Are you ready for your final exam?

Mike Miller  ·  Mar 01, 2015

What’s this all about? A final exam? Today? How did I miss that? I’m not ready!

I’ve felt “not ready” numerous times ever since I entered into this world. When I was born I was blue in my face because I was lacking oxygen. And since then, I’ve undergone no less than 13 surgeries.

At age 3 I had an inguinal hernia, and then a femoral hernia in the same place a year later. At age 5 a lump developed on the left side of my face, which was diagnosed as a type of rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma, which required another trip to see more doctors. That was the start of all my tests.

Upon having an MRI done and taking a biopsy of the lump, my mom was informed that I had a malignant stage 4 cancer tumor. I soon started radiation to shrink the tumor. After the radiation was over, I was scheduled to have my first surgery done to remove what was left of the tumor. In an attempt to get the entire tumor, they severed my facial nerve and took out my entire left jawbone. The doctor who did the initial surgery told us that I would never smile again, as a result of the nerve being severed. In order to get rid of the rest of the cancer that hadn’t been removed from my body, I started chemotherapy. I lost all of my hair, which was devastating to me.

Because of all the research, chemo, and experimental things I was having done on me, I was very weak and frail. I couldn’t even straighten my fingers out enough to hold the Uno cards in the playroom or in my hospital bed. Plus, I had to use the palm of my hand to push the elevator buttons.

But my trials weren’t over! When I was 10, I somehow came down with spinal meningitis and encephalitis, only to be hospitalized once again for an extended amount of time. Numerous times I seriously thought about suicide and brainstormed ways of doing it. My life seemed like one big problem. At the same time, there seemed to be more to life than just the physical part; I just didn’t have answers for the “test questions” life was putting in front of me.

During my senior year of high school I began reconstructive surgeries at Mayo Clinic, where the doctors performed three surgeries over the course of six months to rebuild the left side of my face. At the time, I was thinking that if I could look the way I did before everything happened, or if I had never had cancer, then I would be happy, and I dwelt on the thought of being beautiful. My world screamed “beauty is everything.” Instead, because of the surgeries, I looked like a chipmunk my entire senior year!

Truthfully, though, I was becoming aware at that time that I also had blemishes on the inside of me. Throughout high school, I had cheated to get good grades in order to please my parents and get recognition from teachers. I had also been selfish and unrelational towards a foreign exchange student that had lived with my family. The dilemma of my external sicknesses only mirrored my internal issues of the soul. My self-worth had been based on achievement, but that desire had left me drained.

All of this culminated in an intense need to come clean. Finally, at a college retreat, I made the decision to acknowledge my faults and failures to the One who “wrote the test”—God! The Bible said that if I would confess my sin, He would be faithful to forgive me (1 John 1:9). I did and He did. Someone else passed my “test” for me, and it was all legal!

That’s exactly what the Bible says: The wages of sin is death, but God made (Jesus) take on my sin (Romans 6:23), and because of His innocent sacrifice, my sin debt was paid (2 Corinthians 5:21). That’s why I turned around in my life and put my trust in Jesus alone to save me from my sins so that I could spend eternity in heaven with God. I turned from trying to hide my faults to confessing them, and from wanting to control my life for my purposes to giving it to Him for His. What I experienced at that retreat is what the Bible calls being “born again.” Since then, I have had a power within to let go of bitterness, hate, rage, and hurts from others. A huge weight has been lifted!

I ended up having another surgery, unexpectedly, one year into college. This one was for lockjaw, as the bones that were used to reconstruct my jaw (taken from other bones in my body) began to fuse. And then another surgery a year and a half later to remove 2 millimeters of bone to allow me to open my mouth just wide enough to be able to eat!

But now I no longer live to seek or proclaim my own beauty or pride, nor do I feel the need to. Jesus said, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world (fame, honor, glory), but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul (Matthew 16:26)?”

I know that one day, I will face God’s final exam. It has been appointed for every person to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). But for me, I will no longer face it for passing or for failing. Jesus passed the exam for me already; I am more than forgiven (John 5:24).

Which brings me to you. You, too, have a “final exam” coming. Are you ready? Will you pass? The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of God’s examination standards (Romans 3:23). Jesus died for your failures so that you may pass into eternity with His perfect record. Through a simple yet genuine prayer to Jesus to save you and come into your life, you too can pass the most important exam of your life.


Samaritan member Jenny Dean Larson, of Decorah, Iowa, wrote the following article. She went to be with the Lord on November 25, 2014, at the age of 29, after suffering a seizure.