Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In Life and In Death...

I saw this in today's Johnson City Press:

Survey: Many in U.S. feel God can best revive dying: More than half trust divine intervention over doctors’ diagnoses, poll shows.

When it comes to saving lives, God trumps doctors for many Americans. An eye-opening survey reveals widespread belief that divine intervention can revive dying patients. And, researchers said, doctors “need to be prepared to deal with families who are waiting for a miracle.”

More than half of randomly surveyed adults — 57 percent — said God’s intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. And nearly three-quarters said patients have a right to demand such treatment. (Read More)
I am not surprised by this, but I am disturbed by it. Theological questions regarding divine intervention aside, this is a pastoral issue. Are we (ministers) doing an adequate job of enabling people to face the realities of life and death? It seems to me heartless and cruel that we should tell people to hold out for miracles from God. What happens when the miracle doesn't arrive? If it is really up to divine intervention, why would we request life-support at all?

In times of fear and threat of loss, we hold on to whatever we can. I understand that. I understand the anguish of the one who is called on to make a decision to end or not to start life-support. Feelings of guilt and uncertainty are overwhelming at these moments. We want more than anything to keep our loved one with us. When facing this difficult decision, we need all the support we can get from loving friends, family, physicians, hospital staff, and our ministers.

It would seem more humane and more divine for ministers not to talk about miracles at these times, but rather how God is present in life and in death and how God can help us face death (our own and our loved ones') with dignity and with grace. That is the miracle.
We need to prepare people from our pulpits and in our teaching not with false promises, but with courage to face these moments as part of the package of living.

Death is not an enemy, nor a punishment, nor the result of our sin. It is how the Universe works.
"In life and in death, we are the Lord's."