Sometimes the Kingdom of God seems so near, and sometimes it seems so far.
In the past few weeks four people I have been praying for have died. Two died of cancer. Two died of depression. A fifth person, an elderly friend, died suddenly of a stroke this week as well.
I have seen miraculous healing with my own eyes – things I never thought I would see in my lifetime. I have seen people I know walk out of hospitals after receiving a diagnosis of “hopeless.” I have seen babies diagnosed in the womb with “anomalies incompatible with life” alive and well, smiling in their mothers’ arms and someone who once had stage four treatment-resistant cancer pronounced cancer-free.
Then there are weeks like this when it appears the enemy has not been defeated. Three of these people who died left young children behind. The fourth left a family of older children who still need a mother’s advice. As the child of a motherless child, and as a sensitive kid who grew up carrying grief for a grandmother she never knew, I know that kind of pain, the pain that goes on and on even to successive generations. I used to sing the spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” as if it came out of my own sorrow.
Two of these young women died of cancer. I hate cancer and I join with the millions seeking a cure. I HATE cancer.
Two of these people died of depression. Those numbers are consistent with my experience of people who die young. Some die from cancer or rare illness, some from accidents, but a shocking number have obituaries that say, “died suddenly.” Can we get past the stigma and admit that depression is as hellish as cancer or heart disease or injury caused by drunk driver? Can we admit that depression victims often fight and suffer for months or years too? Can we admit that far too many people die from it?
I’ve had very painful illnesses in my life. I stopped counting how many kidney stones (closing in on top spot on the pain scale) I birthed when the number passed 25 many years ago -and there have been other unpleasant afflictions that seemed hopeless at the time too, but nothing that was so relentlessly painful that I wanted to die just to escape the agony -except for depression. I understand why asking for help can be so difficult. Suicide is sometimes a form of self-administered euthanasia (although some victims kill themselves because they have been deceived by the demonic lie that their families will be better off without them). Don’t get me wrong. I believe with every fiber of my being that taking your own life is not God’s plan, removes permanently any option for recovery, and inflicts inordinate pain on loved ones, but I do understand why people do it.
When I told friends I was having tests done because doctors suspected cancer they gushed sympathy and gathered around to pray. When I was young and told people (very few) that I was seriously depressed they said, “Oh, dear, you mustn’t feel that way,” “Keep it to yourself. Don’t bring everybody down,” “You need to work on that attitude,” or “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.” I learned early on that I was on my own with this shameful illness.
I have no problem with using both medical treatments and prayer. I deeply admire those in whom God has placed the ability and desire to learn how the body works, and to pursue methods of restoring health. I have an equal admiration for those who realize God, who made our bodies, is behind every healing, “explained” or not, and who pursue Him for more than we understand. It’s time we pursued more in the area of healing mental illness.
My “suspicious growth” was benign, thank God. After years of medication and hospitalizations (for which I am grateful because although it never healed me, medical treatment kept me alive) God healed me of depression. I thank Him from the bottom of my heart. I am so utterly grateful!! Freedom from mental illness is something I will never take for granted. I HATE depression. I really, really HATE it. I can’t bear to see gentle folk in its grip.
On days like this when other people die of diseases I escaped I hate those diseases even more. On days like this I want to ask why me and not them — but why is seldom a useful question. What and how are the start of better questions.
We say all sorts of things to comfort ourselves in times like this, but deep down a sense of outrage wells up. I don’t care how old you are. (I attended the funeral of the friend in her 80’s this week as well and saw the grief in family who still appreciated her attention.) Death is wrong, fundamentally wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Death is never dignified. We are created for relationship, not to be cut off from those we love. We are created to be eternal beings in love and in connection with our Creator. The agony of grief is another proof to me that there must be more than this.
The thief has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus came that we might have life -abundant life, and that we might live in love and fellowship with God and with others. On days like this I can choose to pull the blanket of despair over myself and learn to lower my expectations or I can cry out to Jesus Christ , the Lover of my soul. How long, oh Lord, how long?
I choose Jesus Christ.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.