Seven Truths That Guided One Man through Cancer and into Eternity

Denny GradinDenny Gradin was a missionary with a big heart for Spanish-speaking peoples. In August 2012, he was initially diagnosed with cancer, and two months later wrote his “Basic Truths That Guide My Life” in response to the questions he received about how he was dealing with his diagnosis. It continued to express his heart until the Lord called him home, 17 months later.

Denny’s points also remind me of John Piper’s article “Don’t Waste Your Cancer,” another excellent perspective for those facing tough diagnoses.

J.C. Ryle wrote, “Health is a good thing but sickness is far better if it leads us to God.” May we accept health as God’s blessing and its absence as God’s severe mercy, and seek to glorify Him through both.

Listen to Denny Gradin and apply his thinking to your own life as you seek to “finish well” for the glory of God! —Randy Alcorn

In the following, I have tried to delineate the underlying principles that describe how I live. I realize that not everyone shares these same values or perspectives. Nevertheless, I write this in an effort to help others understand where I am coming from, as I deal with the recent diagnosis of a very aggressive cancer that has spread to my lymph nodes from an unknown source, as well as a recent serious infection.

1. God exists, and is sovereign over all things in the universe. Whereas God is in control of everything, and there is nothing that happens outside of what He allows, nevertheless He has created us as humans with the ability to make choices for good or evil. On the surface, there appears to be a logical contradiction between the two, but God is an infinite being. By definition, God is not limited by time or space or power or knowledge or any other factor. (For instance, with God one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.) Since we are finite beings that have these limitations, we cannot fully comprehend God or what He does, but can only recognize Him for who he is.

2. Through our first parents, mankind has chosen to disobey God; as a result, by nature we do not have a relationship with God. No matter how hard we try, we cannot live up to God's perfect standard. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ died on the cross in payment of the penalty for our sin. Through Jesus Christ each of us has the possibility of having a personal relationship with God.

3. God loves us, and wants the best for each of us. This does not mean that life will be a bed of roses or without any problems. Even though there will be difficult times, each of these is under His control, and He is present with us through it all. Some of these may be discipline for correction when we may not be obeying Him, and others may merely be part of things that He allows to prepare us for greater usefulness for Him and to others. Sometimes we may never understand it. Nevertheless, we can rest assured that He always has our best interest at heart. I have been through many very difficult times in my life that I could not understand then, only to come to a realization later on that God had His purposes in allowing it. These experiences have caused my faith in Him to grow, so that as I face new and more difficult challenges, I have an anchor that sustains me.

4. My main desire in life is to allow Christ to live His life through me. That does not mean that l am perfect, but I seek to please God in all that I do. I want to maintain a clear and open relationship between us, so that nothing on my part would hinder God in accomplishing all that He wants to do through me.

5. Since God is in control and desires the best for me, I tend to look for his fingerprints in the broader things that happen in life. This does not mean going to the extreme of trying to interpret every single thing that happens. Nevertheless, sometimes the content, extent, or timing of contacts with people, conversations, or experiences seem to have particular significance at specific moments. These things help me to notice His hand and give me comfort or guidance for present realities or decisions regarding the future.

6. Worrying about things does not really change the outcome for the better. Anxiety is the feeling that results from allowing our mind to dwell excessively on the negative, unknown, or uncertain factors in our lives. The opposite of worry and anxiety is peace. When someone's peace is based on things not under their control (the people and circumstances of their lives, having money, good health, etc.), and when these things are negative or are lost, then worry and anxiety take over.

On the other hand, the peace that comes from a relationship with God is based on His presence and control in our lives. His control and presence with us do not change, in spite of all of the other changes that may come our way. It is not sticking one's head in the sand like an ostrich, and hoping that the negative aspects are not true or will go away; it is fully recognizing the hardships but knowing that God will be with us in the midst of them, regardless of the outcome. As my thoughts and emotions are anchored in Him and His care for me, it keeps me from worry and anxiety.

7. If God desires, He is fully capable of healing me of the cancer or sending it into remission, to extend my time on this earth. He can do this with or without medical means, or He can choose not to do it at all. The fact that God does not always heal when we pray for it is not necessarily an indication of unbelief or sin in the life of the person. God remains sovereign to do what He knows is best.

For further information, the following Bible verses support these points:

  1. Isaiah 40:18-31; Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 1:11; 2 Peter 3:8
  2. John 3:16-21; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-10
  3. John 16:32-33; Romans 5:6-11; Romans 8:28; Hebrews 12:5-9
  4. Matthew 6:33; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 1:5-10
  5. Esther 6:1-14; Proverbs 3:5-6; Lamentations 3:22-23
  6. Matthew 6:25-34; John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7
  7. 2 Kings 20:1-7; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Philippians 1:21-25

Photo by Julia Florczak on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries