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Ryan is cancer-free

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Ryan and Candice Denison at their wedding shower (Credit: The Denison Family)

Yesterday afternoon our family received the news we’ve been waiting since January to hear: our oldest son no longer has cancer.  Ryan was diagnosed five months ago with acinic cell carconima, a cancerous tumor in a salivary gland on the right side of his face.  Surgery in February removed the tumor, but malignancy remained in the nerve and in a lymph node.

Ryan underwent six weeks of proton radiation in March and April, then was given an MRI on Wednesday.  Yesterday he received the good news from his oncologist.  Since his cancer has a high recurrence rate, he’ll receive another MRI in four months and ongoing tests for many years to come.  But we’re thrilled with the news so far and grateful beyond words for every one of you who have prayed for our son.

When Janet and I got the news, our first reaction was one of great joy.  Upon reflection, however, I’ve wondered if that’s the most biblical way we could have responded.  Why do we want Ryan to have many more years of life on this fallen planet?  In part, of course, we want to spare him the suffering that a recurrence of cancer would bring.  But part of our motive is surely selfish—we don’t want to lose him.  However, even saying that is indicative of unbiblical thinking.  We would not “lose” our son, for you “lose” what you cannot find.  We know he would be in heaven and that we would see him again.

Another part of my motive for desperately wanting Ryan to be healed is that he has so much to offer the Kingdom.  He’s a remarkable theologian even as a young adult (I’m reluctant to brag on him, but it’s really true).  His mind and heart are truly surrendered to Christ as his King.  He and Candice could make such a difference in so many lives.  But does God not know all of this?  If the King chose not to heal his cancer, would he have made a mistake in administering his Kingdom?

Early Christians lived every day as if would be their last and looked forward with great anticipation to the day they would be reunited with their Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).  Have we lost their hope in heaven?  Kenny Chesney has a song: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now.”  Imagine for a moment that this is the last morning of your earthly life.  Which would be more true for you—excitement to go to heaven or sadness upon leaving earth?  What does your response say about you?

The fact is, living for eternity is the best way to live today.  We make biblical choices when we remember that we’ll be held accountable for them.  We care about eternal people more than temporal possessions, placing the significant before the urgent.  The problems of the day become less burdensome when we know that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  Upon reflection, the biblical emphasis on eternity makes the most sense today.

Early Christians could pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).  Can you?