Is anybody else scared…
Denise has been… sort of… discharged from the hospital. It’s a bit of a story, at the bottom of this page.
For the sake of this blog, that represents the end of this chapter in Denise’s health story and a return to our regularly scheduled programing. Back to whatever eclectic subjects I find interesting and feel like exploring through writing.
Feel free to stick around, or if my interests and perspectives don’t interest you, thanks for visiting.
Most humans, regardless of their worldview, seem rather bothered by the fact that “good people” suffer. Christianity takes this a step further because God – being a loving father – is supposed to protect those who submit themselves to him. And yet good people suffer. Christians get sick and die; even before their time.
There have been many profound explorations of this subject, to which I add a few (not entirely original) thoughts.
First things first; everybody dies. This seems to be universally agreed upon because the evidence is rather overwhelming on this point. But consider this; every death represents an instance of God saying “no” to somebody’s prayer. Here are a few of the top ten causes of death in Canada, and the prayers that might have accompanied them.
- Number 1: Cancer. “Dear Heavenly Father. We know you love Jimmy more than we do. We ask and plead that you remove the cancer from his body. Restore him.” Eventually, God says no to such prayers because, eventually, Jimmy will die.
- Number 2: Heart disease. “Lord, you are the great physician. You can restore Alice. In the name of Jesus we speak against the disease in her heart. We believe in a miracle.” Eventually, God says no.
- Number 3: Stroke. “God, we don’t understand why you let mommy have a stroke, but we know you are able to heal her and bring her back to health. Please bring mommy home.” Eventually, God says no.
- Number 5: Accidents. “Lord, I ask you to keep my husband safe at work today. An offshore oil rig can be a dangerous place to work, but we know you are with him every minute of every day. Protect him from harm and bring him back to his family.” Eventually, God says no.
- Number 9: Suicide. “Jesus, I know my friend Ed has been going through a lot at work and with his family. And I know he deals with depression too. I ask that you would bring a calm and a peace to his soul during this time of uncertainty and hardship.” Eventually, God says no.
Eventually, no matter what the prayer and no matter what the risk to our lives, God will say “no.” He will let us get sick. He will let us die. Many times he answers our prayers in the positive – there are plenty of examples of his intervention, miraculous and subtle – but eventually, one day, he will not answer our prayers as we would like him to.
The day of his “no” is inevitable for everybody.
But there’s more to the story than that. Not only does he allow death to run its course, oftentimes death is associated with a great deal of physical anguish. Cancer. Heart disease. Stroke. Kidney disease. Diabetes. Most of the top ten killers in Canada involve some kind of period of physical anguish prior to death. Cancer and heart disease alone account for half of all Canadian deaths and those two are almost always associated with a period health decline. Accidents are pretty much the only cause of death that has the potential to be instant and painless, and those only account for less than 5% of deaths.
So not only does God say “no” to keeping us alive, he usually says “no” to keeping us free of physical pain.
It goes without say that Christians are just as likely to die as everybody else, and given these statistics it goes without say that Christians are just as likely to endure physical pain as anybody else. So what’s the difference? Why bother praying, for instance? What’s the benefit of being a Christian? What’s in it for me?
And therein lies something of a key to answering this question. If we are wondering why being a Christian doesn’t confer some list of benefits on us in terms of avoiding pain and death then our motivations are fundamentally at odds with God’s motives. Our understanding of the purpose of faith in God is fundamentally skewed. It’s not about “what’s in it for me?” but “How can I serve God through this?”
So how does God get served by our suffering? To that we turn our attention
As I wrote previously, it is possible to endure hardship and pain without necessarily “suffering.” While God certainly does not promise us a lack of hardship – in fact he guaranteed many trials and difficulties – he promises us something nobody else can deliver; peace during those times. I won’t repeat myself here.
There is a second reason why Christians endure hardship, but it takes two steps to get there. First step, difficulty and death “wake people up” from their slumber. C. S. Lewis famously wrote,
We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Blaise Pascal made a number of similar points. I lent my copy of “Pensees” to a friend so I don’t have any specific quotes at this time. Just imagine something as profound as what Lewis wrote, but with more of a French tone.
So hardship, disease and death “wake people up” to the greater realities of life from which we can so easily hide. Distraction, per Pascal, allows us to stick our head in the sand on these matters, but suffering rather abruptly pulls our head out of the sand and forces us to see the light. The harsh light of reality. No more delusions.
And waking up like that can be like having young children pour cold water on you at 6 in the morning on a Saturday because they are up early and they are bored. It can be such a rude awakening and, frankly, many people have little or no idea how to handle it. They had surrounded themselves with a nice picture of reality that gave them some false sense of comfort and an excuse to minimize the place of God in their lives. Then they are forced to face the harsh realities of life as it really exists – pain, hardship, death and all – and they feel lost. Confused. They have no map and no role models.
Unless, of course, there are Christians in the same boat as they are. Christians in the same unit at the hospital. Christians at the same AA meetings. Christians with whom they have a shared struggle. That is only possible, of course, if Christians also face challenges, struggles and hardship. Thus it is necessary for Christians to suffer; we are the road map.
[But not just any Christians, for there are many who claim the title “Christian” rather inappropriately (see here for one unfortunately common example). They mean well, but are fundamentally mistaken. Those who are facing hardship need to see Christians with a thoroughly Biblical understanding of reality, and the peace that accompanies God’s presence in their lives. They need to see Christians who are able to walk through such trials in life without having the trials walk all over them.]
And in those moments of shared struggle the Christian offers a hand, with a smile, and walks alongside them. The Christian offers a kind of friendship that only a shared struggle can forge.
Most importantly, the Christian can then offer a sense of understanding and meaning about hardship that the unsuspecting, and unprepared, soul is looking for. The Christian can facilitate an introduction to the God who is trying to get their attention. A life characterized by false peace and then the shock and horror of (completely inevitable) hardship is much worse than a life characterized by authentic peace, and a preparation for hardship. The non-Christian might be able to walk tall and confidently through hardship if they walk hand-in-hand with a Christian, but that’s only because the Christian is walking hand-in-hand with Jesus who endured far more hardship than any of us could ever fathom. He brings the truth and peace to our situation that we deeply need and, in our times of anguish, deeply desire.
But why walk hand-in-hand with a Christian when you can walk hand-in-hand with Christ himself? That, truly, is the better option. Then together with the other Christian you can endure the hardship, lean on each other and Jesus for strength, and extend a helping hand to the next unprepared soul.
God will eventually say “no” to our prayers and desires for health, security, peace and longevity, but he is always waiting to say “yes” to a restored and rightly ordered relationship with his Creation. He is trying to get our attention through temporary pain so we can avoid the eternal pain which is an inevitable consequence of walking away from him. And he uses Christians who are similarly enduring the consequences of his “no”, to show the way.
When God says “no” to us, the consequences are difficult but temporary. When we say “no” to God, the consequences are at least as difficult, but eternal. God will eventually say “no” to everybody; that much is guaranteed. The only variable in this equation is your answer to God.
Denise’s VAD implant surgery is done, and it went well. Overall it’s a bunch of good news.
Details at the update page (this link); scroll to the bottom.
This most recent health hurdle with Denise has inspired some further reflection on the subject of suffering. The most poignant question in my mind is, “why in the world do I seem to be handling this situation so much better than the previous situations?”
Upon reflection, I may have stumbled upon one key ingredient in eliminating (or, at the very least, significantly reducing) suffering.
We’ve had some recent, and uncomfortable, developments with Denise’s health. I’m not intending to use my blog to keep people up to speed on what’s happening, so I set up a separate page for those who are interested in following the situation.
Facebook served us well last time around, but since then I have developed a strong aversion to it.
We got our new composting bins, but they don’t seem to fit properly…
I’m curious how many more bins are going to take up space on our property. How many more ways can the government save the world with oversized, gas guzzling, taxpayer costing heavy industrial trucks?
[Honestly, I’m mostly doing this blog post to test the mobile version of WordPress. Being snarky is just a peripheral perk.]
Raise the alarm bells, folks; aircraft are being grounded because of climate change. We’re hooped. It’s all over. There goes the reliability of the aviation industry. The wings have been clipped.
Or, let’s take a closer look at the latest “sky is falling” panic attack from the climate change alarmists.