Wednesday, October 14, 2009

FAITH: Fire Escape vs. Fireproof

As my physicians have transitioned from a strategy aimed at complete remission to one of palliation, I have to admit that I have wrestled once more with the issue of faith -- i.e., faith for complete healing in the face of what I have known all along to be an aggressive, devastating form of cancer which was already far advanced at the time of diagnosis.

Let there be no mistake: None of my medical colleagues who were knowledgeable regarding the nature and extent of my malignancy at the time of diagnosis over 20 months ago expected me to survive this long. And even now as it appears the cancer has overwhelmed all attempts at stemming its spread, I continue to amaze my physicians by the paucity of symptoms relative to the recent imaging studies (with extensive new metastases to the brain, meninges, left malar eminence, lymph nodes, left humerus and left thigh).

I have not only exceeded most expectations regarding cancer survival, I am honestly able to celebrate each day with relatively few outward signs of the advancing devastation within. The visual symptoms have stabilized, there has been no further seizure-like activity, and I have sufficient strength and stamina to enjoy the company of friends and family (including strolling the beach with my sweetheart and a recent visit to the grandkids in Pennsylvania that featured apple-picking and walks along the scenic Susquehanna River). With head in hands, my radiation oncologist recently remarked, "I have not seen anything quite like this."

I don't want to over-draw the analogy, but my circumstances remind me of the dramatic bible story of three Hebrew men who survived impossible odds. While in Babylonian captivity, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego were threatened with incineration in a fiery furnace if they did not bow down and worship an idol set up by king Nebuchadnezzar. The men steadfastly refused to worship any but the one true God, Yahweh, proclaiming, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Dan 3:17-18) The king ordered them tossed into the furnace and while their executioners were turned to toast, they came out unscathed (without so much as a hint of smoke about them)!

What is so remarkable about this story to me is the steadfast confidence that these men had in the nature and faithfulness of their God, regardless of the circumstances they faced. At some point in their developing relationship with Yaweh, they had made a decision -- "No matter what the circumstance, we are going to trust in and remain devoted to our God." It was clearly a decision they had already made, as in the midst of the crisis, there was little time for debate and no evidence of equivocation or hesitation. They did not melt down in desperation, seeking an escape from the fiery ordeal, but had confidence that because they served a faithful God, they were ultimately fireproof!

I do not know what lays in store for me and my family in the coming months. I do not know how long I will be able to continue to competently share these thoughts with you or articulate them intelligibly. But I know one thing for sure -- God loves me (and you). He settled that for all time when He did not spare His own Son from a fiery ordeal, from unimaginable suffering and an agonizing death, in order to spare me from the devastating consequences of my own self-will and waywardness. (Rom 8:32, 2Cor 5:21) I know (by faith) that He conquered death through His resurrection. And by His grace, I have made a decision based on both experience and hope (like thousands before me) -- "Yeah though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." (Job 13:15)

Knowing the tragedy of expecting God exclusively to provide a fire escape in every difficult/perplexing situation, I earnestly share the following thoughts:

Fireproof Faith

I have seen the charred remains of those before me
A fallen race in endless flight to self-destruction
The acrid smell of misplaced hope and all that "should be"
Now licked by flames of persistent equivocation

The heat is on, the furnace door gapes wide before me...
Nearing my melting point, will I become unhinged?
Or will I trust the One who walked this way before me
And in full surrender perhaps emerge unsinged?

The time has come to test if faith can flourish
When the heat says "Halt", I know I now must choose...
Will I still linger, my nagging doubts to nourish
Or in full surrender affirm I've naught to lose?

Trusting you too will choose a fireproof faith,
Dr Dan

PS -- Having again declined whole brain radiation, I am continuing on a course of palliative therapy that includes a form of systemic chemotherapy (Temodar) and a more limited course of radiation therapy that focuses on specific symptomatic skeletal and soft tissue metastases.


  1. Hi Dr.C: How do you come up with these titles for your blog. I still cant get over your beautiful way with words. Your blog said you went to Pennsylvania, my daughter and her family live there(Saylorsburg) Please keep up the fight and prove your Dr.wrong.


  2. WOW !!!!!!! there are no words for this amazing blog of beautiful thoughts and the connection you make with the bible story ( one of my favorites) Definately the heat has been turned up for some time in your own life but your uncompromised faith continues to prevail above all the expected outcome reports of the Dr's. The way you express yourself in the light of adversity is absolutely inspiring! WOW...there are no words...If your faith doesn't catapult others to know more about the amazing goodness of GOD......I dont know what can. It's rock solid. Keep that fireproof faith...( the assured trust those 3 men had)....regardless of the circumstances. I love how you give GOD the glory for EVERYTHING. Praising GOD that HE enables you to continue savoring those endearing moments every day with your family.
    Audrey Lewis

  3. Dan,
    I don't know if you remember me but we pray for you regularly up here in Gainesville, VA. My oldest daughter,Jordan (age 15) has a real heart for you because of your blogsite. I am printing out this most inspired message of hope in our just and merciful God who always knows best because He knows ALL! You continue to glorify our God and to bless your brothers and sisters in the faith with your steadfast commitment to truth (Biblical truth) and your ability to live your faith outloud and in living color.
    Thank you for being such a good steward with the time that he has given you and for sharing it so generously with those near and far away like me. I consider it a privilege to pray for you and will continue to do so with great gratitude.
    Love in Christ,
    Holly Jarrett

  4. Dr. Dan -

    You probably don't remember me, but we attended Tab while my husband was in med school at EVMS and I was friends with Christianne and did some ministry with Linda. I almost didn't comment on your blog b/c I felt my words were so inadequate compared to the eloquent revelations that the Lord has so clearly given you (but then I decided to get over it). Thank you so much for sharing this difficult journey of your life with the world. I had never noticed the verse that that you emphasized in your recent post, "Even if He does not" referring to the God's provision in the fiery furnace. How applicable to our lives. You have definitely given me something to chew on today. How comforting to know the He always knows best, even when it is not what we think is best. "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1:21) Thank you for your faithfulness and inspiration - you are in my prayers up here in Baltimore! Blair Vana

  5. We love you guys. Keep up the fight. :)

  6. Dr. Dan,
    You are an amazing man. Though I only have been in your presence on three occasions you have strengthened my faith. As you know, I have had to rely on the trinty for strenght. My faith in my God and Jesus Christ never waivered after I lost my son. God be with you and continue to provide you strength to fight the good fight. May his healing hands be laid upon you. Give my regards to Linda. Jean and I often talk about you. Carl

  7. God is writing a beautiful story!!!!
    Thank you for your amazing journey as you
    trust in God the father. Oftentime the future
    is scary...but WE can say .....
    "We can do this God for the next five minutes.
    It is do-able." Great is his faithfulness!!!!!