Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thoughts on Suffering and Death

As you can tell by my many reports on the situation of the Schrock family and the death of their five children and their father's continued suffering that many in our family have been dealing with suffering and death much lately. This odyssey includes also the death of one of my wife's brothers a little over a year ago. He was found to have a brain tumor and tumors in his lungs; none of which were treatable, although radiation was administered to the brain tumor to try to reduce it and stop its growth. This apparently did not work as planned and my brother died within about a month. Since he was the first of his siblings to die it was quite a blow to my wife, her other two brothers, and sister. Within the last week we learned his wife has now been diagnosed with a brain tumor of undetermined type. We only know that she is experiencing difficulty in thought and speech due to the location of the tumor. Along with this news is that a nephew of ours has been diagnosed with acute leukemia and will be taking weeks of chemo-therapy off and on for several months depending on the outcome of further tests to determine the type and scope of his illness. Death and suffering seem to surround us at every turn.
I have experienced the passing of a sibling, my sister, who was 18-20 months my junior, that died suddenly in Sept. of 2001 due to an aneurysm in the brain. She was buried on Sept. 11, 2001, and for obvious reasons I shall never forget that day; the other reason is that my brother and I also served as pall bearers. Since then we bid good bye to our father who died due to cancer. With my sister's death it was "unexpected" in that she was young, but with Dad we had the warning of several months of sickness that eventually was explained by the discovery of untreatable cancer, and he was also of a more advanced age. In my sister's case we had to deal with the shock of death in the unexpected sense, but Dad's death followed a slower path and we adjusted to the reality of his passing, but we sense the loss of his presence very much as we do the loss of my sister.
Death is not abnormal in the course of life; it is the way of all living things, an established reality. With this understanding, why is it so traumatic to us? Why do we talk of death as "unexpected" when it manifests itself among our families or friends? Why do we seek all means to reverse the sentence of death when it comes upon us or our loved ones? Why do I seek the relief from all suffering in body and mind when I know in my heart that I can learn more spiritually from suffering than I can in the non-suffering times of life?
I believe that what a person believes on a spiritual level has much to do with how they ultimately deal with death and suffering. Since I am a believer in Christ, I look to the Word of God for guidance in all of life, and how to accept death is a part of this understanding. However, along with my spiritual awareness there is the emotional and mental wrestling that must be dealt with in how I handle death on any level of relationship. Despite the development of my spiritual level of understanding, I find my emotional and mental grasp is not usually as well defined, or prepared. There is a visceral unacceptance of death and suffering in my mind that affects me differently from the spiritual acceptance I understand from God's Word. My spiritual understanding of death is that it is only a passing from one existence to another; the Word teaches me that life continues on a different level after death, that death can be a release from suffering; we which continue living only bury the tabernacle of our friend or loved one. However, my emotional and mental distress is more motivated by the flesh that I inhabit, and I grieve at the loss of my friend or family member in death, or of the suffering they endure in life.
I cannot truly explain these opposing realities between our spiritual understanding verses our fleshly experience with suffering and death in the concrete terms I desire to impart. I find that I wrestle with the concepts of death and suffering on these two levels daily. My connection by flesh to fellow humans easily over-rides my spiritual understandings as taught by the Word of God. In my heart I believe; in my bowels I continue to question and grieve. I seek to understand the spiritual side better, and for my faith in God to grow within the furnace of the suffering and death of those around me and the suffering within my own life. I long for the understanding that is only brought forth by living totally in the control of the Spirit of God.
Pray for me while I continue to wrestle with these realities. Hopefully I can return with more insight and a stronger faith and understanding in the spiritual aspects of dealing with suffering and death.
Blessing and peace to you in the name of Christ, Truthseeker.