The Mystery of Survival

Why does one patient live, but another die?

“Everyone is different,” you answer. You also wonder why I ask such an ignorant question. Well, let me refine the question. Suppose we factor out individual differences in the disease. In other words, we have two patients with the same diagnosis, and the same treatment; one survives, the other doesn’t. Why?

In his 2008 book, Rudolf Willis, M.D., Chief of Medical Oncology at the Cancer Centers of America, wrote “Finding Grace on the Less Travelled Road.” In that book, Dr. Willis explores that mystery of survival. According to a colleague, Dr Willis raises the issue that “Physicians cannot make people want to live.” There is something intangible about life.

At least part of the answer lies in whether and how much bitterness, resentment, and inability to forgive we carry with us. Like a car with its parking brake on, says the colleague, when we drag those feelings with us, we drag ourselves down. Given a medical crisis, with our resources reduced, we more easily give up on life.

The good news, of course, is that with the ability to forgive others, we can live longer. For Christians, we’re governed by Jesus’ command in John 13, “As I have loved you, love one another.” Now we know that loving others for Jesus sake not only makes us obedient disciples, it can save our life.


About Grose

Gordon Grose loves most to write, speak, and preach on the message of hope from the book of Job. Using drama, video, and PowerPoint, he has preached and presented this message of hope to churches around the country. Grose pastored three congregations 25 years, then served 12 years as a pastoral counselor in a Portland, Oregon counseling clinic. He now serves with Good Samaritan Counseling Services, Beaverton, OR. A graduate of Wheaton College (IL), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and Boston University, he comes from a rich and varied background in theological and counseling training. In 2015, Gordon published Tragedy Transformed: How Job's Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, a book about turning to Job for hope after tragedy. If you have experienced life challenges or personal tragedy, visit his Transforming Tragedy ( blog to learn more. provides a sample of Gordon's speaking as well as an opportunity to purchase copies of his book.
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One Response to The Mystery of Survival

  1. Suzanne Draeger says:

    Beautiful thoughts… and I totally agree. It has been my experience that those who are bitter and angry and unforgiving , not only fall short of their own goals but loose the battle to recovery of health… there’s of course, also the thoughts of this being partly a “works” recovery and we all know that the final decision is always God’s regardless of our forgiveness toward others and our positive attitudes. But the Bible is filled with instructions on how to live a life of fulfillment and peace and happiness and joy and good health so why not read the only book with the only instructions that will guide us toward His will and His purpose for our lives? We have nothing to loose and everything to gain. God’s blessings.

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