December 1, 2020
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, NIV 1984).
One of our senior oncology fellows sat across the desk from me, reviewing our patients on the hospital list. She reported on a man with advanced lung cancer and then related, “It was amazing. He was so anxious and angry the day before, but he changed his attitude completely when he understood we could no longer treat his cancer, and he was going to die. His anger became peace. He said that he was trusting God and was fine. Instead of being belligerent, he became kind and loving to everyone around him.” I shared with her my experience in observing people near the end of their lives. After many years of observation, I had discovered that most everyone eventually comes to the point of accepting their death. In general, those without a belief in God do so with a sense of stoicism, while people of faith do so with a sense of comfort. She commented, “I know that religion does help some people.”
Human beings are strong. God created us that way. When we face crises, most of us overcome them—with various degrees of wounding.
When it comes to the moment when we discover our life is about to end, our peace or despair depends on what we anticipate after our last breath. Beliefs really matter at that point.
It matters to me if I live again after I die. I believe I will.
It matters to me if I am a whole and unique person after the grave. I believe I will be.
It matters if I will see again those I leave behind. I believe I will.
It matters if a God of love is waiting for me on the other side. I believe He is.
It matters whether those I leave behind can legitimately hope to hug me again. I believe they can.
I have a settled understanding that each of these beliefs is true.
If I did not so believe, I might still get through my dying okay. I might face it like a stoic and toughen up and step into a darkness where I expect nothingness to greet me, forever, while the world I know continues. I would still want to be remembered as a person of courage. I would still want to minimize my family’s pain of loss. I think I could be a stoic and do death well.
Thank God, my beliefs are true. Thank God, my hope is future fact. Thank God that one day I will face the gate to glory much like our patient above, with the comfort of God’s presence, looking forward to the adventure of His promise and the reunion with those I love.
Praise you that our hope is true.