You’re facing one of life’s most difficult challenges, and your feelings of ambivalence, doubt, and fear are common. May I express my support and prayers for you at this painful
time in your life.
Your question cuts to the core of the issue faced by many patients diagnosed with terminal illness—how do we live one day at a time when we don’t know how much time we may have remaining in life? The question has both spiritual and practical roots.
Faith and an Uncertain Future
Christianity teaches that death here on earth is not the end for us. Our life continues beyond the grave. Facing a terminal illness often stretches our focus beyond this world to the next as we prepare to cross from this world into eternity. Those of us who believe in the Bible find hope in a future that has been secured for us beyond death. Yet death is a painful wrenching from all we know here on earth. Jesus, who conquered death for us, was moved to tears at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, even though he raised Lazarus from the dead just moments later.
Living one day at a time gives us the opportunity to evaluate what is important in life and order our spiritual priorities. The following things can help us when we face the crisis of a terminal diagnosis:
• Talk to your pastor or priest, or spiritual leader.
• Lean on the support of your church and faith community.
• Seek the counsel of others who have experienced a similar journey.
• Gather a circle of friends to support you in prayer and in practical ways.
• Consider the role of hospice to assist you in working through the spiritual and physical challenges of your journey.
Prioritizing the Time
In the face of an uncertain future, consider investing as much as possible, both spiritually and relationally, in each day.
• Reconcile with loved ones. We all manage to jostle our way through life and produce bumps and bruises. Pray about who you may need to reconcile with or leave with parting words of grace.
• Establish priorities. Focus your energies on the things that matter most, especially things that will have lasting value eternally and in relationships.
• Things left undone. Accomplish as many things that you wished you could have done earlier in life. Engage loved ones along with you, and make as many memories as possible.
• Things left unsaid. What wrongs should be set right? What grievances should be forgiven? What final words do you wish your loved ones and friends to hear? Be sure you write them down or record them.