Oh Death, Where is Thy Sting?
At that time of our lives, we were devout evangelical protestants but started to embrace the "health and wealth" gospel that was streaming out of Tulsa, Oklahoma and elsewhere. We were young, still newlywed, scared, desperate and grabbed onto whatever we could to help us deal with the "Damoclean Sword" of a terminal diagnosis. Unfortunately, we latched onto what we wanted to hear and perhaps not what God was trying to tell us. Christ's own prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will but yours" did not pass from our lips at any time in those extremely difficult 8 years.
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer and it becomes clear that a miraculous healing and/or medical cure is not going to occur, my wife Deborah wrote her thoughts addressing this:
"I truly believe that God can and does heal. "His works are wonderful I know that full well." My concern however, is that when people who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses have an abnormal fear of death, an over-emphasis on healing may keep them from being "spiritually healed" from the fear of death.
Over the years Russ and I have discussed Sue's illness and death and the impact it had on her and our family. Russ believes that Sue had a profound fear of death. Sadly, it was not God's will for her to be healed and unfortunately the emphasis on "praying for her healing" not only kept her from dealing with her own fear of death, it also prevented all of her family and friends from saying a "proper goodbye." I can't help but wonder how things could have been different if along the way she would have heard sermons or teachings about "Overcoming the Fear of Death When Diagnosed with a Terminal Illness." Instead, she had prophecies of healing given to her by well-meaning but mis-guided friends and surrounded herself with books and teaching tapes about healing. If we had tried to help her overcome the fear of death instead of perpetuating her denial with an over-emphasis on healing, maybe things would have been different. Perhaps she would have written letters to the boys, made a video, been a little more willing to have her picture taken, received some end -of- life counseling with Russ ,etc., and said goodbye to all of us.
No longer praying for healing does not represent giving up hope or a loss of faith. There is unending hope in Christ! He came so men "no more may die." We are promised an eternity with Jesus if we just "endure until the end." We can face our own death with hope and grace knowing He has died for us and rose again so we too will be raised again with Him on that last day.
"O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)