Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oh Death, Where is Thy Sting?

Many people know of my story of how my late wife was diagnosed with cancer and ultimately died of it 8 years later.

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)


Anonymous Barb L. said...

Dear Russ and Deborah, What a painful situation, even now, so many years later-- I embrace what you said, that "it could have been different," but for better or worse, denial can serve a purpose for us when something is too extraordinarily painful; it's like a "safety valve," to help us bear the unbearable. Sue was faced with leaving her husband and her babies, and the very foundations of her faith in Jesus (Who truly was her life) were being shaken to the core. I wish it could have been different, for all the reasons that you mentioned, and more. This comes to mind, from 1 Peter 4:8--"Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins;" and, I don't know where it is in the Bible, but "God knows the beginning from the end."
I love and appreciate you,

February 01, 2011 12:34 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Barb, you certainly lived through that whole thing with us as well, and appreciate all the prayers and support.
Maybe you are right, it was a sort of safety valve and we all go through a stage of it when we are given the reality of our demise, but I pray someday, not too soon, I will be able to go from denial to acceptance and offering my anxiety, pain , fear and sadness up to Him. Poor Sue, didn't have the option of doing that because the theology we embraced would not allow for it. It would have meant defeat of lack of faith. She did her best under the circumstances, but now she is perfected and well, and prays for us with total knowledge.

I just met a lovely Catholic woman 80 years old, on face book. She read my conversion story and wrote to tell me she is asking Sue's intercession for me and Deborah and the boys. isn't that beautiful!
And you know what, this lovely catholic lady was a devout protestant her whole life and a missionary in China, and owns a Christian publishing company and radio station in Virginia. About 6 years ago, she tried to get an old friend to change her mind about converting to Catholicism, and guess what happened? She became Catholic herself and is on-fire for Jesus and His Church.

We love and appreciate you too!
You were a forerunner of our journey. You took the jump back across the Tiber way before the rest of us. You got smart faster than the rest of us :)
God bless

February 01, 2011 10:29 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

PS, how did the retreat go?

February 01, 2011 10:29 PM  
Blogger NanaR said...

Russ, when my youngest granddaughter was born and lived a precious 41 days, we had some contact with the healing outlook that you mention here. With some Christians, even acknowledging that the Lord might heal a child by taking her to heaven seems to be heresy. We happily accepted all prayers, but also joined our mental suffering to her physical suffering and offered it to the Lord. Chloe was not meant to stay with us on earth. I had the privilege of baptizing her on her last morning with us, and I know she prays for us now.

There is such great peace in accepting the Lord's will in these situations. When I first began to learn Catholic prayers, I was puzzled that so many of them entreat the Lord for a "happy death". I understand better now.

Thank you for sharing your intensely personal insights.


February 02, 2011 2:58 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

"I was puzzled that so many of them entreat the Lord for a "happy death". I understand better now."

I know what you mean Ruth, I now understand as well, and the Hail Mary Prayer payed millions of times every day for hundreds of years confirms our need to let God be a part of the reality of our passing.
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death, Amen"

Thanks for your comment

February 02, 2011 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Barb L. said...

Russ, Thanks for asking about the retreat--the actual retreat will be in April. In doing the preparations though we each practice the talk we'll do; I received positive feedback, and people liked the song too, so thanks so much for that.

You had mentioned about fear of death--one of the Scripture readings at Mass today, Hebrews 2:14-18, spoke about fear of death . . .

"Since the children share in blood and flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.
Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people.
Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested."

Let us always turn to Jesus, He cares for us.


February 02, 2011 10:22 PM  

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