The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

When Loved Ones Are Dying: Improving Our Response to Bad News

When Loved Ones Are Dying: Improving Our Response to Bad News

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

When a person falls seriously ill, the common reaction we see is for all their friends and loved ones to start soliciting supernatural help from other people. Hence we see comments like these floating about the internet:

“Please send your light and love towards my friend right now.”
“LOVE conquers all! Sending positive thoughts in your direction!”
“Our hearts are lifting yours up and holding yours strong.”
“Positive energy is coming at you every night and day!”

If we’re the recipient of these well wishes, we feel good—too good, in fact. Certainly it’s nice to have friends caring about us—there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s not what we’re really looking for when we post our crisis for all the world to see. What we’re really looking for is some supernatural power. We hate what God is doing and we want Him to stop it. Since our pleading is clearly having no effect on Him, we start trying to gang up on Him. We start shopping for some way to coerce Him into aligning with our agenda, which is instant healing. And somewhere in our stubborn little brains we think that God might find all these beams of light, love, and positive energy to be more than He can handle.

Putting faith in the power of positive energy and thoughts and healing light is excusable for the unsaved who have never been exposed to truth. But for Christians, this is obnoxious behavior. We are insulting God when we go about soliciting help from the unsaved. It’s like we’re saying, “If You won’t give me what I want, I’ll see what Satan’s people can do.” What influence do we think positive thoughts of a rebellious heart are going to have on God? And while we’re at it, what influence do we think the prayers of demanding Christians will have? When we ask our Christian friends to pray for healing, they will loyally flock to our side with comments like:

“I declare perfect healing in Jesus’ Name!”
“Praying for a miracle—and I know God will deliver!”
“Praying and believing! Our God is able!”
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective—sending prayers your way night and day!”

So what’s really going on here? We’ve just petitioned for a bunch of people to help us nag God. Why? Because we’re hoping to wear Him down, just like a child pulling on his mother’s leg hopes to coerce her into buying the candy bar he wants. Is this mature, respectful behavior? Not hardly. Are we treating God with honor when we try to get a bunch of our friends to gang up on Him with us and pester Him to death? No, we’re not. We’re acting like rebel brats who refuse to learn what God wants to teach us. We’re ignoring the fact that God is in control, and we’re insulting His intentional work by treating this illness as some terrible coincidence or bit of bad luck. Instead of recognizing God’s intentional will unfolding in our lives, we treat Him like a bodyguard who is failing us by not shielding us from the bullets our enemies are firing.

When illness strikes, the popular response among Christians is to start acting like pagans. It’s the pagans who are shaking beads, burning sacrifices, doing rain dances, and sticking devil bags on the door to try and control the supernatural realm. They aren’t looking for their gods to personally speak to them, they just want to force a certain behavior. In the same way, when we are desperate for God to give us something, we often stop treating Him like our Father and we start treating Him like a vending machine that’s become stuck. We bang, kick and cry at Heaven’s door without giving God the opportunity to say why He is withholding. We don’t care why He’s withholding—unless there’s some quick ritual we can do to jog Him loose. Confess our sins? No problem. Throw more money into the offering plate? It’s worth a try. Make a bunch of vows that we’ll never keep? It’s worked before. Yet this is all just more rain dancing and pulling on mom’s pant leg and beating on the vending machine. This isn’t two-way communion. This is bratty “Give me what I want and until You do I will be impossible to communicate with.” Isn’t this the bratty child’s main strategy in getting what he wants? When mom tries to reason with him, he pulls away and cries at the top of his lungs to drown out her voice. If that doesn’t discourage her, he throws himself onto the ground with all limbs flailing in hopes that an embarrassing public scene will make her do anything to preserve her reputation. So also, when we stand around claiming that God has already done what we want Him to do, we’re really trying to coerce Him into defending His own reputation. After all, when we throw the right Bible verses in God’s face, He will realize that He has to make our problems go away—otherwise He’ll look like a big fat liar. And if the whole church is praying for what we want—well, God wouldn’t dare to look weak in front of all them, would He?

If God is as attentive to each one of us as He says He is, then at some point we must ask why it is ever necessary to try and haul a bunch of other people into the midst of our current struggle. If a wife is having a conflict with her husband, what’s more helpful? Going somewhere alone with him so the two can talk things out or inviting the whole neighborhood to come into the house and yell at him on her behalf? Suppose the woman can manage to scrape up 500 people who will agree with her that the husband is the one who should bend to her will—what does that prove? Is this a healthy way to run a marriage—getting your friends to play the part of yes-men when they’ve only heard one side of the story? And whenever we get Christians to pray for us, when do they ever hear more than just our interpretation of the problem?

In the Bible, God warns us not to choose sides and cast judgment based on the testimony of only one person. Yet when it comes to praying for each other, we do this all the time. “My mom has cancer—pray for God to heal her,” we say. But wait—why is God causing the cancer in the first place? There must be some reason. God is very clear that He doesn’t do things at random, nor does He sit back and let Satan have free reign in His universe. If someone is fatally ill, it’s because God wants them to be. The question we need to be asking is why? Why is He doing this? And if we think “because they’ve sinned” is always the answer, then we’ve been badly taught. Rebellion is not the cause of every problem we have in life. God is clear that He uses suffering as a means of deepening our relationship with Him. God always has positive reasons for bringing negative things into our lives—He isn’t just beating on us in anger. Even if He is disciplining us, it’s because He cares about us so much that He wants to drive us back into alignment with Him. But in many cases, rebellion has nothing to do with why an individual is sick. Plenty of souls who are greatly pleasing God end up with terrible diseases. Why? Because there are so many valuable lessons we can learn through suffering in this world—lessons that will forever change and strengthen our relationship with God.

Whenever God strikes someone ill, He is not only seeking to strengthen His relationship with that one soul, but also with every person who hears about it and is distressed by it. Now sometimes you hear about a stranger falling ill and you simply don’t care because you don’t know the person and they don’t mean anything to you. If it’s a distant friend, you’re more interested, if it’s a friend you used to have, you think about it more, and if it’s a current, close friend, you are quite upset. How affected you are by someone else’s trial is all part of God’s very purposeful work. You might think the crisis is only about the person who is sick, but if you’re upset, then it’s also about you. In such a situation, what you should be asking is not “God, why are you putting my friend through this?” but “God, this is all so upsetting—what is it You’re trying to teach me?”

Why God is keeping your friend sick is between your friend and God. Your focus needs to be on your own relationship with God—not on trying to judge who is being punished and why. Whenever you find yourself upset by something, it’s a sure indicator that God is presenting you with an opportunity to grow. It’s when we are upset that our misconceptions and deep insecurities about God come racing to the surface like bubbles in a glass of soda. It’s when we’re upset that God helps us ask questions we normally avoid and face things that frighten us. It is vital that we do not run from these moments, or avoid doing the work God wants us to do because we’re too busy “fixing” someone else’s problems.

Do you currently know a loved one who is seriously ill? If so, no doubt you’ve been instructed on how to pray. But instead of serving the wishes of someone else and telling God what to do, this is the time for reverential submission and an open heart towards the Holy Spirit. If you’re distressed by what God is doing, then there are opportunities to grow closer to Him. Emotional stress is one of the most common catalysts God uses to push us on to new heights of maturity. Don’t waste your time with God repeating the wishes of someone else. This is your relationship, and your communication with God should be about you and Him, not about what everyone else wants. Why should you pray for quick healing when you don’t even know what God is accomplishing through all this?

Every time God creates a crisis, we know that He is trying to draw souls closer to Him. Do we really want Him to abandon such efforts and leave us all stagnating in comfortable earthly lives? If we’re honest, we have to admit that we’re not very good at remembering God when life is going smoothly. If He didn’t shake us up with trials and troubles, we’d never be motivated to put serious effort into developing our relationship with Him. The more we realize what God’s real motivations are in bringing stress into our lives, the more we see how foolish and shortsighted we’re being to always beg Him to stop trying to help us grow. How can we put a price on deeper communion with God? If He sees that fighting rounds with a cancerous tumor is going to be the most effective way of turning our hearts towards Him, are we going to trust His higher wisdom or insist that we know better?

Because God loves us, He does what He knows is best for us, regardless of how much we fuss and scream against Him. All the beaming, praying, claiming, and positive thinking in the world isn’t going to make God stop trying to connect with the souls He dearly loves, and suffering is one of the primary tools that God uses to draw us closer to Him. As Christians, we need to stop treating God like He’s a human who we can manipulate, coerce, bribe, or pressure into doing what we want. Instead of calling on our friends to gang up on God for us, we need to get alone with Him, lay out the concerns of our hearts, and then listen for His feedback. We must keep it in the front of our minds that God’s first priority for each of us is to help us grow closer to Him. In every crisis, we must remember that this is His goal and make it our goal as well. The wise Christian will not just pray “Please make this go away,” but instead, “Help me somehow grow closer to You through this.” If we are instantly healed yet our minds have remained closed to God, what have we gained? It’s better to be diseased in our bodies and thriving in our souls than to be in perfect physical health yet spiritually stagnating.

The more we understand about God’s Character, the more we realize that our suffering matters to Him and He doesn’t inflict pain on us unless He sees that it is the best way to get us some spiritual gain. It all comes down to a matter of trust: do we trust that God always has our best interests in mind or do we decide He is untrustworthy and spend our lives trying to correct and control Him? Of course there are many levels of trust, and it takes a lot of time, stress, and submitting to the Spirit in order to develop enough trust to stay calm in the face of a frightening illness. But pursuing this kind of trust is far more useful than trying to make physical comfort our god in life.

As Christians, we must remember that God has exciting plans for each one of us, but we must align with His agenda and priorities if we’re going to experience His best. If we insist on being stubborn brats who throw tantrums whenever God doesn’t do what we want and then turn away from Him entirely when He takes the life of a soul that He created—well, then we will be the only ones to suffer for our bad choices. God doesn’t need us to like Him. The fact that He gives us so many opportunities to know Him better is an honor that none of us deserve. If we treat intimacy with God like a cheap and worthless thing, He will stop extending invitations to us and we’ll never know what we might have had. But not even cutting God out of our lives will secure us good health and physical comfort in this world. This is God’s world, and He runs it however He wants to. We will not see the day when we see the Sovereign King taking orders from grasshoppers like us. Let us learn while God is still willing to teach us and choose the path of humble submission. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you react to bad news in a way that honors Him. Ask Him to help you remain teachable, and to increase your desire to know Him better. These are the kinds of requests that please God—ones which promote His priorities as more important than our own.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: