Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with late-stage  rectal cancer. I wasn’t given much hope. The tumor they found was well developed, in the lymph system, and malignant. My head swam from the news. My wife and kids were strong but crushed. Life as we knew it had just fallen off a cliff, and we were being dragged along for the ride. 

I faced imminent and confusing decisions. Would I do treatment? If so, what kind would I opt for? Surgery? Which one? Was my will in order? Would I like to be an organ donor and/or donate my body to science? Well-meaning people bombarded me with so many questions, but I had questions of my own—and no one seemed to have the answers. 

The answers they did provide were limited and vague. Not even the upbeat versions offered me any real quality of life. As I processed all that was happening, I asked myself this question: What am I living for? 

It wasn’t a philosophical debate. It was a life-and-death determination. I had to define for myself why I would fight through this diagnosis. What was it that I wanted to live for? 

If you can identify and establish a reason to continue, to fight your way to the other side, then facing hard times becomes, not easier, but more doable. You must have a goal; you must be actively reaching for something on the other side. Just hoping you make it won’t get you through. 

I had to look to the other side of cancer and determine what I wanted to be doing after I beat it. I was going to grow old with my wife, who is my best friend. I was going to see my children graduate. I was going to walk my daughters down the aisle at their weddings. I was going to write several books. I was going to continue in God’s call on my life and do the things He had spoken to my heart that I had not yet had a chance to do. I was going to see and enjoy my grandchildren. 

I was determined—no, I was confident that I would see the Lord’s goodness while I was still here in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). I chose to live for these things the day I was diagnosed with cancer, and I have lived for them every day since. 

The journey included 7 weeks of chemo and 28 radiation treatments. And it culminated when the surgeon opened me up and God proved His faithfulness firsthand. The tumor that had been there a month before was gone. The area where they planned to do a colostomy was completely healed. The surgeon pulled 21 lymph nodes from what had been the cancerous area, and every one was negative for cancer. 

When my life headed over the cliff, Jesus reached out and caught my hand. And I was able to grab it because I had been looking for it. 

What are you going through? What are you living for and looking forward to? What you are living for can override how you are living now. Some people live for the wrong things and experience emptiness. If you are living for revenge, you’ll never be satisfied. If you are living for happiness, you’ll need to define what true happiness is; otherwise, you will never attain it. 

God’s grace has enabled me to attain all the things I had determined I would live for. Twenty-five years of marriage, seeing my children graduate, walking my daughters down the aisle, publishing books, ministering, and now, I’m a grandfather! 

I fought long and hard to get here. The scars on both my body and my mind are proof—but with God’s help, I’ve made it through. 

We may have to go through hard times, but we don’t have to let them steal our future. Don’t just exist through your trial. Live for something! With your focus and God’s faithfulness, the things you are living for can become the things you enjoy firsthand.