Last November—November 26, 2009, the morning of Thanksgiving to be exact—Matt Chandler’s life changed forever.

Here’s how the Associated Press profile described it:

Thanksgiving morning, a normal morning at the Chandler home.

The coffee brews itself. Matt wakes up, pours himself a cup, black and strong like always, and sits on the couch. He feeds 6-month-old Norah from a bottle. Burps her. Puts her in her bouncy seat.

The next thing Chandler knows, he is lying in a hospital bed.

What Chandler does not remember is that he suffered a seizure and collapsed in front of the fireplace, rattling the pokers. He does not remember biting through his tongue.

He does not remember his wife, Lauren, shielding the kids as he shook on the floor. Or, later, ripping the IV out of his arm and punching a medic in the face.

During the ambulance ride, Lauren, 29, looks back from the passenger seat at her husband in restraints.

He is looking at her but through her.

The doctors discovered a mass on the frontal lobe of his brain and planned for surgery.

A week later, a few days prior to his surgery (December 4), Matt recorded this message:

On December 15 the neurosurgeon, Dr. David Barnett, informed Matt and Lauren that the pathology report revealed that the brain tumor was malignant (Anaplastic oligodendroglioma, grade 3), that it was not encapsulated, and that they were not able to remove all of it.

He was released from the hospital the next day.

On December 18 Matt taped the following video:

He began radiation and chemotherapy treatments on December 29.

Matt has graciously agreed to answer a few questions, reflecting on the past year. I encourage you to read it not merely for an update or for information, but as a means of stirring you up to pray for our dear brother. (You can receive health updates from Matt here.)

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.”

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.

What about the role of your friends in helping you during this painful time?

I have always deeply desired to be an honest man who said it when I struggled, stumbled and worried. I longed to be a man with real friends—friends who knew me at my worst and loved me. I woke up in the hospital on that Thanksgiving morning with no memory of what happened to me. When I came to, it was my wife and two of the pastors of The Village in whom I have confided, by whom I have been rebuked and corrected, and with whom I have prayed, cried, laughed, and vacationed, standing there with tears in their eyes.

Over the next 3 months they were constantly by my side, driving me to radiation treatments, bringing me meals, praying for me, celebrating with me when radiation was over, going to MRIs and doctor’s appointments with Lauren and me. They were steadfast in their love for me despite the workload they all had to bear with my absence for those 6 weeks. When I was afraid, they reminded me of His promises; when I was angry, they reminded me of His goodness. It truly has been a group effort.

For those who are walking with others who are suffering, what are some of the dumb things to avoid doing and saying?

I’ll stay away from the “what are dumb things people do/say” question. I think people can get a little weirded out by pain, suffering, and death. They don’t know what to do so they end up saying things that are hurtful to people who have experienced loss.

What do you wish people understood more about how to relate to those who suffer?

I wish people understood the power of presence. Just people being there to pray with us, encourage us, and support us was extremely life-giving (once I recovered from surgery).

How can we be praying for you and your family?

I am 10 months in to 18 months of chemo, and the treatments are starting to wear down my stomach and intestines. I am cramping up quite a bit, even after the round is over. I still have at least 8 months left and am hoping that it doesn’t get worse.

I asked in the first email I sent out after the seizure that people would pray for the salvation of my children, and whatever happened that they wouldn’t grow embittered to the Lord. My oldest Audrey has asked God to reign and rule her life a month ago and we’ve been celebrating ever since.

I’d ask for the continued prayers of salvation and sustaining grace on my family’s life and continued death to the cancerous cells that once ravaged my brain!

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33 thoughts on “One Year Later: An Interview with Matt Chandler”

  1. That picture still moves me every time I see it.

  2. Vico says:

    lol at some of the comments in that article, Atheist raging, blaming cancer on God.

  3. Terry says:

    My eyes got a little watery at Matt Chandler’s prayer request for his children. He has the heart of a true Christian father.

    1. Victor says:

      Amen.

  4. Tony Romano says:

    I’m very thankful to God for Matt’s life and witness during this time. I cannot imagine what this would be like.

  5. JS says:

    Matt, we just had a church member fall out of a tree Saturday and sever his spinal cord and break several vertebrae. At this time, he is paralyzed from the waist down. Your message in this article was so timely, and I re-posted it for our church members to see. That “He is good and He does good”. That He has a plan for His glory and our joy! Thanks for your testimony!

  6. Dick Mulhern says:

    Thank you for sharing this interview. I had a good friend call me last night with the request to pray for him as he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. This exchange will help me as I pray and interact with my good friend and it is an encouragement that I will think back on when I face the next challenge of my life.

  7. tinashe christian mugabe says:

    yah th luv of GOD WL NEVA I AM W U IN JST KP BLVNG JC THT HIS STRIPES HEALD U…u hv gt yo miracle

  8. RentMyChurch says:

    We have followed Matt’s journey this past year through his video posts on the Village website and have shared his story with our friends. He has inspired us and continues to inspire us to seek God relentlessly no matter the situation – he is an inspiration!

  9. Faith says:

    As a member of The Village I can personally attest to the overwhelming outpouring of God on our body during this time. I think many of us were shaken and though we ourselves didn’t walk through this trial, we all shared a common fear and grief. The Lord has been so good though to remind our body that it isn’t Matt’s church, it’s HIS. HE will sustain, HE will provide, HE will move; HE will heal. We conintue to plead for Matt’s healing, but rest in knowing that our Father has not abandoned us (or him) and that our deepest longings will be filled not by hope in man, but hope in God Almighty.

  10. Webutante says:

    Matt,

    Have any of your friends or family recommended the book, Outsmart Your Cancer, by Tanya Harter Pierce, published in 2009? If not as I surmise, then I suggest either you or your wife run, not walk, to your nearest bookstore or Amazon and get it. It is nothing short of a gift from God, especially the four chapters on Protocel. God is in control of our going out and coming in, and everyone who struggles with cancer, need to know there are other extremely viable alternatives for treatment out there.

    God bless,

  11. Carrie says:

    Every week I get to sit and watch what real faith, real life and a real love for Christ looks like at the Village Church. Watching victory in suffering like that – makes me want Jesus that much more! I am encouraged, and my deepest prayer in all of this lives are transformed, knees dropping before a very beautiful – good – gracious Lord. Matt is one of many stories of His grace and mercy. It is a privelage to witness and pray over.

  12. Carmen M. Giliberti says:

    Dear Brother Matt
    Just want you to know that I am praying for you and your wife Lauren as you go through this trial. You are such an encouragement and such a trophy of God’s grace. Just know many here in Florida pray for you and stay in touch through your updates.

    In Christ Alone

    A sister in the Lord. Carmen

  13. I got diagnosed with epilepsy a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been confused about how to view it. Do I take the plunge and believe for physical healing? Do I thank God IN – but not FOR – the circumstance? This post didn’t clear it all up for me, but it helped. Thank you for doing the interview.

    1. Alex says:

      You can most certainly ask God for physical healing. What most people fail to realize is that, not only is God able to heal, but that God is WILLING to heal. They just never actually go ahead and ask in faith. Did Jesus ever say “I don’t feel like healing you”? No. He ALWAYS had compassion and mercy on those who asked him for healing and he ALWAYS completely healed them. They were in the presence of the giver of life (God), though assaulted by the minister of death (Satan).
      God is good- ALL the time.

  14. Chris Silva says:

    Have been listening to Matt Chandler for over a year via podcast (Norcal resident). Have been praying for him and his family ever since the seizures. Matt’s testimony brings glory to Jesus our great shephard!!

  15. David jones says:

    Dear pastor Chandler,

    my names David jones. I was just diagnosed with a second relapse of stage 4 ewings sarcoma. There is no set cure for it as of now and my chances aren’t good at all. Like you, I look at it as a gift from god. Your words helped inspire me to live it through, even though the chemo is rough. I pray for you to be completely healed for you have a far bigger purpose on this earth than I have. Stay strong and keep fighting. Gods will be done.

    With Christian love,
    David

  16. shane says:

    you and your family are in our prayers over here. i dont know you but will say you are a much stronger man than i will ever be…hats off to you sir!

  17. Larry Charlemagne says:

    I am very moved and disarmed by this interview. Matts heart for his children and people are powerful. Illness like this rattles me and the faith that it displays in you is otherworldly. I just finished praying for you and wish i
    I could give you a hug. I will be praying for your family and the defeat of this cancer for Gods glory!

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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