Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation

Updates From David Powlison

Author: Date: December 11, 2018

Category: ,


You may have heard about David Powlison’s recent diagnosis. This landing page will be the place where we provide updates as we receive them. Please continue to keep David, Nan, and the Powlison family in your prayers.

December 13, 2018

A Conversation Between Friends

David and Ed conversation (short)

David and Ed conversation (full)

November 21, 2018

Dear friends,

Thank you for your concern for me and for Nan as we have faced a life-changing swirl of medical events. Let me briefly summarize.

What has happened medically? In early October I was diagnosed with an early stage pancreatic cancer. Various scans showed no evidence that it had spread. My doctors were hopeful that surgery would be the cure. However, during surgery on November 5, they discovered small tumors on the liver as well. In that moment, the diagnosis shifted from “stage 1 operable” to “stage 4 inoperable.” Though that is an unexpected whiplash, the front and center issue has simply been to heal from major surgery. Recovery from an 8 inch belly incision is no small thing. But I am sleeping well. Pain and tenderness are gradually lessening. I’m able to walk more each day.

How are we doing personally? As I shared before, Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:32–34 have been living and active. Each day’s particular trouble is sufficient for this day, because your Father cares for you. He knows what you need. We have been able to live in terms of what faces us today, each day. It has been a grace to focus now on healing, and let the larger questions be tomorrow’s trouble.

What is next? On December 6 I will have several appointments, first for post-op clearance, and then for discussion (and perhaps decision) regarding future treatment. We’ve met informally with the surgeon and with the oncologist for question-asking and information-gathering. We have really appreciated the attitude and ethos of all my doctors. They’ve put no pressure to opt for one treatment or another, and have presented fair-minded information, with a sense for the patient’s dignity and choice.

What is happening with my work at CCEF? Jayne Clark has stepped smoothly into the role of Acting Executive Director. It was a fine providence that Joe Novenson spoke in my place at our national conference, and that various staff members covered for me. It was another fine providence that our next issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling was completed before I went into surgery.

Here are two prayer requests. For Nan, “It’s easy to get into a daze of practical operations, and not be in touch with the poetry of our lives together and with the Lord.” I like the way she put it. There’s no formula for facing a hard thing well and with honest feeling. For me, it’s easy to get into the haze of feeling very unpoetic queasiness and not absorbing nutrition. My innards still need to “get sorted,” as the Brits say. So amid all these medical practicalities, pray that we will never lose sight of the reality that life is not—is never—a medical drama.

May the peace of God keep you,

November 8, 2018

Dear Friends,

I am deeply thankful for your continuing prayers, expressions of support, and encouragement. I am now recuperating at home from a delicate, major surgery.

The outcome proved to be very different from what my doctors hoped and expected. We all went into this surgery thinking it was a stage 1 operable tumor; mid-way through, the surgeon discovered that it is stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Needless to say, this is hard news. We are just beginning to process it.

Nan and I have been very heartened by Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, that the day’s own trouble is sufficient for that day. So for now, we are simply focusing on managing pain and on healing from the operation. Next week’s days will bring a different focus as we meet with our oncologist to begin discussing options and scenarios going forward.

We are comforted by the liveliness of God’s words to us. He is with us, as so many wise people have reminded us. We appreciate your prayers for our entire family, and the care and concern you have expressed for the staff at CCEF, and your prayers on their behalf as they continue our work in my absence.

May God bless and keep you,

November 2, 2018

Dear friends of CCEF,

I have been deeply encouraged by the care, encouragement, and intercession that Nan and I have received from so many people.

As you may know from the video and note we sent out several weeks ago, I will be having surgery for a tumor in the pancreas, and we now have a surgery date: Monday, November 5, first thing in the morning. Because it was discovered so early, at this point the plan is for surgery to be the treatment. The anticipation is that I will be in-patient for about a week, and will be recovering at home for about a month after that. While I am out of circulation, my Chief-of-Staff, Jayne Clark, will be CCEF’s acting executive director.

As I mentioned earlier, my doctor’s words to me were: “It’s a bad diagnosis, but with a real silver lining because we found it early.” I sincerely hope that the “silver lining” is what proves true. At the same time, I desire with all my heart that Psalm 112:6-7 will be formed at the very center of who Nan and I are individually and together. The sense of weakness and need is a gift from God. It makes us realize we need Him, we need all of His mercy to us, and we need people who love us. I’m grateful for your care, for CCEF and for me.

If you would like to continue to receive updates on how I’m doing, they will be posted here with a notice sent out through our eNews.


October 17, 2018

Dear friends,

I have sobering news to share with you, our faithful friends.

After several weeks of illness in September, I went to my doctor. A series of tests led to a definitive explanation of what is going on. The diagnosis is that I have an operable tumor in the pancreas. My doctor said, “It’s a bad diagnosis, but with a real silver lining because we found it early.” This is hard news to receive. But I am encouraged that the tumor is small and contained. Again, from my doctor, “Surgery offers a real possibility of being the treatment, and of being successful.”

The surgery, of course, will be complex, and medical hopes are only possibilities, not guarantees. How fragile we are! Yet, God knows us. Psalm 121 has been a frequent voice in my heart. The Lord truly helps. He is wakeful and protective. He is watching over me and Nan and CCEF. I’ve been heartened by Psalm 112:6-7. I want to be a person who is unafraid of bad news, who responds with a firm and steady heart, who trusts in the Lord, and again, who is not afraid.

I ask for your prayers, for myself and for Nan, for all of us at CCEF. May God’s nearness be tangible to us all.

I hope that through whatever unfolds we will trust our God, and ask his help, and express our thanks, and care for each other.

Thank you for caring,