Receiving the diagnosis of a terminal disease can devastate you. You'd always known you'd die someday, but now the end of your life is looming much too close for comfort. There's still so much you'd like to experience, yet you'll soon be forced to exit this world for the next.


You can recoil from the news, lash out at God, and sink into despair. Or you can embrace your illness as a valuable opportunity to know God better before you meet Him in eternity. If you choose to do the latter, you'll discover the surprising reality that one of your greatest challenges can lead to some of your greatest joy.


Here's how you can finish your time on Earth with joy:


Make a crucial decision. No matter what emotions you might experiencing at any given moment, decide that you will continue to love, trust, and obey God as long as you're alive. Determine that the last season of your life will be a faithful one, in which you stay connected to God.


Be honest. Don't try to suppress any of your thoughts or feelings. Realize that it's natural to experience fear, anger, sorrow, doubt, regret, grief, and plenty of other troubling attitudes when facing a terminal illness. Pour out your heart to God regularly in prayer, acknowledging the full extent of your hurt. Remember that He already knows what you're experiencing and wants to walk with you through your trial.


Know where your real home is. Understand that Earth isn't meant to be a permanent home; it's just a temporary place to learn and grow briefly before reaching your real home - heaven. Ask God to help you loosen your ties to whatever doesn't have eternal value and look forward to meeting Him face to face. Trust that God's promises about the glories of heaven are true. If you haven't yet been saved, begin a relationship with Christ that will last for eternity. If you've already been saved, ask Him to give you the peace you need as you prepare to go to heaven.


Ask God to give you His perspective on your suffering. Realize that God wouldn't have allowed a disease to come into your life unless He intends it to help accomplish an ultimately good purpose for you. Even though it's difficult, ask God to show you what He wants you to learn from this experience. Find out how God wants you to look at the challenge before you. Discover how it can actually increase your faith. Remember that God, who gave you life, is in ultimate control of both your life and death, and will always choose to do what's best. Rather than focusing on your disease, focus on God. Remember His great love and power.


Remember what Christ experienced. Know that Christ went through the full range of human suffering during His time on Earth, so He completely understands what you're going through. Remind yourself of how He faced His own death with faith, died on the cross to save the world, and defeated death for those who trust in Him - including you - through His resurrection. Look to His example of how to deal with imminent death: He confronted it through prayer, He spent time in fellowship with other people, He made arrangements for His family's care, He faced the pain with courage, He expressed His feelings honestly, He pointed to the Scriptures, He witnessed to others, and He settled accounts for eternity.