I wish I’d read the article in yesterday’s Washington Post before I preached yesterday. I would’ve spent more time on the portion of my sermon that went something like this (I preached from notes not a manuscript therefore “something”):
Sometimes in our zeal to “bring people to Jesus,” or in the pursuit of viewers and contributions by TV evangelists, promises get made and expectations are created about healing that just aren’t Biblical. “All you have to do is believe in Jesus . . . live your life the way God wants you to . . . pray the right prayers . . . send your money . . . and He’ll take away all your illnesses and pains.” But experience tells us that this is not true. Each of us, unless Jesus comes back in the meantime, is going to die of something. Sure, Jesus is the Great Physician, God does heal through doctors and medications and technology and natural processes and even miracles, but there comes a time when we or our loved ones just aren’t going to get better. And when we lead people to believe otherwise, we are selling them a non-Biblical faith that will ultimately disappoint.
We’re all going to die of something.
I would’ve preached more about that if I’d read Our unrealistic views of death, through a doctor’s eyes in yesterday’s WaPost before the sermon.
In this powerful article, Dr. Craig Bowron (who works in a Minneapolis hospital), encourages readers to approach death and dying in ways that are different than are common in our culture. He writes:
For many Americans, modern medical advances have made death seem more like an option than an obligation. We want our loved ones to live as long as possible, but our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life’s natural conclusion.
This change in attitude has led to life that is lengthened chronologically, but not always enhanced qualitatively. The desire – the perceived duty – to stave off death by any means necessary has led to the use of “treatments” that do nothing more than prolong dying. This is Dr. Bowron’s most powerful observation:
At a certain stage of life, aggressive medical treatment can become sanctioned torture. When a case such as this comes along, nurses, physicians, and therapists sometimes feel conflicted and immoral. We’ve committed ourselves to relieving suffering, not causing it. A retired nurse once wrote to me: “I am so glad I won’ t have to hurt old people any more.”
I encourage you to read and think about Dr. Bowron’s article.
And then ask – what does our faith have to say about these matters?
Could it be that when we elect to use extraordinary measures to keep our loved ones alive we are stepping beyond the bounds of the Golden Rule? Whose feelings are we trying to spare by not letting go of a loved one who is suffering? Sometimes the most loving thing we can say to someone we love in the final stages of life is this: “It is okay to let go. I will be okay.” Shouldn’t we ask ourselves, are we prolonging someone’s suffering only to abrogate our own guilt we might feel because we “didn’t do everything?” (The headline on the continuation of the article inside the paper is “When ‘We Did All We Could’ Is the Worst Kind of Medicine.”)
What kind of healing are we promised, anyway? Again, back to yesterday’s sermon:
What followers of Jesus Christ are definitively promised is ULTIMATE healing. The perfect, eternal healing that happens when the work God began in us in our baptism is completed at our death. That is the assurance we have – not of always-healing in this lifetime but freedom from sickness, pain, and death in eternity.
And, I would add in light of the thoughts Dr. Bowron’s article provoked about letting go of loved ones . . . we are promised not just eternal life but eternal reunion.