Do you know someone with cancer? Perhaps you’re fighting a battle with cancer even today?
My father-in-law fought off cancer, against all odds, and lived another nineteen years. It doesn’t always work out like that.
How do you live gratefully when faced with the prospect of dying prematurely?
In this interview, I discuss with Kep Crabb, founder of Larger Story, how he’s responding to his wife’s recent diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer. He talks about how it’s shaping the way he lives each day. For example, he describes how his prayers are changing, and how his longing for heaven is intensifying. He’s finding things that used to matter a lot, like playing music, don’t have nearly the same level of appeal.
Stories of gratitude discovered during cancer
My friend, John (name changed), has stage 4 cancer. He left me a voicemail recently declaring with tears how grateful he was to have a good day. He was able to put in a full day of work when the previous day he could barely move.
Martha Carlson describes how cancer made her a more grateful person. It didn’t take away her pain, but it allowed her to appreciate all the little things in her life.
Kep elaborates on this by telling how he sees his wife with fresh perspective. He aims to cherish each day with relentless focus. He quips that we often have wasted days, but he now intends to make the most of every day.
Cancer brings focus to your life
If someone told you that you were going to die in 30 days, you would live very differently. Kep reminded me that cancer is a gift in that way; you have time to prepare for the likely end of life. I have many friends who lost a loved one due to COVID or accidents or sudden life-ending trauma. They didn’t get the chance to plan for the end.
Pastor Dick Kaufman was diagnosed with cancer. He determined that he would not “waste his dark valley.” In a sermon to his church, he tells about the people he led to the Lord while he was in the hospital being treated for cancer.
John Piper, who wrote the book Desiring God, also fought off cancer. He wrote another powerful book, Don’t Waste Your Cancer (available for free download here).
Dr. Larry Crabb, Kep’s father, has also fought off cancer three times and now fights leukemia. His longing for heaven has increased, as reflected in his book Waiting for Heaven. But he also has a renewed focus to write the books that are still in him.
Listening to these mentors and friends, I find myself convicted. Am I focused today on the things that matter the most? In Psalm 90, Moses says,
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life,–Psalm 90:12 NLT
so that we may grow in wisdom.”
We’ve all been given a death sentence. For example, for some that day is closer than others. For others, we know with certainty that day is near. For most of us, we live as if we have decades to live. What if we don’t?
Do we pray for healing?
We’ve read the countless miracles of Jesus in the New Testament and know that God still works miracles. But we also know that God sometimes decides to wait to heal us in heaven. Kep challenges us to be more focused on heaven than we are on temporary healings. He still prays for Kimmie’s healing, but he prays more for heaven to come quickly.
Gratitude can bring healing
Integrative medical practices understand that medicine alone won’t cure people. How we think, eat, live, relate, and dream all have an influence. On day 55, we explored how gratitude helps bring us out of depression. In that context, I referenced the work of Dr. Mindy Pelz and others who research how “radical remissions” occur. I would call these miracles.
One of the key ingredients researchers find is that a grateful mindset often sets apart patients who thrive versus those who just survive. It can increase resiliency, open us to new opportunities, lower our blood pressure, and improve our desire to exercise and eat well.
“In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.”― Dr. Robert Emmons
While gratitude is not guaranteed to heal anyone, it plays an essential role. Besides, it’s more enjoyable to live gratefully. And no one enjoys being around ungrateful people.
Cancer is hard
Let’s face it. Cancer should be a 4-letter word. That’s the last word we want to hear at the doctor’s office. And while survival rates keep increasing and new cures discovered, cancer remains a game-changer. Cancer permanently changes lives.
My father-in-law became much more passionate about sharing the Gospel after he recovered from lung cancer (for which he was given a 20% chance to survive a year). He eventually died of a different form of cancer, but at his funeral, the testimonies abounded of the impact he had on people after his first bout with cancer. He didn’t waste his cancer.
If you’re walking through a fight with cancer personally or with someone you love, I encourage you to find ways every day to be grateful. Ask Jesus to make his promises more real. Ask his Spirit to give you clarity of mind. Pray for wisdom on how to not waste any day you’ve been given.
If you aren’t facing cancer right now, you likely will be touched by it someday. In the meantime, how can you become more intentionally grateful today and each day? How can you focus your life on the things that really matter?
Lord, I praise you as the giver of life. You make all things new. I acknowledge that you know the number of my days and I don’t, but I ask for focus today to live this day with purpose and focus. I pray for the ability to hear your voice throughout the day. May I have the boldness and confidence to do what matters. Use me today in the lives of those around me and around the world. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Who is Kep?
Kep Crabb is the founder of Larger Story, a ministry committed to helping spiritually hungry people through the teaching legacy of Larry Crabb. He’s also a bass player, tennis pro, and an entrepreneur. Additionally, I studied under his father, Dr. Larry Crabb, when I received my master’s degree in biblical counseling.