As he battles pancreatic cancer, Pastor and Best-selling author Tim Keller said his “greatest fear” is returning to the spiritual state he was in prior to his diagnosis, as he’s learned to truly depend on God amid his illness.
“I’m not just saying this: Our greatest fear is that if I get a really good diagnosis, a really good response to the cancer, and I really do well and I really am able to live for a number more years, we never want to go back spiritually where we were before the cancer diagnosis,” Christian Post reported.
“We never want to go back to that because in spite of all the things I’ve already preached, I wasn’t a hypocrite exactly, but the reality is that most of us say we need to depend on God but we actually think we’ve got it sorted,” Keller explained.
“We feel like we’ve got everything under control because we’ve thought this out, we’ve got savings, we’ve got these people [in our life].”
In a recent interview with HTB Pastor Nick Gumbel, Keller explained how pancreatic cancer is “a difficult cancer to treat” and at the time of his diagnosis, his doctor bluntly said, “there’s virtually no cure for this.”
“So it’s not likely right now that I would be dying within a year,” he said.
He said the diagnosis led to a “bit of a role reversal” because he had always been the “strong” one taking care of his wife Kathy, who has been sick with Crohn’s Disease for many years.
“Now God has just decided well, we’re going to reverse the roles here and you’re both going to have to get used to what it means to trust me in this new role,” he said.
When asked if he had any fear surrounding his prognosis, Keller confessed that he and Kathy “cry just about every day” fearing that she could possibly end up living without him someday.
Keller told Gumbel, “My fear isn’t dying. My fear is actually leaving her behind and that’s her biggest fear as well. It’s a terrible fear.”
Nevertheless, the Kellers believe that if it happens, it’s because “there’s things that God has for her to do.”
Despite believing that God is in control, people often don’t fully embrace that belief “until life gets beyond your ability to control it,” the bestselling author said. It is in those moments of pain when people acknowledge that God “really is there” and that He is “enough.”
Keller noted that he is “actually happier” than he ever has been.
“I enjoy the things around me in a way that I’ve never enjoyed them before — I see them as gifts of God — and I enjoy my prayer life more than I ever have in my life, and we just don’t want to go back to that.”
The now-retired pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and co-founder of The Gospel Coalition is also a survivor of thyroid cancer, which he had in 2002.
Keller admitted to Gumbel that compared to pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer was “a walk in the park.”