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Living With Terminal Illness

This is an outstanding testimony from Tony Snow, Presidential Press Secretary, and his fight with cancer. The full version is available on the internet.It is edited to fit space available here.

“Blessings arrive in unexpected packages, in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence 'What It All Means,' Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

“The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the 'why' questions:
Why me?
Why must people suffer?
Why can't someone else get sick?
We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

“I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is, a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths began to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

“We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

“Second, we need to get past the anxiety.

“The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.

“To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life - and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live fully, richly, exuberantly - no matter how their days may be numbered.

“Third, we can open our eyes and hearts.

“We want lives of simple, predictable ease,- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see. But God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension - and yet don't. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

“The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. 'Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler.' But another voice whispers: 'You have been called.' Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter, and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our 'normal time.' A clarifying moment of calamity has wept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions. The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change.

“Finally, we can let love change everything. We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us, that we acquired purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us part way there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms, not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live.

“I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. 'I'm going to try to beat [this cancer],' he told me several months before he died. 'But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side.'His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity - filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, - and that one can point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.

“Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

“When our faith flags, He throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. This is Love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

“We don't know much, but we know this:
No matter where we are,
no matter what we do,
no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects,
each and every one of us who believe lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God's hand.”

T. Snow

Shalom

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