Under the scanner

When I first qualified as a doctor (nearly forty years ago), the treatment of cancer was somewhat hit-and-miss. If you found a breast lump, the surgeon would carry out a mastectomy – and that was all the treatment you had. If you were lucky, you might be cured; but very many women came back just a year or two later with untreatable secondary cancer.

Fast-forward to the present day, and the outlook for women with breast cancer has improved enormously – and this is partly because of the invention and development of various types of scanning. Before my surgery, I had a multitude of scans: ultrasound of the armpit (to find out whether the lymph nodes had already been invaded), followed by a CT scan of my whole body (to see if there were hidden secondary cancers in my liver or elsewhere), and then an MRI scan (to double-check the findings of the CT scan!). All this is extremely stressful, at a time when one just wants to hurry up and get the tumour removed as quickly as possible; but it allows the medical team to plan treatment intelligently, to remove a higher proportion of the malignant cells, and to give chemotherapy at an early stage if required, when it’s more effective.

It would be very foolish for anyone newly diagnosed with cancer to refuse the CT scan, out of fear of what it might reveal. What’s there is there. If it’s brought to light, it can be dealt with; if it’s ignored, it will eventually kill you.

Are we willing to submit to God’s scrutiny, when we read our Bibles? Are we prepared to open up our lives to Him? “Search me, God, and know my heart,” prays David (Psalm 139:23). Whatever there is in us that we would prefer to ignore or hide, God already sees and knows about. And His word has the power and authority to reach right down into our deceitful hearts and expose us for what we are. “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart… Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to who we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:11,12) As we read it, we meet God Himself – awesome and holy, yet also loving and merciful. Like a surgeon’s scalpel, His word penetrates our minds and souls, in order to deal with what it finds there. Under its searchlight, all our pretensions and excuses are stripped away; there is no hiding place. Better to confess our sins to Him now – and have them forgiven – than wait for condemnation on Judgement Day.

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