Monday, December 9, 2013

{day 17) Is the suffering worth it?

Is the suffering worth it?

To fight for the chance to live
Even if that day is not given?

Is that suffering worth it?

Oh...the decisions to be made
The goodbyes to be said.

Surrender, fight, suffer
Our good, His glory
I don't claim to know how it works

Have mercy on us, O Lord

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I wrote these lines about the days that decisions needed to be made about my father-in-laws treatment in the hospital last fall while he was still in the ICU. When you are making the decisions, you don't know what the outcome will be, how much longer they will live or not live, or what their quality of life will be if they do live. What difficult days. The situation has opened a fresh look at suffering for me; here I have simply tipped the iceberg with questions of fighting, surrender, saying goodbye, and the value of suffering

I haven't delved much deeper because I don't have a satisfying answer to the question. I know a theological answer to the question but I also want to address the human, emotionally raw side. If one raises the theological side too soon for those still raw, it feels like salt in the wound. Where, sometimes, the exact same answer or thought can be a healing balm.

In the end, God did have mercy on us: we did not have to decide about life support or withholding at a treatment for my father-in-law. I am so thankful for that mercy. It is a severe mercy, though, but mercy none-the-less. And the David Crowder song that I posted here comes to mind and also the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Van Auken.

Death is not easy. We walk in its shadows but know that the sun does shine. There is laughter and hope and fun in the midst of these times, too. That, too, is a mercy: it is not all sadness.
And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. I Peter 5:10-11
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This is part of the 31 Day series: 
The Clarence Chronicles: Lessons of Faith from the ICU
Click HERE to read Day 1, which links to all the posts in this series.

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  1. This is a tough one, Kathleen, because I am coming at this issue from a different perspective. My BFF has knowingly been battling cancer since September 2011. She had to come home from being a "sent one" in West Africa to receive treatment for breast cancer (10 rounds of chemo, a double masectomy, another 10 rounds of chemo), have six months off, and then learn that the cancer had spread to her lungs, a few bones, and to her brain. She now has undergone nearly weekly chemo--oral chemo drugs from January to early April and now regular chemotherapy since mid-April---and will continue to do so for the rest of her life. Through her close walk with Jesus, and being able to be seated in the front row to see how God continually uses her has made me realize the following:
    (A) Each day is a gift.
    (B) None is promised a tomorrow.
    (C) Very few things in life matter more than bringing God glory and following Him.

    I have not suffered like my friend, but I have seen her walk some very weary steps. However, through it all, she continues to praise God for life, for opportunities, for Jesus. She even started leading a small group a couple of months ago. We need to continue to walk closely with Jesus, practice His presence daily, and obey Him totally.

    Suffering in this life is temporary as we approach the throne of grace.

    "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

    1. Thank you, Jill, for sharing your perspective and your friends' story. I love your points: every day is a gift. No one is promised tomorrow. Bringing God glory and following Him are utmost. How true!

      Sometimes, we know at the beginning of a trial that every day is a gift and there is no promise of tomorrow. And sometimes the trial challenges us to see if we know it or if we believe it

      The twist for me last year was to have to make decisions of treatment for someone else that involved a process of suffering. Not that I was the one making the decisions, actually I simply had a front-row seat to watch my mother-in-law struggle to make decisions and watch my husband help her through the decision-making process. She needed our help, love, and support. It wasn't easy.

      If we knew he would survive and recover fully, the answer would of course be yes. But no one could tell us if he would survive or recover fully. There were no guarantees (just like your friend has experienced, I'm sure). What if we tried it, he suffered some more and then died? Would it have been kinder to stop trying sooner? To stop the suffering sooner? For him? For us who would miss him?

      And then I came to the question is the suffering worth it even if he doesn't survive? And it is true that each day is a gift. Yet, when the day is full of trial it feels like being given a thoughtless gift by Aunt Whatsherface and it feels worse than not having been giving the gift at all. It takes the eyes of faith to see each day as a gift.

      Sometimes the pathway to seeing it through the eyes of faith is to ask the hard questions. Sometimes the path to faith is to deny that each day is a gift and then to look in the eyes of loving Savior who forgives us, restores us, and then sends us out to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to remind us that every day is a gift.

      Your thoughts here have encouraged my heart. I love the verse you quoted about boldly approaching the throne of grace in our time of need. We did that then and I can do it now, too.

      I believe this will become another blog post.

  2. Kathleen, the perspective of time often makes the stories easier to tell. You've got some insightful thoughts here.... This line in particular spoke to me (from your earlier post), "I don't claim to know how it works."
    There are just no easy answers to this process, even when we know Jesus. But thank God you do.

  3. I think you are so right about the theological perspective and how, if addressed too quickly, can feel like salt in a wound. You know what's interesting? My Grannie's last days were around the coming of Easter. Before she died, I thought -- wouldn't it be a blessing if she died on Easter? On the day Christ was resurrected? Then, she actually did die on Easter, but when people told me what a gift that was, I wanted nothing of the conversation. All I could do was lament the fact she had died. Of course, now, I'm back where I was originally, thinking it is neat that God shared His day with her. But at the time...


Thanks for being part of the conversation...I love hearing from you. Kathleen

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