Recent stories in the news have brought individuals to the forefront that have chosen to die on their own terms. My last post focused on Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old terminal cancer patient, who decided to take her life this past weekend rather than suffer with the pain of cancer.
In similar form, Robin Williams surprised everyone with his suicide a few months ago. In contrast to Maynard, Williams did not announce his decision to the public beforehand but instead went quietly into his room, armed with a belt, and never came out again. His widow cited that Williams’ depression over a Parkinson’s diagnosis had contributed to his suicide.
Although their methods were different, both Maynard and Williams had one thing in common: They wanted a say in their final moments. Death looked more appealing to them than a finale that involved uncertainty and a loss of control over their bodies.
The Stress of Illness
Illness is tough. I haven’t battled anything as monumental as a cancer or Parkinson’s diagnosis, but I have to admit that even my relatively small struggles to get my health back after my recent miscarriage and hospitalization added to my stress and depression. Even though I had been promised a full recovery after three months, I still felt pretty discouraged when I looked at the healthy, happy people around me, and I felt confined to the four walls of my house because a quick trip to the grocery store inspired my heart to race and my head to throb.
I couldn’t remember dates and names very well because my hemoglobin levels had dipped so low that my head was in a constant fog. Following my son around the playground for an hour made me tired enough to be in bed all afternoon. In addition, I felt a sting when family members didn’t exactly rush to my aid or even remember to check up on me. I felt very alone.
My husband reminded me that at least I had an end in sight, but what if I had been told that I didn’t have a chance of recovery? As I was pondering the effect of my own health situation, I felt the Lord speak to me about the hope He gives us to combat the challenges of illness.
Perhaps these truths will be of encouragement to you as well in whatever situation you find yourself in:
1. His hope is an anchor for the soul.
I love these words from Hebrews 6:18 that are now a line in a popular Hillsong worship song. His hope literally “anchors” us when we feel the worry and strain of what is happening in our body and feel that our emotions are getting carried away. A verse I felt really spoke to me after my miscarriage was Romans 14:8: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” We can rest in health or illness because we can trust Him as the author and finisher of our life.
2. Another source of comfort for us is that we have access to the God of the universe.
The greatest physician of all, the Creator who formed our body. One of the benefits of being a Christian is that He heals all of our diseases (Psalm 103:3). He doesn’t guarantee a healing, and I don’t understand why some get healing and some do not; however, we have the hope that we can approach Him and ask for that healing.
3. Even if we do not receive healing in the way we want, we can trust in the fact that all suffering has to go through Him first.
If it His will that we do not get a complete healing, as believers, we can know that He will walk through the illness with us. He will provide comfort for us and strength along the way.
When I was on my way to the hospital because I was having symptoms that I suspected were that of a pregnancy loss, I felt the sun shining on me through the car window, and I felt the most wonderful sense of peace. I kept hearing the words in my head, “You can let this go. You can let this pregnancy go.” I just felt this sense of strength girding me up on all sides, even though I was in the midst of the crisis of losing my baby.
Once we made it to the hospital, I continued to feel a supernatural calm. When I was waiting to go into surgery after learning I was having a miscarriage, a wonderful woman from my church who just happened to be working in the operating room that night popped her head in and prayed for me before the surgery. I felt that God had sent her to my side to further ease me through the process.
And, again, when I was released and the horrible reality of what had happened had washed over me, I felt literally that the dark, bottomless hole in my soul I had fallen into was sewn up by a master surgeon.
This is not to say that I did not experience grief or pain — because I did and am still processing through that — but I had a wonderful help in the midst of my crisis.
4. Lastly, we have the hope that our trials and suffering are temporary.
I get so caught up in trying to have perfect circumstances, but that is not what the Bible tells me is the reality for this life. The Bible assures us that we can expect trials and suffering (John 16:33) but to “take heart” and not be thrown off by difficulty. Another “anchor” for us in our suffering is that we have hope that all of this present trouble will pass away. It encourages us to know that while our physical body is deteriorating, our spirit is ever being renewed — and we will experience the perfect circumstances we desire when this life is over. The longing we feel for this is normal; all of creation longs for it too (Romans 8:22).
Illness is stressful and hard. It changes the dynamics of relationships and can be a heavy burden to bear. There is nothing easy about losing physical capabilities and having to rely on others to take care of us. However, God’s desire is not for us to succumb to worry or fear but instead rest in Him — the hope that “anchors” us in our trials.
*Updated November 18, 2017.