Aging, arthritis, benign tumors, and faith

If you’ll bear with a bit of a ramble, I’d like to talk about my medical history. :slight_smile:

I’ll be turning 38 this year. I’m 5’10", have worked desk jobs for 17 years, and have hovered around 250 pounds for most of this time.

In the last three years or so, I’ve begun to experience mild health concerns – most likely related in some form or another to inactivity and a poor diet. However, looking into these problems has yielded the incidental discovery of other things.

I had my first colonoscopy a few years ago due to some mild bowel issues. The colonoscopy yielded no malignant findings, but they found a lipoma in my sigmoid colon (biopsied, benign), and referred me for a CT scan to ensure the lipoma wasn’t protruding into other structures. The CT scan ended up discovering an enlarged, fluid-filled appendix expected to rupture at any point. This resulted in me scheduling an appendectomy, my first “real” surgery.

The CT scan also noted a partially visible (partially because the scan was of my abdomen, not thigh area) lucent lesion in my proximal right femur, suggesting a likely-benign intraosseous lipoma. There was no real urgency attached to this. None of the medical professionals I was in discussion with at the time felt there to be a need to look into it further. I never saw any imaging of it, or any measurements.

Fast forward to last summer. I was exercising more, playing soccer with the kids in the backyard. I started getting pain in my right hip joint. After trying a mixture of rest and exercise over several months, it hasn’t really got better. Recently I recalled the CT scan finding of the bone lesion in my upper femur, and wondered if there was a connection. Went to the doctor, got an X ray, and wow, that lesion is actually pretty good-sized. Unclear if it’s something that’s grown in the last three years though, since I don’t get the impression that it was measured during the CT scan. Not sure.

Overall, radiology doesn’t see any acute issues with the lesion. Suggest CT or MRI for further imaging to characterize the lesion better. Given that it has a pretty thick sclerotic rim and fairly nice round shape, it seems to suggest maybe more of a benign cyst kind of thing. Doesn’t look out of control or malignant, but I am no expert.

Whatever the lesion is, it’s also likely not related to my hip joint pain. Radiologist observes “mild osteoarthritic changes” in the hip joint, which – as I read about it – seems to match my pain symptoms much better. Now that I’ve seen where the lesion is located (a good several inches south of the ball joint), I wouldn’t think the issue is related at all. Still, good to finally see it. Will be seeing my doctor again next week to have him review with me and decide on next steps.

I’ve got arthritis symptoms in both of my shoulders. When I wave them too and fro, you can hear distinctive grinding in the rotator cuff area. I hurt my right rotator cuff about 12 years ago throwing a football at a church picnic, and never really did anything deliberate to nurse it back to health. It’s gotten worse over time, and now the left one has become poor over the last year or two.

My doctor also recently told me I had “remarkably” high cholesterol, and suggested some drastic dietary changes. I took him seriously.

Meanwhile, ever since I had COVID in 2022, I’ve had some chronic Eustachian tube issue in the right ear. Sometimes in the middle of the night, or when I wake up in the morning – and sometimes during the day – it’s like I can’t get the tube to pressurize properly, and hear buzzing/whirring in my ear. I have to work at it for a few seconds to open it up, and sometimes can’t. I went to an ENT about it last year. Did a simple hearing screen which found no issue. Doctor looked in my ear for wax and kinda dismissed me to come back if I was still having problems.

There was a particular night about a month ago where I woke from sleep to the sound/sensation in my ear with a great sense of dread that I was dying, that I must have a brain tumor or something, and would be dead in the next few years; that I need to get my affairs in order like Hezekiah was told (Isaiah 38:1). I ended up going back to a doctor to look into it again. He was pretty reassuring to me that he didn’t believe there was cause to be concerned. He believed it was likely just a Eustachian tube dysfunction which is fairly common as people get older. He also said this kind of long term tinnitus issue has been common as a post-COVID symptom in his experience. He went ahead and ordered a CT scan of my head anyway. Thankfully, results were normal, and my symptoms have started to subside again the further I get away from my last seasonal respiratory bug. Still, God did much sanctifying work in my heart in the weeks following that one January night, and I am very thankful for it. It was a wake up call to be striving to live with a good conscience before God and man, with a fresh fear of the Lord and a view toward eternity. A renewed zeal for self control and putting away childish things.

Why do I share all this?

Here’s the thing. It’s really come to bear in my heart these last couple years that I truly am going to die one day. While I have grown fairly accustomed to walking alongside my wife or my children in their health issues, only in these last three years do I feel like I’ve been forced to really reckon with the weakness of my own body – both through paying the price for the things I’ve done to it (gluttony, inactivity), and also the natural corruption that simply seems to plague Adam’s fallen race from within (like a bone tumor in the femur).

For the last month now, I’ve had more self control and purpose in my eating and exercise than ever. I’ve dropped a pretty solid 10 pounds. I’m taking walks, doing push ups, air squats, etc. Besides the daily hip and shoulder pain, I feel pretty great, and can tell I am gaining some muscle back. But as determined as I am now to get ahead of some of these things, the reality nevertheless sets in that basic wellness will now be an uphill battle for the rest of my life. My teenage son, in the strength of his youth, is lifting weights right now to gain muscle. I’m lifting weights to try and ward off the grave – or at least to keep the keepers of the house from trembling prematurely (Ecclesiastes 12:3). His strength is on the rise. Mine is on the fall.

I’m going to die. It’s just true. I see it coming.

As I consider these things, my soul is increasingly refreshed to rest upon the most basic truths of the gospel. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” As death starts to look more imminent, what solid place can I find for my feet besides simply leaning more and more by faith into that wondrous truth that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and has given me the assurance of eternal life?

I’ve grown far more settled in a simple love for the local church walking through the sufferings of life together. Over time, I find myself placing less premium on zealous conversations about reformation and the nuances of covenant theology, and an increasingly higher premium on things like having a pastor who loves me and will drive me to a medical procedure and pray with me. I care more about having solid brothers who will pour into my sons than I do about arguing the intricacies of the hypostatic union.

I imagine these types of experiences with my health are the sorts of experiences that God uses to turn zealous young Christian men into settled old Christian men – should he see fit to fill out their days at all. Through these health issues, and other things, I have been gaining an increasingly deeper appreciation for grey hair in the church, and greater compassion for the elderly and middle-aged, as I begin to relate more personally to the pains they have walked through. I have also been gaining a deeper appreciation for grey-haired pastors who patiently bear with the zealous young men in the church who listen to a lot of podcasts but haven’t buried their fathers, and have been around death and age very little.

Semper reformanda sure sounds like a a nice ideal, but I begin to think that reformation truly has its limits in the lifetime of a given man. With death always so near to all of us, and such natural limit placed upon our fleeting frame, we are forced to prioritize the needs of the day. I’m soundly convinced that theological squirrel chasing is a young man’s game.

I can remember about 15 years ago hearing my old pastor preach a sermon in which he seemed to avoid dealing with what I must have deemed to be an important theological issue in a particular text. When I inquired of him, his answer involved something to the effect of the importance of “keeping the main thing the main thing.” At the time, I almost resented him for it. It sounded like a cop out to me. But over time, I’ve seen more wisdom in what he meant.

May God help me age well and die well with the help of his saints.


Fine meditation, dear brother. Sorry this is hitting you at 38 when it’s hitting me at 70, but maybe I wish it had hit me at 38?

We should not equate always reforming with theological squirrel chasing. The need of the day is awakening the church to our sins through faithful preaching and pastoral care, and how is the faithful preaching and pastoral care to come about without serious (and hated) reform? Isn’t it likely the difference between, on the one hand, the young thunder-puppies cutting their eye teeth on presuppositionalism, hypercovenantalism, and Christian nationalism, and on the other hand, church reform: that the first is done for glory and the second for the guarding of God’s sheep and the approval of our Good Shepherd?

I’m sure you do not disagree with this, but let me state that, at my age, what I notice is only a growing concern for the false doctrine and practice of the Church. Not at all a lessening. But young men won’t listen to our warnings and are off doing their egotism.

When I was your age, I read a statement I’ve ever since been noting as tragically accurate: The problem with young men is that they lack wisdom but won’t listen to those who have it; and the problem with old men is that, by the time they have wisdom, young men won’t listen to them.

May God continue to give you grace for mortifying your flesh, and may you live to love and teach your children’s children. With affection and love,


Amen. Certainly agree. I definitely don’t want to conflate true reformation with squirrel chasing. You’ve done a better job capturing my meaning than I did. Thunder-puppies, as you’ve described it, is what I meant by squirrel chasing.


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Dear Jason,

Some of our week’s reading for NGA’s Pastoral Theology: Pastoral Care class (which many of you would have done well to take, as I recommended to you months ago):

We suppose those whom we persuade to this work, to understand the substance of the Christian religion, and to be able to teach it to others; and the addition of lower and less necessary things, is not to be preferred before this needful communication of the fundamental principles of religion. I highly value common knowledge, and would not encourage any to set light by it; but I value the saving of souls more. That work which is our great end must be done, whatever be left undone.

It is a very desirable thing for a physician to be thoroughly studied in his art; and to be able to see the reason of his practice, and to resolve such difficult controversies as are before him. But if he had the charge of a hospital, or lived in a city where the pestilence was raging, if he would be studying fermentation, the circulation of the blood, blisters, and the like, and such like excellent points, when he should be visiting his patients, and saving men’s lives; if he should even turn them away, and let them perish, and tell them that he has not time to give them advice, because he must follow his own studies, I would consider that man as a most preposterous student, who preferred the remote means before the end itself of his studies: indeed, I would think him but a civil kind of murderer.

Men’s souls may be saved without knowing whether God did predetermine the creature in all its acts; whether the understanding necessarily determines the will; whether God works grace in a physical or in a moral way of causation; what freewill is; whether God have scientiam mediam,’ or positive decrees concerning the blame for evil deeds; and a hundred similar questions, which are probably the things you would be studying when you should be saving souls. Get well to heaven, and help your people thither, and you shall know all these things in a moment, and a thousand more, which now, by all your studies, you can never know; and is not this the most expeditious and certain way to knowledge

If you grow not extensively in knowledge, you will by this way of diligent practice obtain the intensive more excellent growth. If you know not so many things as others, you will know the great things better than they; for this serious dealing with sinners for their salvation, will help you to far deeper apprehensions of the saving principles of religion than you will get by any other means; and a little more knowledge of these is worth all the other knowledge in the world.

Love and affection,


Thank you for sharing brother. This was very helpful. I will be sharing it with some other young and old men.

As Irenaeus said,
“The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever preparing for death.”

I will be praying for you,


Where is the quote from? Very helpful.

Baxter, Reformed Pastor

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Ha, I almost just guessed. I thought I recognized it. :slight_smile:

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I vaguely remember you mentioning this on Bayly’s Daily, but didn’t give it a lot of thought at the time.

Is there still opportunity to audit this class via Zoom? If so, please call, email, or PM me. Would love to discuss. Thank you.

“Youth is wasted on the young”.

You wrote:

Semper reformanda sure sounds like a a nice ideal, but I begin to think that reformation truly has its limits in the lifetime of a given man. With death always so near to all of us, and such natural limit placed upon our fleeting frame, we are forced to prioritize the needs of the day. I’m soundly convinced that theological squirrel chasing is a young man’s game.

Having done my own share of squirrel chasing when I was younger (I’m now 61, although the squirrels I chased were not the ones you were chasing) I now think I would say to my younger self:

  • Discipleship is a long obedience in the same direction - you’re in this for the very long haul
  • Turning up (consistently in church on a Sunday) is half the battle
  • There are no easy fixes, to anything
  • Believe in prayer, and pray, but remember that prayer is not magic

Anyway, thanx for your reflection, and the chance to tease out the ideas in it.


I’ll respond privately, dear brother

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