Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blessings Beyond Belief

The following is an abbreviated version of an address I gave to our church congregation at the invitation of our pastor today 2/10/08. Several have asked that I post these thoughts.

I have truly lived a charmed life. I honestly do not know another man who has been so blessed. Given the grace to make some right choices early in my life I have been preserved from many a heartache that I have observed others experience. One of those choices was to marry Linda, the wife of my youth now for nearly 40 years – and just as beautiful now as when I first fell in love with her at the age of 16. I was given the opportunity to enter the medical field and have enjoyed enormous fulfillment in literally thousands of meaningful interactions with patients over the last 30+ years. I have been blessed with three beautiful daughters, each of whom has married wonderful godly men and together given us eight awesome grandchildren (one of which is still in the hopper). I have also been blessed with great health and a low risk profile for most life-threatening illnesses, a wonderful church family... the list goes on and on.

I have been so blessed, that I have often pinched myself and prayed a kind of preventative prayer: “Lord, I am so grateful for the life you have given me. I know your Word says that we are drawn closer to you through suffering, but if there is some way I could accomplish that without the suffering part, teach me that way…” It seemed to be working, until two and a half weeks ago when I learned unexpectedly that I have disseminated cancer. Then a little over a week ago I learned it is an aggressive form of metastatic malignant melanoma for which there is no cure and which, without treatment, would take my life in less than six months. In my case there were no warning signs, no abnormal mole, nothing to alert me to the danger. And none has yet been found.

I stand before you seemingly intact, and indeed today I feel pretty strong, but all the imaging studies show that inside I look like Swiss cheese! The cancer involves my spine, long bones, lymph nodes, liver, lungs and even brain. Well, after absorbing the initial shock, let me share with you some things the Lord has taught me. He is teaching me so many things through this experience, but let me share just four:

#1 – It is an enormous blessing to be given the opportunity to anticipate the very real possibility of an early promotion whereby I may be ushered into the presence of Christ! Not many are given that opportunity. I have been overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and support by family and friends (from all over the globe!) and opportunity to cut through all the mundane topics of conversation to those things that really matter. I am extremely proud of my wife and daughters for their faith and fidelity during these precious days together.

#2 – In these last two weeks I have come to know our Lord by experience in ways that before I could only proclaim by faith. He is the ground reality, altogether holy, righteous and just, yet full of mercy and compassion. He is not some paper god I make up to suit my own sensibilities. He is both Elohim (the Sovereign One), El Elyon (the Almighty One), and at the same time El Roi (the One who really sees me in my need) and Jehovah Jireh (the God who provides for my every need). He is well described by C.S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia as the lion, Aslan, not a pussy-cat, certainly not “safe”, but both fearsome and full of compassion, willing to suffer and sacrifice His own life that the traitor (in each of us) might be saved. He is the One who:
· Cares more about my character than my career
· Cares more about my purity than my personal peace and prosperity
· Values longsuffering more than longevity
I have been blessed to know Him in this way, so that I can say with Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him”.

#3 – God is up to something! This is no accident. Over the last year here at Tabernacle Church He has removed several spiritual leaders from effective ministry, either through sustained illness (like fellow-elder Howard Douthit) or through death. With my illness, we have now lost two volunteers (myself as elder, overseer of our small group ministry, and Bible teacher, and Linda as director of Women’s ministries). Dear church family, I believe He is saying it is time for those of you who have been sitting on the sidelines, to step up to the plate. I am already seeing many of the women step into positions of leadership. Now the men need to do likewise. May your many gifts be fanned to flame and many assume positions of leadership and productive ministry. We need to give of both our time and our resources. This church of nearly a thousand has relied on the time and talents of only two pastors, when it is clear we need at least one additional pastor to effectively disciple this congregation. We cut our ministry budget last year for lack of funds. The resources are here – we all need to GIVE. It is time…

#4 – There is a spiritual battle going on. At first I entered this situation thinking I just need to learn how to suffer with grace. But lately I have been impressed that I need to engage in the battle, and by faith take aim against those things that oppose God’s purposes in all this. I invite you to join me. In addition, however, I believe there may be a spiritual battle going on in the body of Christ here at Tab. Like the cancer that insidiously grew in my body over a period of months without symptoms, there may be dysfunctional cells in this body that are not connected to one another, that want to go their own way and not yield to the direction of the Head, who is Christ. It may be some disgruntlement over worship style, a personality conflict with another member, a dispute over a minor doctrinal issue, or simply a lack of commitment to risk honestly relating to one another in small groups. My friends, we need to expose ourselves to this reality and allow Christ to heal us that His Body may be healthy, strong and truly redemptive.

None of us deserves tomorrow. Each day is a gift from the Giver of Life. No matter what the future holds for me and my family, I want you to know – honestly – it is well with my soul. Thanks so much for your partnership with us on this journey.



  1. Dan

    You put it all out there today. I am still moved. It is clear to me that you are ready for whatever God has planned.

    Thank you to Linda, your daughters and you for sharing the challenge and the hope.

    Please know that I am here to help.

    Your Friend

    Gary Hayden

  2. Dan and Linda~

    You and your family have been in our prayers since we learned of your condition. And we are sending them repeatedly today. You certainly have been a great example as to what a man/family of God truly is. May you continue to experience God's grace and comfort.

    Jaret and Angie Rhinehart

  3. As usual you exude Christ's love and beauty, wisdom and passion in all you say and do. Thanks for your wonderful, godly example. We love you and Linda and miss you both greatly.

    Jessica Vega

  4. Dr. Crabtree,
    I heard the news today from your wonderful staff at personalized family medicine. I can't begin to explain how shocked and sad i was to hear the news. I want to let you know how gracious and wonderful you have been as my Doctor. I will be praying for you, and your family.
    Aimee Yanez

  5. Your blog was passed on to me via Sentara eCare. Your words of faith are inpiring. May God continue to be you and your family as you face this challenge.

  6. Dan
    Thank you for putting your words from church onto your blog. You have been such an inspiration. God has truely blessed you.

    Keep up the good fight, from the comments on your blog, you have an army of prayer warriors behind you.


  7. I just wanted to add my prayers to the bunch. God sure is using you as an amazing witness right now. I can't even begin to imagine how I would feel with such a diagnosis- anger, frustration, fear, sadness... and while you may go through the same emotions, you still step forward with grace and full trust in God's plan. I don't think I have that strength, but I sure am searching for it.

    My faith has really been tested lately, and after your testimony at church this past Sunday, I have to say I've never seen a stronger example of faith in our Lord. It amazes me how you still give all the credit to Him... it is really bringing me closer on my own walk with God. I'm sure your testimony will continue to bring people closer to Him. I wanted to thank you for your words this Sunday... they have really impacted my life.

    I will continue to pray for you and your family as much as I possibly can.

    -Rachel Beasley

  8. Dan,

    Bette and I have been following your progress and praying for you and Linda daily, both for healing and freedom of discomfort. You are truly an inspiration to us all. God is in control and has you and your family in the palm of his hand.

    God's blessings to you.

    Kit and Bette Lawrence

  9. Dan and Linda,

    I just heard the news and am encouraged by your words on the blog. God is still in control and you know you will win no matter what. You are both in my prayers.

    Bill Stephany