Admit your fears to God and others. I don’t know all the reasons why the Lord allows us to suffer. I do know that He uses our pain to conform us to Christ. Confessing our fears gives people the opportunity to pray for us and encourage us to keep our eyes on Jesus, not our suffering. It allows us to bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).
“I see a spot we need to keep an eye on.” Cancer. It wasn’t a diagnosis that I ever expected to hear as a young man about to start a family. Immediately, my mind filled with questions: How will I tell my wife? How will she manage if I die? What will the treatment cost? Am I ready to die?
There were no words in the immediate aftermath. It helped that the cancer with which I’d been diagnosed has a 95 percent cure rate, but I’d be lying if I said that eliminated my worries. A 95 percent cure rate isn’t a 100 percent cure rate. Would I be part of the “unlucky” few? How would it be possible to maintain a straight face and tell my wife that “everything’s going to be all right” when I had no control over that? Sometimes things don’t turn out all right—at least in the short term.
As scary as that moment was, it pales in comparison to what I felt when I heard the news my wife and I received just after our fourth child was born a little over two years ago. “Your son has Pfeiffer syndrome, a rare genetic disease that affects one in one hundred thousand people. We don’t know what this means for him yet. He will certainly have developmental delays, but his prognosis could be anything from a normal life to severe mental and physical limitations to death.” I’m paraphrasing a bit here, for the doctors did not say things so matter-of-factly. But it was the most frightening moment of my life. How were we ever going to handle this?
People die every day. Babies, teenagers, young mothers, middle-age fathers, the elderly—death is no respecter of persons. It’s not exactly true that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. You can avoid taxes. If you’re willing to put up with jail time, you need not pay the tax man. Death, on the other hand, is certain. Apart from those who are living when the Savior returns to consummate His kingdom, no one gets out of this world alive. And long before we breathe our last, all of us are going to face disease and watch friends and family suffer, or even suffer ourselves. Right now, as I am updating this article, the whole world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Death and disease are very much on everyone’s mind.
Why do we fear death so much? For non-Christians, the answer is easy. No matter how they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, whether by atheism, agnosticism, or false religion, they can’t escape their God-given awareness that they’ve broken His law and deserve hell.
Christians also fear death and disease. Of course, we know that we’re not supposed to, and we’d never tell anyone that we harbor such fears. Certainly, we know all the right things to say about death: God is sovereign. He has a good purpose in my pain.