Dan Stone would not want to be remembered for his circumstances. Forget that he has cancer. Forget that just a few years ago his wife died of cancer. Stone would have you remember, instead, the God who lifts him above this temporal life to his true life in Christ.
"God has shown me that nothing has really changed," said Stone, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for a year. "The only difference is now I know what God knew all along."
Stone noted we often focus on our circumstances rather than God. Instead, we need to realize that the Christian life originates with God: Christ is our Life.
"When we try to construct a life, even one that is Christ-like, we are meant to fail because it can't be done in our own power," said Stone. "But we actually succeed by failing, by realizing we're inadequate. That's when God can move in and live life through us."
This sense of connectedness allowed Stone to see God at work in his life, even as his wife was dying of cancer. Stone was an itinerant Bible teacher, traveling the country in faith. One day he sensed God telling him to radically alter the focus of his ministry.
"It was as if God were saying, 'You can still have your Bible teaching ministry, if you want it, but I'm no longer in it,'" said Stone. "The conclusion I came to was, 'God, if you're not in it, then I'm not in it.'"
So, confused but obedient, Stone accepted a position as assistant to Tom Corts, president of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. Just a few days before starting at Samford, Stone's wife, Barbara, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
"Here we were confronted with something completely and totally unexpected," Stone said. "Yet, we saw God working, and I thought, 'Oh, Lord, I see why you changed my whole direction!' I realized God was not surprised by the news of Barbara's cancer."
Although it was unexpected news to them, the Stones realized God was not surprised. By being obedient to God, Dan was now in a position that allowed him to stay by Barbara's side, rather than traveling the country.
There were even more provisions from God: On his first day at work, Stone was told his health insurance would cover all pre-existing conditions, including Barbara's cancer. Also, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, as part of an experimental program on ovarian cancer, accepted Barbara into their program. She had access to treatment offered to only 500 women nationwide.
"I am grateful to God and to Samford," said Stone. "Oswald Chambers says, 'God engineers all your circumstances. Not just the good; you can manage the good. He's in the difficult. That's where He gets your attention. That's where you do business with Him.'"
Stone retired from Samford in 1992, and spent the next seven months giving full attention to Barbara's needs. After she died, Stone, who now lives in Cadiz, Ky., sensed God giving him a green light to travel as a Bible teacher again. But just as he was returning to a full calendar, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
"So I asked, 'What's this all about, God?,'" said Stone. "I'm free to travel. I'm finally given a green light. What is this?" After a few hours of anxiousness, Stone sensed God saying: "Nothing's changed. I have loved you. I am loving you. I will continue to love you."
"But how does this fit in the plan you've given me for my life?," Stone asked, and he sensed God telling him, "You'll get everything done that I have for you to do."
"I'll need to be reminded from time to time, knowing that this cancer will affect my body — But it cannot affect who I really am: whole and complete in Christ," said Stone.
Quoting from Glenn Clark's autobiography, Stone said, "Trouble is the most valuable thing that can come to you next to God Himself, provided it turns you to God."
A friend recently approached Stone, telling him she was praying for his healing. He pondered upon her prayer and went back to tell her: "Thank you for your loving concern, but I don't want to miss anything God has planned for me and others through this experience. So pray that the Lord's will be done in my life."
"When we ask for meaning, we sometimes wonder if we're outside God's will somehow," Stone said. "And we hear God's reply, 'No child, you're not outside of My will, but you gave Me your life to do as I pleased.'"
"So I did," added Stone. "So be it."
Since receiving treatment, Stone's cancer has gone into full remission. He is healthy and back on the road teaching.