Posted by: gebs | February 12, 2010

Some Thoughts on Illness and Death

Nothing is more certain than death, yet we spend our whole life working and worrying about life, as if it were going to last forever.

We spend most of our money, both as individuals, and as a nation on leisure and making sure we have luxury in everything, whilst the thing we need most, our health, gets only the dribbles.  We save money for a house, yet nothing for when we are sick.  We build the best roads, pubs and marinas, yet our hospitals are falling apart.  Our inability to face and accept our own death, and death in general, leads us to subconsciously adopt its effects and consequences in our lives without ever questioning what we do and how we spend the minutes of our days.

It is only when faced with tragedy and illness that we begin to question and seek answers.  I have always been puzzled as to why God would let Adam and Eve fall.  God could have stopped this if he wanted to, yet he chooses to let it unfold, why? Well the recent illness of my own child has brought me closer to an answer.  God allows Adam and Eve to fall because it is the best way for them to comprehend that they are truly free creatures, and that their actions, which are like pebbles being thrown into still water, are real and have real effects that multiply and create the ripples that define our world.  To use an analogy: before a child learns how to walk, they must fall hundreds of times, and it is only by falling that they begin to take control of their legs.  For reasons beyond me, we only question our existence and reach into the unknown for answers, when we are confronted by tragedy, illness, or death.  I once heard that many people only discover God on their death bed, and I believe this is true.

We only pray for each other when something goes wrong.  Our care for each other grows when we hear that a friend is sick or has been involved in some tragedy.  This is the sad truth.  We should care for each other and pray for each other like this everyday of our lives.  We should give thanks for everything that we have and cherish each other like this everyday.  In a sense, this is why God lets bad things happen to us.  Because it is the only time we seem to do good.  When the Boxing Day Tsunami hit in 2004, it was a moment for unprecedented global giving and acts of charity.  This is good, but it would be even better if we were this generous all the time.  I am sure our world would be a better place and less people would live in the misery created by the opulent, yet often empty, lives we share in the West.

We spend our whole lives worrying and working to accessorise our lives with the greatest luxuries, without ever realising that the very life we are furnishing is worth more than anything we seek.  Our very life is the greatest gift we have, and the ability to know we are alive is a spiritual awareness only we possess amongst other creatures here on earth.  The love we experience in our families and friends, and even amongst strangers, is like a wellspring of satisfaction within the mundane routine of every day life.  This love that we taste here on earth, is the only thing that is eternal in nature, everything else, even the air we breathe will one day no longer be.  Nothing we own here on earth is eternal, except our experiences and the feelings we learn from them.  If we encounter love here on earth, we will recognise it when we die.  If all we encounter is worry and carnal pleasure then emptiness and darkness will prevail when we die and only the real emerges, here we will be at the total mercy of God.  Death is analogous to a dream, we are aware, yet not in control, and often at the mercy of the thoughts and actions which prevail during the time we are awake.

In the Bible it tells us that death and evil are the result of sin, yet we either hear this and it means nothing, or we refuse to accept it as truth.  Well what if I were to say to you that smoking increases the risk of cancer, or that gluttony leads to death and disease.  What if I were to tell you that anger leads only to injury and impairment, or that lust leads to divorce and unhappiness, or that greed leads to murder and suicide?  What about if I were to tell you that refusal to love others and prejudice leads to incest and deformity, or that sexual pleasure leads to sexual perversion and paedophilia.  Would you still question this truth?  What about if I were to say to you that not only do our own sins lead to death and misery in our world, but we also carry the effects of our parent’s sin, and their parents, in our blood and genes.  When my child gets sick, or tragedy confronts my life I have only human nature to blame.  God can leave us in our fallen world on our own to carry the weights of our own actions but he chooses not too.  When we help each other in times of need it is because God has planted this seed of self-giving in the world and for all who walk on it, regardless of whether or not they recognise him as the God of  Abraham, Jacob, and Jesus.

God chooses to let evil exist in our world and physical death because it is not the final word.  There are things beyond that we cannot see without his help that bring death into its correct perspective.  God knows that death can have no power over his love and for those hearts which make it their shepherd.  He not only allows it to exist but paradoxically chooses to use it for a greater good.  How many people will die having only given money to those who suffered in the Tsunami of 2004, or the earthquake in Haiti?  For many, this will be the greatest act of charity they ever make, and it would not have been possible if the tragedy was stopped by God and we were allowed to continue living blindly to the truths in our world.  The scale and utter horror of the 2004 Tsunami or the Haiti earthquake is not negated by this observation, and the guilt remains ours, but God chooses not to stop it for his own reasons, most of which remain unfathomable to the human mind, yet also brings much good out of it by turning it into an opportunity to give.

Through the illness of my child God has again reminded me of his presence in my life.  He has reminded me of the very precious gift of my children and my family and given me an opportunity to grow as a result of it.  He has made me a better person because of it and given me extra motivation for recognising the very gift which is life and love, a gift that needs to be cherished and appreciated, because it may end any day.  God has again reminded me that death is a reality in my life and in my world, despite my self ignoring it and keeping it out of my life’s perspective.  He has reminded me that if I love much every day of my life then I need not fear anything.  No illness or death can separate this love and I will not be crushed under the weight of confronting tragedy and death in my life.  This is not some morbid denial of death, but rather a strength that can look death in the face and say, ‘oh death; where is your sting’(1Cor 15:55)? Knowing that God’s love is greater than all things and thankful for every minute I can share with my children and my wife, and the life he has blessed me with, knowing that one day I will return to Him, who is the source of all true love and share in the life of which I could only taste here in this world.

Having said all that, I would now like to use this moment to make a prayer together;

We pray for all parents of sick children and children who live with life threatening illnesses, we ask God to give them strength in their battles and keep their heart strong during the most difficult and painful days of their lives.

We pray for all those in our world, who are suffering at this very moment and ask God to make their cries heard in our lives, so that we may become better people and so that our world can become a better place.

We pray for the days when illness or death confront our own lives, and ask God to fortify our hearts with the truth of his eternal love for us.  Give us the faith we need to become better people as a result of the trials we will encounter in our lives.  Though we live in a darkened world, never take your light away from us O Lord.

Help us to give thanks daily for what we have so that we may never take it for granted and so that we may ready for illness and loss in our lives.  Allow us to cherish and seek the love you give us in our marriages and children so that we may rid our world of the divorce and separations that plague our relationships.

Give us the wisdom and love to free our world of war and poverty, so that we may all share equally in your gift of creation.

I thank you for all the miracles that we do not see in our lives and prary for the speedy recovery of my child Joshua.


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