We don’t get to know why.
There have been quite a few patients this week struggling with health issues large and small. Since it’s Easter I’ve been thinking about their struggles and wanted to offer a few thoughts.
I’ve been trying to help patients move past the “why me” stage to the “what next” stage. I’ve found the “why me” stage to be nonproductive. It is very natural to be angry when things don’t go well. However, when big things go down (like a cancer diagnosis for instance) time spent in the “why me” stage is time wasted. It doesn’t help, there are no answers to that question, and asking “why me” doesn’t get questions answered that NEED to be answered.
When I have to give patients scary news I try always to have the next step planned out. This gives the patient and their family something to focus on and a good exit from the “why me” stage. I quite seriously instruct the patient not to panic. Panicking does no good at all, and is a waste of effort. (Of course I AM aware patients regularly disregard this advice, but at least I can try!) Giving the next step in the plan (a scan, a test, a consultation with a specialist) helps to move things along in a productive way.
When you can’t see the next step on the path, and it’s scary to think about the future, it’s normal to question your faith. Why would God do this to me? Especially if you’ve tried your hardest to live a good life and follow your faith’s teachings, illness and injury can be a bitter pill to swallow. Our condition as humans makes us open to illness and injury, but God doesn’t choose it. However, our whole lives move to a pattern and He uses what happens for the good of us all.
Last Sunday during the Gospel of the Passion, I was struck by Jesus’s trip to the Garden before he was betrayed. He left his friends and went off in private to pray. The language is very striking, even in translation. It says Jesus was “in agony” and prayed so hard his sweat fell like rain. What was Jesus praying for? He was asking God to spare him. He was afraid!
Jesus was the Son of God. He had been with God since before the world was made. He was one with the mind of God and knew God’s plans for His creation intimately. He knew exactly why he had to suffer and die on the Cross the next day. He knew the purpose was to reunite God’s people with Him, to make one great Sacrifice to bring us back to Him. And still He begged the Father to spare Him.
If God’s perfect Son was afraid and questioned and begged to be spared, how much more will we be forgiven for asking the same questions when illness and injury visit us? So lighten up! There’s nothing wrong with being angry and afraid and not wanting to deal with what is happening. Ask questions, talk about your feelings with your doctor(s) and with your close family and friends. Get the support you need when you need it.
On this Easter weekend please also remember that just as God was there as Jesus suffered He is with us as well. As we take the difficult steps along our own Way of the Cross, remember that He has been there and is there again with you. God bless you this Easter!