A friend of mine works in home healthcare. Recently she was telling me about a client who is elderly and ill and a burden on his frail old wife, who struggles to care for his physical needs. She had placed him in a nursing home for a time, but was alarmed at his deterioration there and brought him home again. She now refuses to leave her house and surroundings. My friend P. helps to bathe him twice a week. She mused out loud to me that she wonders why God keeps him alive, since it is so hard on his wife and since if he died “they would both be better off.”
It just so happens that I had spent half a day at the home of a woman whose adult daughter is paralyzed as the result of a car accident. The mother spends her days attending to the very basic needs of her daughter, that is, when she is not busy filling out paperwork and trying to line up volunteers to read or play music or show photos or bring interesting scents to the bedside of her helpless child. After about 10 minutes of observing this, the halest of us might well question God about how this family “would be better off.”
As P. and I shared these two hardship cases, we thought of other people we knew who would “be better off” raptured from this earth, both for their own sakes and particularly for the sakes of the people who must spend their whole lives ministering to them. We found all kinds of reasons why the world would be “better off” if this or that person was gone.
It was not long before P. and I came to the simultaneous realization that we had traveled down a macabre road, and that what had started as a seemingly reasonable suggestion regarding a couple of unspeakably sad cases had now broadened its net to include a good percentage of the population. Moreover, we suddenly saw our motives exposed: The premise of the opinion that one would be “better off” with the removal of a certain person was that the purpose of life is our comfort and ease and pleasure.
We could not escape the epiphany that what we needed was a radical switch of perspective. No minor tweaking would suffice here, but a worldview realignment of the most fundamental kind. Somewhere along the line, we had both slipped in our thinking from the biblical idea that this present life is a time of trial for proving the genuineness of faith (1 Peter 1:5-9) into the subtle worldly mindset of this life as something to grasp. For Jesus’ part, He did not grasp any of this earth’s pleasures (Philippians 2:1-11). And then He left this epitaph: “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6).
P. and I both felt better after our little realignment—which may need to be done on a regular basis. Suffering comes from trying to have what cannot be had. But where truth is fully embraced without flinching, there is freedom.