Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thoughts on Sickness

A few weeks ago, one of my best friends died. She had tongue cancer, and her death was long and excruciating. When she died, she weighed about 70 pounds. It was awful.

Robin Williams committed suicide a few days ago. I've read articles that said he had recently discovered he had the early stages of Parkinson's.

I don't mean for this to be morbid or depressing, but death is a fact of life and I guess I need to talk about it today.

There was a time when I would have thought that Robin Williams was a very selfish person for making the decision to kill himself. I would have thought a lot about the family he left behind and how much they'd miss him and need him. I don't feel like that any more.

I mean, yes, I still feel awful for his family and friends. But I also understand, even if it's in a very small degree, what it's like to be sick and to know that you're going to probably get worse and worse until you eventually die. It's an incredibly daunting thing.

I've never really suffered from clinical depression but lately I've been wondering whether I need to talk with my doctor about it. I've found myself not wanting to do anything but sleep. All of the things I usually enjoy have lost their allure. I feel tired and listless and acedic, wistful and melancholy and exhausted both physically and emotionally, and I can't snap out of it.

I'm not suicidal but I have certainly given a lot of thought to how much it sucks to have chronic pain and an autoimmune disease with no cure. I've wished my kids had a mom who could do more with them and that Trever had a wife that didn't spend so much time in bed and popping pills.

And I'll admit, I've struggled with God in this whole thing as well. Because if He is able to heal us, if He is a miracle working God who wants to give good things to His children, why doesn't He? I've prayed and prayed and I know so many others have prayed and prayed for my healing as well, and it's just not happening. I've had people tell me I need more faith and I've had people tell me that me being sick must somehow be God's will and neither of those answers makes any sense to me at all.

I hate being dependent on drugs and it scares the hell out of me to read the inserts for my prescriptions. Some of the potential side effects are scarier than my disease and could even eventually kill me. Medical marijuana is illegal in the state I live in. I've read how it can help with swelling and pain and nausea and vomiting, but instead of being able to use it, I have to take narcotics daily and anti-nausea meds that make me so tired I want to sleep all day. I find that frustrating, especially considering MM has exactly ZERO dangerous side effects. I'm not looking to get high, I just want to get better and not have to worry about my medication killing me. I loathe the drug commercials that bombard us on the television, but it testifies to the fact that there are a lot of sick people out there needing treatment.

If God is real, why do so many of His children suffer from mental illness? Why are anxiety and depression a pandemic today in the church as well as the world? Why do we see sick people literally everywhere and have no power to heal them as the apostles did? The Bible actually says that if we lay our hands on the sick they will recover.... so why isn't this happening? I can only come up with two answers: Either supernatural healing is not for today or we are doing something wrong.

It would be nice if the church could gets its shit together because there are a lot of suffering people who need help.

I read in the New Testament that Christ's followers were known by their love for one another and that they were essentially joy-filled people and I realize that this is not what I'm seeing around me and maybe even not what I am and I'm pondering how to go about changing that. Because I want to be a person known for love. In the end, I think that's going to be the ruler by which we're measured: Love.

While Amanda was dying, I sat in my bed and prayed my guts out and felt totally helpless. She got worse and worse, and I added her to prayer chains and woke up in the middle of the night praying for her and believing all the way to the end that God could do a miracle and save her. He didn't. I don't understand that.

I know a man who claims he was miraculously healed. He's a solid kind of guy and I don't think he made it up so yes, I believe his story. But that just adds more confusion, because then I wonder why God healed him and not Amanda and not me and not babies with cancer or what have you. Why some and not others?

I tend to be pretty skeptical of those televangelists on TV who have people falling out all over the aisles and claim to heal dozens in every service. But there's still this teensy weensy part of me that hopes it's true because I just don't want to accept the fact that life just sucks and there's no hope for the sick and suffering and drugs are the best we can do.

The church has fallen asleep at the wheel. If we believe our God is a healer, can heal and does heal, why are we not more desperate to see him do so? Why aren't we fighting on our knees on behalf of the sick? I've wondered before why the people I fellowship with aren't more committed to praying for me and seeing me get well. I know they love me but it just seems we are content with so little from God. We feel much more comfortable sending people to worldly doctors to do the best they can for us by way of drugs and sending up our scared prayers and hoping for the best. It all just seems so screwed up and spiritually anemic.

Maybe the place we need to begin is to admit we don't know what the hell we are doing. The last thing we need to do is construct theologies that put the burden on the sick to produce more faith. That's just cruel. Being sick may have made me bitter in some ways, but it has also made me incredibly empathetic towards those who suffer. It's made me much less likely to open my mouth and offer religion platitudes or easy solutions or pompous advice. The only thing I have to give is love, and to be honest, a lot of the time that just doesn't seem like enough.

I've not figured out what a Christian ought to do when they read the Bible and discover that what they are reading is completely different from what they are actually experiencing in reality. But I think it is fair to say that it ought to be very troubling and it ought to cause us to ask some tough questions. If faith without works is dead then the church is experiencing rigor mortis. Conversely, Jesus says He is the resurrection and the life. So how do we tap into that?


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