Summary: Deals with one of the reasons people give for taking thier lives into thier own hands near the end of life, the second part of a 3 part series.
End of Life: Our Fear of Pain
TEXT: Hebrews 2: 5-11, 14-18
Sunday, August 18, 2002
This series on death and dying was not written to be morbid. It was written because these are issues we will all face in our lives. Although you may not leave here inspired, you will leave informed on how to make a decision on what I consider to be three of the most profound moral issues of our day. The first issue is the sanctity of life, the second issue is human sexuality, and the third issue involves this cluster of moral issues surrounding a natural death or deciding the timing of our death for ourselves. If this subject causes you tremendous pain so that you can’t remain in the sanctuary, there is a chapel downstairs. I encourage you to go down there and then after the service I encourage you to come forward and pray with me. I will not shake hands today. I will be up front for those who really need to have a prayer for healing in this area.
Three weeks ago we started a series defining what it means to terminate life and what choices exist for Christians. We can do about anything except taking our own life or the life of a loved one. We can keep ourselves or our loved one comfortable, we can withhold treatment, or we can administer high doses of pain medication when the intent is to relieve suffering but not to take the life of another person.
Today I would like to deal with the issue of pain. The stories of pain that some of you are feeling right now are remarkable, and how do we deal with pain? If the only Christian death is a natural death, then what do we do if we encounter this issue of pain? Isn’t meaningless pain cruel, and what are our options? How can we watch our loved ones suffer? Or, is there hope on this issue, and there is. For the Christian there is always hope.
Medically, no one knows when the end really is near. There is a thing in medicine called “spontaneous healing.” And there is a thing in church groups known as “divine healing.” If we are to experience death as a Christian, even then there is hope because death has been robbed of its power and we will not die. We will experience eternal life. I can make a promise to you that you will be healed no matter what. The medical profession cannot guarantee you healing. God can. Most often, healing takes place in this life, but sometimes it takes place in the afterlife.
What do we do about the issue of pain? When we talk about pain, what pain are we referring to? There are many different types of pain when a person is at the end of life. So often, we confuse other types of pain for physical pain. We see our loved one suffering and ask, “Can’t you relieve their pain?” We think it is physical, but it isn’t always physical.
There are at least five different types of pain:
1. One has a physical root.
2. There is also emotional or psychological pain, and sometimes this kind is worse. This is comprised of the feelings generated by going through the dying process or by watching our loved one go through the dying process. We can experience incredible emotions of frustration and panic and fear and assurance and joy and hope.
3. There is relational pain, the unfinished business in our lives and the regrets that we have about our relationships.
4. There is a fourth pain that isn’t spoken much about and that’s spiritual pain. This is the dread that one feels when one realizes that he is mortal and that he will die. That can be a very difficult, horrible experience for some.
5. The fifth pain that people never talk about but which is very real is financial pain. I can’t tell you how many people, looking at a dying parent, asks, “Can’t you relieve their pain?” However, they want their loved one simply to be put out of their misery, but the real misery is the thought that the inheritance is being drained and they can’t see the medical profession getting it. The real pain for some is financial, and if you doubt that just watch the wrangling that goes on after the death of a loved one.
To confuse things even more is the issue of the level of pain. How intense is it, because it is different for everyone. Everyone has a different threshold of pain. I learned this as a parent. We were on vacation and one daughter got stung by a bee. I’m in the house and hear this blood curdling scream, and I thought that she had lost an arm or was hit by a car. As I ran to help her, I found out that all the commotion was due to a bee sting. Another daughter will get the same bee sting, she’ll come inside and rub it, and then go on her way.