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Facing Life-Threatening Illness with God at Your Side

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God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth, whose short but exemplary life was the standard by which all Christians aspire to. Christ’s death was the ultimate sacrifice our Lord could make but also one that Christ himself questioned. Matthew 27:46 reports that, exhausted and desperate while nailed to the cross he asked his Father “with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’” Of course, God had not abandoned Jesus. Subsequently to his death, Christ was resurrected.

Luke 24 contains a long passage about finding that the stone had been rolled away from Jesus’ tomb yet Christ’s body was nowhere to be found. When He was resurrected, He visited his disciples and told them, ““How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” In his new life, Christ clearly saw that his suffering was part and parcel of the greater glory – that which saved all mankind.

When human beings are diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness, we too can question our faith. The most common questions are– “How could God have allowed this to happen to us? Do we not pray, try to lead a Christian life, to be kind and giving to everyone?” This questioning is only human – nobody who is suddenly faced with the burden of illness, can be expected to understand why their health has mysteriously been taken away from them.

In the same way that Jesus himself questioned his father, it is to be expected that our first reaction to illness, is to be stunned, angry, questioning. Coming to terms with illness involves flittering through several stages, as espoused by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her studies on grief. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

In the denial stage we may think that what our doctors have told us is wrong – of course, obtaining a second, or even third or fourth, opinion, is always helpful when life-threatening illnesses are involved. Yet despite what we are told, we can continue to deny that something so powerful is happening to us. We can become angry about why this illness has afflicted us in particular, when we may have led a healthy lifestyle and tried to steer clear of habits that impair our health. We can try bargaining – offering our Lord something in turn for health. When we feel at our lowest, we can become depressed.

After a long period of moving between these emotions and states, we can final reach the stage of acceptance – an important place to be because it is when we accept what is happening to us, when we understand that God has a plan that we are unable to comprehend, and that eternal life awaits us – that we can begin to make the most of our time on Earth.

How can we live our life to the full, bearing in mind the gravity of our health? There are many ways we can start to prepare for the time when we are no longer here – from taking care of difficult yet necessary administrative and insurance matters, to working on our relationship with God. The material side is mainly focused on those we leave behind – while the spiritual one is internal and profound and is a different journey for every person.

Some people try to squeeze in as much of the beauty of life into the days they have left. They may travel to places they had always wanted to see, take part in adventure activities, or mend important bridges with the people who have meant the most to them throughout their lifetime. For others, the process is more internal; they can find solace and strengthen their faith through The Bible.

Whatever the road you chose is, don’t forget that God is always by your side. As Richard C. Leonard, an expert in Biblical studies advises, “Follow the example of the Psalmists, who sometimes cry out to God as though taking Him to task for their problems, but who persist in their conversation with Him; eventually [they received] an answer, reinforcing His faithfulness to His servants.” We may not understand God’s will in this life, but in eternity, there will be no more suffering and pain, and we will be united in everlasting life with our Savior.

This is an article sent in by Sally Painthorpe

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