dawned on me how ridiculous it was for someone this sick to still be working. I thought people would rather have a well doctor operating on them.

It was harder to accept the “retiring” than the cancer! After all, a man’s self worth is bound up in his work. [1] Some of my older friends who had retired experienced depression. I soon understood how they felt.

My physical and emotional highs and lows bounced around. But I was so well cared for and so greatly loved. My wife, Pam, never left me day or night while I was hospitalized. Friends were faithful to write, pray and send gifts. It was encouraging and wonderful to see the compassion of the Father meditated through His people.

Then my right hip became so painful I couldn’t walk. My doctor, fearful it might fracture, advised a hip replacement. This was done, but the replacement would not stay in place. The forth time it displaced was my lowest point emotionally and spiritually. I felt so alone and abandoned by God. I desperately wanted to feel God’s presence and encouragement.

Discouragement pulled me down. This was such a ridiculous situation. My battle was with cancer and here the doctors were fooling around with this hip! After waiting six hours for another relocation the doctor decided to re-operate. The surgery was set for the following Monday. This left me with a long weekend of depression. My face must have registered total despair for Pam asked a local pastor, who was hospitalized on my floor, to visit me. He had been in a coma for two months, and his heart had stopped several times. He was weak and very thin. Tubes stuck out of every body opening and he was on oxygen. I didn’t know who I felt more sorry for — him or me. With tears for both of us, I told him my troubles. He was so tender. I’ll never forget what he said, “I have the authority to tell you that Jesus will never leave you or forsake you, regardless of your feelings. That’s the truth.”[2] His compassion touched my deep emotional hurt.

But I still felt unworthy of God’s love and soiled by the world. God had kept me from gross sins but I was proud of my accomplishments. I knew I was saved by grace but had lived depending on myself. My conscience accused me of being a hypocrite, a Pharisee, full of pride. There was some evidence for these accusations, such as being unforgiving, not ministering to the lowly, and being a phony. The focus of my prayers had been me and mine instead of others. I knew many of my friends, who now were praying for me, had hard problems, I had not earnestly prayed for them. I wrestled with these thoughts all weekend.

The morning after surgery I awoke early and glanced at Pam, who was still asleep. I grabbed my tape player and inserted a tape not even looking at the title. It was on “Ruthless Trust.” The speaker said God loves us just as we are, not as we should be, or what we want to be. Nothing we do makes God love us more than He already does.[3]

I so much wanted to think of some good deed or work that I could do to restore my fellowship with Him. I was at the end of my rope and there was nothing I could do. But then it dawned on me that no deed was necessary. His love could not be earned. It was a free gift. I no longer needed to “do it myself” or “tough it out for Jesus.” I could simply receive from Him the provision and love I needed. [4]

What does God ask in return for this overwhelming love? Only faith — “ruthless trust.” It struck me this was the same gospel my pastor and a friend had shared with me 30 years ago. In my pain I had forgotten. Now it became alive and refreshing like news I had never heard before. [5] God seemed grander, more beautiful and loving than I had known Him.

This deeper trust was the same trust I had when I prayed to receive Christ. Back then I had surrendered all I knew of myself to all I knew of Jesus. I was young, and strong and the sun was in my face. I girded myself and went where I wanted to go. Now I hold out my arms and others dress me and take me where I don’t want to go. [6] Trust now requires courage and tenacity. A friend shared, “You just dig your fingernails into the cross and hang on against the storm.” It now rang true. It’s “ruthlessly trusting” God when nothing is going like I wish.

Earl Carpenter, director of our local Christian Medical Ministry of Alabama, told me, “You never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” That is where I am.

The rest of the story? I don’t know. Medically my prognosis is poor. I have no promises, no certainty. But I know Jesus is all I have and all I need. I’ve learned to live in the joy of the moment. [7] I’ve learned to practice the presence of God.

I’m on the road. I’ve met a lot of people, some tax collectors, some Pharisees, some guys with ear rings, girls with purple hair. In the past I would have been afraid my picture would be taken with those folks. But now I know Jesus loves them, and I’ve learned to love them too. They have shown me compassion that has broken my heart. Now I want to minister to the insignificant people, for I realize my own insignificance apart from Christ.

I know where the road ends. I don’t know how much longer my journey will be. I do know His Majesty awaits me at the end of the road. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I would not trade the trip for anything. I would not take away the cancer if it meant missing the trip into the deeper water of God’s love. It has been wonderful.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”[8]


Dr. Collier began practicing opthalmology in Birmingham, Alabama in 1971. When he went to be with the Lord in December, 1999, his FAITH became SIGHT (2 Cor 5:6-8).

Radical Trust was originally published by Buck Publishing Company, 2409 Vestavia Dr,, Birmingham, AL., USA 35216.

Typist for Grace Notes edition: Sarah Woodward

Editorial Notes:

[1] Discussed in The Search for Significance, by Robert McGee

[2] See Heb 13:5

[3] See Jer 31:3; Rom 8:35-39; 1 John 3:1-2

[4] See John 15:4-5

[5] See Col 2:6

[6] An allusion to John 21:18

[7] See Phil 4:11-13,19

[8] 2 Cor 4:7,10

(footnotes — an editorial supplement by J.B.W.)

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