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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Smith: Facing mortality

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“It’s time for a biopsy.” My doctor spoke those words calmly, though not necessarily solemnly. He added, in his matter-of-fact manner, “It could just be prostatitis” (i.e., inflammation of the prostate). But it wasn’t prostatitis; it was cancer.

Over the years, my morbid curiosity had led me to wonder how I would react if I were ever given a serious diagnosis. Suddenly, it was no longer merely a hypothetical. I soon realized that, as a man of faith, I didn’t fear death. My major concern was that I might miss out on spending time with my children and grandchildren.

It turns out that my prognosis is very good. They caught the cancer early. (Fortunately, prostate cancer is among the slowest moving types of this ailment.) After my diagnosis, I resumed my daily activities as if nothing happened — almost. I began to consult with several doctors, spoke with several men who had been given the diagnosis and conducted an exhaustive amount of research.

Given my relatively young age (51) and the fact that I am otherwise healthy, the doctors were reluctant to push me toward one type of treatment as compared to another. (It would have been much easier and more comforting if they had done so.) After several months of research, I was in danger of “analysis paralysis,” caught in an endless cycle of “what if” scenarios.

Finally, after much prayer, I selected the treatment to undertake. I am very comfortable with my decision.

When one comes face-to-face with one’s mortality, there are a few options. One can slink away in despair. One can pensively wonder about “what comes next.” Or, one can occupy the intermediate space between boldness and humility. The paradox between being bold and being humble is not as confusing or contradictory as it might seem. Christians are instructed to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (i.e., go in confident prayer to Christ). Yet, we also should be humble, realizing that we can do nothing to earn or deserve God’s blessings.

Today, I find myself thinking more and more about the contrast between the ethereal poetry of life and the gritty, utilitarian prose of living. Life is a God-given gift. Consider, for example, that there is no greater joy than gazing upon one’s child for the first time. Yet, within a relatively short period of years, that newborn will begin to experience the inexorable reality of living in a fallen world.

Faith is the factor that causes me to understand that life is not random and meaningless. Further, it is a much more intellectually satisfying proposition than the notion that we are simply the product of a series of completely improbable cosmic “coincidences” that somehow led to life on Earth. Indeed, I believe that it takes much more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian.

The choice of whether to have faith is not as stark as it may appear to some. Everyone has faith — all 7 billion of us on Earth. The question is in what (or whom) we place our faith. Either one has faith in chance, fate or luck, or one can have faith in the God who is above all of that. When one understands that God is real, one must make a choice: serve God or serve ourselves.

Johnny Nash’s joyous psalm exults, “l can see clearly now. The rain is gone.” But God’s word helps us to understand that we don’t always need to see clearly. As Apostle Paul puts it, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” In other words, we don’t have to worry about the future because we have faith in the One whose power and love are limitless. Thus, even though I can’t see tomorrow, I don’t fear what it may bring.

In the end, despite all of life’s challenges — and in some cases because of them — it’s a wonderful life.

Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at larry@leaf-llc.com.

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