Cancer Is All About Relationship

I recently learned that I have stage IV cancer.

A month ago a surgeon removed my thyroid and over forty lymph nodes. Radiation treatment should begin in a few days. Then a week of isolation until the radioactive iodine leaves my system. Then the waiting begins …

Not something I would have chosen on my own, but now that I’m on the journey, I wouldn’t change it if I could.

Why? Because cancer, like all suffering, is all about relationship … and relationship is more precious than good health.

Cancer has made me more God-aware

It has drawn me deeper into Scripture and motivated me to re-answer life-altering questions like these:

Do I believe that God lovingly and wisely controls the smallest details of my life, including the condition of the very cells of my body? Yes, I do. (Psalm 139:13-15; Matt. 10:29-31)

Do I trust that he will eventually work all things for his glory and my good, even if there are some difficult challenges along the way? Yes. (Rom. 8:28; John 11:4; 2Cor. 4:17).

Do I believe that God’s love for me stands firm and unshakeable, even though the world—and someday my body—will inevitably pass away? Yes. (Heb. 12:27-28)

Do I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus has paid for and washed away all of my sins, and that whenever I leave this world and stand before God, he will look at me as his beloved child, blameless, holy and above reproach. Yes, praise be to God! (Col. 1:19-22; Col. 3:12).

Do I believe that I can candidly express my apprehensions to God without fear of disappointing him? Yes. (Ps. 28:1-2; 1Pet. 5:7)

Do I believe that he can heal me, either miraculously or through gifted physicians, and that he welcomes my prayers to that end, but that he may instead decide, in his perfect love and wisdom, to use illness to refine me and display his glory through me? Yes, more than ever before. (John 15:1-2; John 15:8; John 21:19)

Do I believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain, and that he has prepared a place for me in heaven. Yes, I do! (Phil. 1:19-23; John 14:1-3)

As I’ve meditated on these and hundreds of similar Scriptures, God has drawn me deeper into his arms, strengthened my confidence in his love and wisdom, and grounded my hope more firmly in him. These are blessings that far exceed the inconvenience of cancer.

Cancer has helped me to be more self-aware

It has exposed the fact that I’ve taken pride in my good health, as if it were something I had secured for myself, and that I’ve presumptuously assumed I would always enjoy it. This has compelled me to shift my reliance to God alone for my life, breath, and well-being (2Cor. 1:9).

It has sobered me and reminded me that my days are numbered … and not one of them should be wasted on worldly desires, petty ambitions, or anxious thoughts (Psalm 139:16; Matt. 6:27-33).

It has inspired me to wage greater war against the most corrupting cancer in my life—sin—and to seek God’s grace to fight more earnestly against pride, self-sufficiency, envy, self-pity, bitterness, unforgiveness, and every other attitude and habit that undermines my ability to know, love, and serve him (Heb. 12:1; 2Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:22-24; James 4:8).

It has moved me to be more diligent in nurturing the body God has given me and to strengthen the immunity systems he’s give me by maintaining an even healthier diet, exercising more consistently, and making more time for rest (1Cor. 6:19).

It has challenged me to let go of my past failures and disappointments and to press on with a renewed commitment to love God and make his love known (Phil. 3:13-14).

It has motivated me to re-examine my priorities and shift my time and energy more fully to those things that will bless others and advance God’s kingdom (1Cor. 3:12-15; Matt. 25:14-30).

Cancer has made me more other-aware

It has moved me to treasure my dear wife, Corlette, more deeply, who made the appointment for my annual checkup in the first place and has gladly shifted even more of her life to serving and caring for me (1Thess. 1:2-3).

It has made me more aware of how precious my children are to me and how little time I have to pass on to them a legacy of love for God, a sure confidence in the gospel, and a reverence for his Word (Deut. 6:6-7).

Andrew Reading 3 (200x200)It has given me great joy to be the object of my three-year-old grandson’s compassion, as he’s repeatedly kissed my hand to “fix me” and crawled into my bed to read books to me. What a joy to see a child growing in empathy at such a young age.

It has made me more aware of and thankful for my friends, who have surrounded me with their prayers, encouraged me with their notes of encouragement, and stepped in to cover teaching commitments and household chores I could not handle (2Cor. 1:11).

It has made me more aware of the suffering of others and more sensitive to opportunities to comfort those who are sick, lonely, or discouraged (2Cor. 1:3-4).

It has given me many opportunities to use the SERVE principle to express my thankfulness for the many people who serve in the medical community, for the talents God has bestowed on them, for their gracious and sacrificial care—like my surgeon, who gave up his day off to go after my cancer.

It has given me a greater sense of urgency to share the gospel with those who do not yet know Christ, so that when the cancer of death overwhelms them, they can experience the ultimate victory—forgiveness of sin and everlasting life with God (1Cor. 15:51-57).

As I said earlier …

I would not have chosen this road on my own, but now that my feet are on it, I am overwhelmed by the way God is using it to deepen and enrich all of my relationships.

To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “The prospect of dying focuses the mind wonderfully.” And when Jesus himself is at the center of that focus, we can truly say, “It is well with my soul!”

– Ken Sande

For a subsequent medical report and additional insights on facing illness, see An Illness Not Unto Death

Reflection Questions

  • Are you healthy today? If so, how can your good health distract you from living fully for God? How could you live out the concepts above even when your body is strong?
  • Are you struggling with illness or other suffering? If so, which of the Scriptures listed above are most relevant and encouraging to you? How can you live them out today?
  • Do you want to turn cancer or another serious illness into a time of growth and blessing? This insightful article by John Piper and David Powlison can help you make sure you Don’t Waste Your Cancer.

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2014 Ken Sande

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62 Responses to "Cancer Is All About Relationship"
  1. You are in my prayers …. what courage and what a legacy you are blazing for others. My life has changed significantly because of your ministry and I continue to look forward to future teachings as you are able. Take care and thank you for sharing this, it is a testament to your faith and God’s love.

    • Kim said exactly what I was thinking! I’m praising God for all that He is doing in and through you, Ken, and all that is to come.

    • Thank you for your concern and prayers, Kim. God has been exceedingly kind to us throughout this process, and we are confident that his many graces are just beginning to flow.

    • Thanks Brad. It sounds like you’ve been on a similar journey. I’m grateful that many people who have cut trail for me, not only with regard to this issue but so many areas of life.

  2. What an amazing perspective Ken! ALL that we have is from God. I never really considered how we unwittingly take pride in our health and, in fact, take it for granted regularly. Paul’s thorn in his side kept him reliant on God and you have made this thorn your strength. Prayers for you brother and that’s not just a trite phrase — as you mention, life is too short to focus on anything other than what blesses others or advances His kingdom. Thanks for such Godly insights in the midst of a tough journey.

    • Thank you for your encouraging words, Rob. Yes, God is using this and a lot of other things to get at my pride. It is a far greater flow, with a far deadlier effect, then any physical cancer. I’m so grateful that Jesus has already won the victory over all of this.

  3. Ken,

    Thank you for sharing your heart as you do. We will be consistently lifting you up to the Lord for healing. We thank God for allowing us to go on this journey with you and your family. Jesus has used you mightily, and continues to do so as we see in your blog. We pray for all the people who will be drawn into a more intimate relationship with Him through the words you share straight from His heart through yours to ours.

    With you in His abundant Grace and Love,
    Pete & Lisa (ABQ, NM)

    • So kind of you to write, Pete and Lisa. The people like you pray for me, I know we will see great things through this.

  4. Dear Ken,
    Thank you for sharing your journey and how God has been confirming his love for you and his presence in your life through his word of truth. I am praying for complete healing, and for peace and comfort for you and Corlette and your children and grandson.
    God’s grace,
    Jane Holsteen
    Faith Community Church, Hudson, WI

  5. In addition to the things you’ve written, I found weekly Holy Communion from my pastor to be the divine medicine that kept me connected to my Healer during this difficult time. Also in my sickest, weakest moments, I very intentionally praised Him the loudest, hardest and longest that I ever have and my comfort always arrived. That was 5 years ago and part of me misses those times as I have never felt His presence as much as I did then. I don’t need the cancer back to feel that way again though because now I know He is always with me and I will have that presence again in Heaven forever someday, this was only a glimpse of Him.

    Gracious Lord, I lift Ken up to you today, praising You for the message he is sharing during this journey you have allowed in his life for Your purposes. Bless him today with Your peace, comfort and healing. I ask You for maximum effectiveness and minimal side effects from his treatments and that Your strength will sustain his weakness. Surround him and his family with Your angels as he travels this unknown road with You and show Yourself to him in ways that You never have before for his comfort and Your glory. In Jesus’ Healing Name. Amen!

  6. Hi Ken,

    I was shocked and sad to hear this news as I read your post. I’m am however, so encouraged by your resolve, perseverance and trust in God’s love for you through this. We are praying for you and that you are able to continue to glorify Jesus through this circumstance. Love and Hugs from our family to yours.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write, Richard. There is much work for all of us to do, and it’s great to know that we will not leave this Earth one minute earlier than that work requires.

  7. Dear Ken,

    I am so sorry for you and Corlette that you going through this battle for your physical health. You and your family are on my heart and in my prayers. Your vulnerability in sharing these reflections publically will help others going through the same fight, but it also shows me the reality of your character as a godly leader. You have my deepest respect and love.

    Charlie Holt+

    • Great to hear from you, Charlie! I appreciate your encouragement and look forward to working with you to bring relational wisdom to the Orlando area sometime in the future.

  8. I walked into the front door of Peacemaker Ministries 16 years ago adamant that I was not looking for a job, but only visiting with you out of respect for Doc Hagstrom. Thirty-five minutes later I left the building more convinced then ever that I would clean toilets to work at a place like Peacemaker Ministries and to be under your leadership! And I was right!

    I learned more lessons about humility, kindness, Scripture, sacrificial living, and integrity in my time with you than I have anywhere else. Your example and Corlette’s continues to change how I do life. This weeks blog is just one more testimony to the power of Christ and that there is no better investment of my time and talents then to serve Him. Thank you for sharing your insights – we are praying!

    • Thanks, Kate. You were a joy to work with and brought a lot of blessings to our team! I’m so glad we found something better for you to do than cleaning toilets!

  9. Hello Ken,
    Thank you for your transparency and sharing your beautiful heart. I am praying for you brother. May God envelope you in complete healing and rest.
    Blessings,
    Jennifer Solorio
    Faith Community Church
    Hudson, WI

  10. Dear brother in Christ,
    My sister sent me this and it was a stark reminder of the cancer journey that I recently completed. I will be praying for you Ken. It was wonderful to read and hear how you are not going to miss this opportunity to turn a crisis into an opportunity to witness for God. During my journey, I felt God’s presence everyday. He performed many miracles in my life at that time, as I was not only doing the cancer treatments but moved to a different province-to a place I didn’t know a soul in other than my realtor and did major renovations on the new house. It was an exciting and scary time in my life but because God was ever faithful and carried me through out that journey I did and continue to have many opportunities to give God the glory and credit him with all the miracles he performed in my life. I will be praying for healing and lots of interventions by God in your life.
    Thank you for sharing.
    God Bless
    Gail

  11. Like Tara Bradford, I was initially shocked and saddened to read the news you’ve shared; but I’m even more impressed with the list of Biblical affirmations that you’ve shared with us. I’ll be using that list to guide me in prayer for you and your family (and others, as needed). I’d say it’s a pretty good demonstration of the broad applicability of rw360! The Lord does not work in half measures! “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:1

    • Thank you Andrew. It’s interesting how the were challenging issues in life are the ones that drive us into the Bible and allow us to discover its deepest treasures!

  12. Wow, thank you for your humility and openness in sharing with so many you don’t know, but those who you know will be taught and helped by your witness of the reconciling power of God through his son at a very difficult time.

    May the love of God quieten your heart. Zeph 3v17

    Prayers for you all.
    Felicity M

  13. Oh Ken what an incredibly touching blog you wrote, woven in with such humility and wisdom as you shared from your heart this difficult cancer journey that the Lord has you on!! As you know I so appreciate you, yours and Corlette’s sweet friendship, and the countless ways that the Lord has used you as a vessel through this RW 360 ministry!!! It is such a powerful testimony to the Lord as you tenderly and with such grace give such honor to the Lord even in the midst of this huge trial!! Gary and I are standing in the Gap with you through fervent prayer and are journeying this time of trusting in our awesome God along side you!!!!! We love you and can’t thank you enough for your faithful walk with Him that continues to shine brightly, even in the midst of this hard, refining fire!! May God continue to give you, Corlette, and your familly His strength, grace, and unwavering and super-natural peace!! Blessings dear friend!!!

  14. You are brave and very courageous for sharing your fight with us. Your faith and love encourage me! I do struggle with fibromyalgia. It’s not a disease that can be seen, but if I do too much OR feel too much (stress) I can barely move but still have to go to work M-F…Phil. 3:13-14 is most relevant to my life. When I feel sorry for myself, I try to remember that it’s not about me, and give God the glory for all He has done for me and others in my life. The call of God in your life is obvious, and I thank Him for all He has done and is doing for you! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

    • Thank you, Steph. A dear friend of mine has fibromyalgia and I’ve seen how difficult it is to live with. Like you, she has used it as a springboard to focus more intensely on God, to worship him more deeply, and to trust him even during those long, hard days and nights. I pray that he will meet you again and again with lavish grace.

  15. Hello fellow cancer patient. Relationship are important! Some work and some don’t, but it is making the best of the journey that is the adventure in what ever God “allows” to come our way. God allowed me to know I had cancer about a year before it was diagnosed through my bedtime talks with Him. That really took the fear from me, and desensitized the nature of the disease. It did not release me from all the decisions and efforts I would encounter. I look forward to each day, thinking about what I will face and what I can do to be one day closer to the Kingdom of God. Five months after surgery and treatment started, I was well enough to get my first full time job in almost four and a half years. And what a blessing! I knew the job was God’s doing! I filled out an application on line and was called by phone in less than two minutes from the time I hit the send button. I was put through an interview and a test the next morning, pasted a work physical and was hired all before noon the next day. In less than twenty four hours, God had lifted my spirits and had me feeling I had a truly special relationship with Him. I feel rooted in my relationship with God, He has taken good care of me for over 62 years. He always knows what I need before I do, but in that special relationship with Him, I must talk, pray, praise and live a life as close to the footsteps of His son Jesus. Did I do today what Jesus would do in the course of my day? Your ministry my friend, has been a supportive relationship for me. Carry on as God “allows” you, till He comes back in the clouds for all to see, knowing we will share the gift of eternal life. Blessings and love to you and yours always!

    • Amen, Beth! God uses these times as the true growing and enjoying times, and we are so much richer because of them.

  16. I just reread this blog post again. I cry every.single.time. I know God will not waste this pain with the “C” word. I hate it. AND, I trust in the Sovereign loving hands of our Abba as you live humbly and faithfully in these coming days, weeks, and Lord willing years. You and your family are forever engraved in our hearts. We love you. We will pray and pray and trust. The last vision my boys have of my sweet dad, as he sat in his hospital gown…he had a twinkle in his eye and he told them..”keep looking up”. Simple faith can be the anchor in the storms of life. Much love and prayers..Zimms

  17. We had a PeaceWise board meeting today and we prayed for you during our meeting. Without you PeaceWise wouldn’t exist, and thousands of people in our part of the world wouldn’t have been impacted with the gospel of peace and had relationships healed and restored and strengthened. We are so thankful for you and your long-serving commitment to share the blessings of God and his word with others, and please know that the support you have given us continues to reap huge impact in many, many lives not only here but all across the world. Please know that we stand with you at this time, and pray for God to bring you and Corlette through this and to be fully healed. With all our love and prayers, from everyone here at PeaceWise.

    • Thank you for your concern and prayers, Bruce. Your work in Australia has been a great encouragement to me as I think of the many people you’ve impacted with your training. I’m probably going to be teaching RW “down under” in 2015 and I hope we can get together.

  18. Dear Ken,

    Thanks for your honest sharing of this difficult journey with us.

    I also thank God for what He has done through you to encourage us to become true peacemakers.

    What a blessing to learn that blessed are the peacemaker for we are called the sons of God.

    I would like to share with you a psalm that encourages me lately.

    I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from?
    my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

    He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber.
    Indeed, He who watches over Israel with neither slumber nor sleep.

    The Lord watches over you–the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
    the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

    The Lord will keep you from all harm–He will watch over your life;
    the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

    Psalm 121

    May our Lord’s love and grace be with you and your family.
    For He is our help in the ages past, our hope in the years to come,
    our shelter in the stormy blast and our eternal home.

    In Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

    Ping and Joseph from Sydney, Australia

    • Isn’t it amazing how God’s Word speaks to us so powerfully and personally thousands of years after it was recording. It is truly living and active. Thank you for your prayers, for sharing these promises from God, and for modeling peacemaking to others.

  19. Hi Ken, Words can’t express my profound respect and admiration for your Godly wisdom, your Godly perspective, and courage. Thank you for your writings about this battle and great challenge. Your words and witness are a glorious and powerful example to us and an encouragement for us all. Thank you!!! I’m praying for you and your family. All my love to you. Bill

    • It’s great to hear from you, Bill. Thank you for your encouragement and for letting me know of your prayer support. I look forward to sharing reports of God’s lavish grace in response to the prayers of many!

  20. Ken, I’m praying for you and your family. Your wise, sober, foundational words are beautiful and truthful, and represent a vital message for many. I’ve read and re-read them several times, including to my son. Thank you. Love to you. Bill

  21. Dear Ken,
    I am late in hearing this news. I must admit my heart sank but as I read on I was blessed with your insights and scripture. I will save this for those who journey as you.
    My experience with Peacemaker Ministry changed my life and improved my relationships as I grasped more fully God’s plan for restoration. God certainly gifted you in a mighty way and I am grateful.

    Just this past week I received an email from Tajikistan from a couple who attended a class teaching the
    principles in 2006. They continue to teach what they learned and each time have attendees wanting more.
    Excerpt from their recent letter;

    “I forgot to mention that at the cOMpany conference – (names deleted security reasons) and I did a peace maker overview with 30 or 40 workers from across Central Asia. Of course we had a running conflict (team one on a project) and showed how the principles are practiced out. The team in the high mountains asked if we can do more training with them in the winter time.”

    Praying for God’s presence continue and increases as you journey this challenge.
    Please give my regards to Corlett.

    Most grateful for you,
    Jean

    • Thank you, Jean. I treasure your friendship and your prayers. And I’m thrilled to hear how the peacemaking seeds you’ve sown in Central Asia are producing fruit. God is great!

  22. Ken, praying for you and your wonderful family today! I am also praying that you will continue to see the purposes of Jesus in all that is happening to you. Only you could turn your difficulties and challenging circumstances into ministry for others. Thank you for being such a compassionate and loving brother.

    Love to you,

    Ryon

    • Thank you, Ryon. Your prayers and encouragement are precious to me! I hope to be down your way in the next couple of months and would love to connect. In the meantime, I pray God’s grace continues to flow through you into the lives of many men through your various fellowship groups.

  23. Dear Ken,
    I praise God for his wisdom, joy and peace shining through you and Corlette at every stage of your lives, with this one being no exception. Thank you both for touching my life in many ways. May you continually feel Christ surrounding you and your family Psalm 3:3. Love and hugs, Jennifer

    • Thank you, dear friend. So good to see your name on a message. Lots of fond memories when you were part of our circle years ago!

  24. Ken: Thanks for your honest sharing. You can take comfort, as I have, that God gives us the tests that we can handle, and as his children , they make us stronger in the areas of our lives where we are the weakest at times pushing us pretty close to the edge. I didn’t know until today you were going through this. Carol and I will be praying for you and Corlette, Jeff & Meagan that God will be glorified.

    • Thank you, Dale. I know you’ve walked some tough roads yourself with perseverance. Thanks for setting an example others can follow. Give my best to Carol.

  25. I was so grateful you shared this with me in our recent phone conversation. So many of the questions and lessons you have been learning were a part of my life in 2005 when I experienced my bout with head and neck cancer. The disease tutors its assailants in multiple ways. I told people all the time, “I am immortal until Jesus is done with me.” You are as well, my friend. Know that Nancy and I and the folks at Orlando Grace will support from afar in prayer as you walk through the valley with your Good Shepherd.

  26. I don’t remember hearing about your having cancer, Ken. Sorry to hear it, but encouraged to hear what God is doing in you, my brother.

  27. Ken, Karen and my marriage was impacted greatly many years ago as a result of a seminar you did on “handling conflict Biblically”. Through the years our lives have been impacted further as these principles became a part of us and we taught others. Having been going through the cancer challenge for over two years and seeing God use this in our lives, your blog on cancer exemplifies what you have been teaching all these years. It challenged me in some ways I was not focusing on when I read the initial blog. In going through a more difficult time recently, our pastor sent this link this morning. As I read it again I realize I need to read this often. Thanks for sharing this Biblical and eternal perspective. Praying for you and Corlette our dear brother and sister in Christ.

    • Hi Lloyd. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had a more difficult time lately, but I’m glad that in the midst of the struggle God is showing himself faithful. Corlette and I have so many wonderful memories of our time with you and Karen. Thank you so very much for you prayers. We are lifting you up as well.

  28. Ken, Kathy and I have always admired your willingness to be vulnerable and share your life with all who know you, the good, the bad, the ugly, something that many of us are not willing to do. So for you to share your current situation in a way that glorifies God (1 Cor. 10:31) should not be a surprise to any of us. Just know that we are joining all the others that are praying for you, Corlette, and the rest of the family.

    • Thank you, Larry. I’ve certainly found that people connect with us more at our points of weakness than our points of strength. God has given us trails to help us grow but he has also been very gentle, never giving us more than his grace enables us to handle.

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