Many of you, especially the type of people who follow this blog of God and college football interest, know the story of Tyler Trent, the Purdue superfan who was stricken with a particularly vicious strain of cancer which failed completely to dampen his amazing spirit – or the amazing Spirit within him.
Tyler died on New Year’s Day. He was just twenty years old.
The following is from a wonderful article by Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star, a writer who became a close friend of Tyler’s because, well, durned near everyone who came into Tyler’s orbit wanted to stay in his sphere of influence, and Tyler was more than happy to have you stay close.
But as great and as personal as Doyel’s article is, he couldn’t help but bury the lede because he writes for a secular media source. As I don’t have that disadvantage, I can fix that here. (All the emphases are mine. The writing itself, however is Doyel’s; it’s far too good to be mine.)
Tyler Trent was a fiercely effective warrior for God.
When the cancer first came calling on Tyler, his father summoned the family to an upstairs room in their home in Carmel and read aloud a chapter of the Bible: Psalms 103. Tony Trent wanted to remind Tyler and the rest of the family — his wife, Kelly, and Tyler’s younger brothers, Blake and Ethan — to be thankful to God in all things, and to hear the message of hope.
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
“Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”
And heals all your diseases …
Indeed, Tyler was healed that time. But the cancer came back three years later, and when it did, Tyler prayed to God. He prayed for healing, yes, but he prayed for something bigger, even, than that:
“I wanted to make a difference,” Tyler told me a few weeks ago. “I didn’t think I’d made a difference the first time. That’s what I prayed for: If I’m going to have cancer, use me to make an impact.”
What is it they say? That the Lord works in mysterious ways? Tyler Trent made an impact.
Tyler’s story rippled through the Purdue campus and across the state and soon was picked up by ESPN and went national, even international. In his honor, fans at football games around the Big Ten chanted “Cancer sucks!” In Tyler’s name, Riley Hospital for Children and the V Foundation have raised tens of thousands of dollars. Tyler partnered with an author on a biography that will be released posthumously, and Tyler did it with the goal of raising $1 million for pediatric cancer. At Purdue, there are several scholarships in his name. At Riley, there is the T2 line of cancer cells, donated by Tyler through a process he knew would be horribly painful, to give researchers the chance to study his particularly ruthless strain of cancer.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Tyler told me, over and over.
And here’s what I told him, over and over: I love you.
I … lu … yu.
Earlier in the article, Doyel speaks of how in those last hours, Trent could barely speak; he could barely get out those three syllables that are the most important thing God wants us to know. (That’s why those three words are in red above: they may have come out of Tyler Trent’s mouth, but the words themselves came from God.) Read the entire article here, via USA TODAY:
One of the things that Christians fail to come to grips with in too many cases is that we owe everything to God. Too many people come to Christ with the thought that “God is lucky to HAVE me, so He OWES me happiness!”
What a narcissistic son-of-a…
You deserve NOTHING. He created your sorry butt. In one sense, it matters not a single dingo’s kidney whether or not you’re saved; God could replace you in a heartbeat. But because He LOVES you, the way a Father loves His Child, He GAVE you HIS GRACE.
You should be on your knees in gratitude that God saw fit to save you from an eternity of HELL – for that alone, the balance sheets are forever tipped in your favor! But He also gave you eternity with Him in Heaven! AND, to top it OFF, He gives you peace and joy and power in THIS LIFE as well!
So, we didn’t become Christians to get material wealth but for our eternal salvation AND the advancement of our life here on earth – the Holy Spirit came to take residence in our soul, providing us a source of joy and peace, of guidance and direction through prayer and the Bible.
But does that mean that God has no interest in answering our earthly prayers? Absolutely not – He tells us “ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”. But that doesn’t mean “ask for a Maserati, and He’ll pull up like an Enterprise rental agent”. What we ask for has to serve God’s interests – it has to glorify His Name.
What Tyler Trent asked was to glorify God through his illness. Look at the sequence of events:
- First, through prayer and Scripture, he asked for God to heal him of his cancer. GOD DID SO, possibly to prove His power to him.
- Next, the cancer returns, and Tyler figured out that there’s more to it than what he thought. He knows God has power, but the purpose isn’t to cure him permanently.
- So Tyler correctly determined what would glorify God – “God, give me the ability to make a difference” – and God grants that prayer in spades.
Here’s how I’m interpreting this personally.
I have a disease as well, one which God has once given me a respite from (when I first came to Christ, I had about a two-year receding of the levels of pain and fatigue my TAM presents; it started moving forward again immediately, but it did demonstrate God’s power to heal to me.). God has told me many times the same thing He told Paul – “My Grace is sufficient for You” – and refuses to remove the “thorn from my side”, or as He has called my illness, the “reins around my neck”. He has made it clear that this condition not only brought me to the Lord, but it keeps me from returning to a level of pride that makes be think I’m self-sufficient. I cannot possibly believe in my own self-sufficiency when I am saddled with this myopathy.
So, what can I learn from Tyler Trent’s story? “God, give me the ability to make a difference with this disease for the advancement of your kingdom.” If all I’m supposed to do is preach His Glory through this blog and this ministry and my books, so be it. He knows what the end result of those efforts will be, and if that product is sufficient for His Will, then so be it. I have served Him faithfully as He has wished.
But if there’s more to what I’m supposed to be doing for Him with this disease, then I will continue to be in prayer for that direction.
And I recommend you do the same with whatever handicap you have been blessed with in your life. You may not have anything nearly as dramatic as the cancer Tyler Trent went to the grave with, or the tubular aggregate myopathy He has blessed me with, but you have gifts both of apparent “goodness” and “badness” which God intends for you to use for His glory.
And I’ll leave you with a thought of Gregg Doyel’s from his article about the power of Tyler Trent – he tells us to feel like a hero if we joined in his fight against cancer, we were soldiers in Tyler’s Army, and we were his heroes because we made him smile because of our fight alongside him.
Be my hero, too. Continue the fight for Tyler’s Christian fight against cancer. Continue the fight for God’s Glory. Continue to live your life in God’s Love.
And never forget – “I…lu…yu…”.