Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

The Will To Live

I almost made it through a whole year without being hospitalized or having any additional health problems. Almost. Then, with just a few days left in 2016, I caught a cold. The “common cold” is not much more than an annoyance for otherwise healthy people, but for someone like me with weakened breathing muscles and only 30% of my lungs functioning, the common cold is much more than an annoyance.

On the morning of the last day of the year, I was having an extremely difficult time breathing even wearing my breathing mask. In addition to that, I couldn’t keep anything down. I was a mess, more than usual. Mary and I both assumed it was pneumonia again so she called 911 and within minutes we were in an ambulance en route to the hospital. ALS has brought us one adventure after another over the last 20 years.

We waited in a small emergency room for twelve hours while waiting for a room to open so I could be admitted. It was during this time that I began thinking about the will to live. I was thinking, “if I didn’t have a sense that God still had a purpose for even a broken down mess like me or if I was an atheist or adhered to some other fatalistic worldview, I would have wanted a doctor to give me a shot that would have ended this suffering. It was as if my opposition to euthanasia was being tested.

Billygraham.org
If you are convinced you’re going to heaven, where the Bible says there will be no more pain, suffering and tears…, why continue to go on fighting to live?

Apart from the fact that the Bible teaches that life, including our own life, isn’t ours to take, it’s a very logical question; a question I’ve pondered at length over the last 20 years.

It’s a question that really confuses atheists.

Years ago I was watching a Barbara Walters special on heaven. She interviewed representatives of many different faiths to get their take on the after life. For some reason her last interview was with an atheist. I remember so vividly the closing sentence of this atheist: (If we believed in a heaven) “we’d all be killing ourselves now.”

But the reverse puzzles me: if atheists believe that this short life is all that there is, why do studies on assisted suicide show that atheists are the most likely to choose that option when facing a terminal illness?

Last year, Mary and I watched a movie titled “Me Before You.” It was a fictional “love story” about a wealthy self-centered 33 year old playboy in England that becomes a quadriplegic after a tragic accident. He’s obviously depressed and becomes a recluse in his parents mansion. He begins researching assisted suicide and finds a beautiful facility in Switzerland that provides “death with dignity” for wealthy people from all over the world (unfortunately, this facility really exists).

I’m obviously not a movie reviewer so let me wrap this summary up: his pretty young caregiver convinces him to travel to many exotic locations and they fall in love, but he still goes through with his plan to end their travels at the Switzerland death clinic. Not a very happy ending.

While watching this “love story,” my mind began to wander. I began thinking about a woman I admire so much. Fifty years ago, this woman was a beautiful and carefree 17 year old swimming with friends in the Chesapeake Bay. She dove into shallow water and hit bottom. This tragic accident resulted in her becoming a quadriplegic, virtually the exact same injury as the man depicted in the movie. Like him, she became depressed, reclusive and also had suicidal thoughts, but…

Joni Eareckson Tada had made a commitment to follow Christ three years earlier while attending a Christian summer camp. It was a renewal of this commitment and the support of family and friends that gave her life new purpose. For 50 years she’s been serving others all over the world while confined to a wheelchair. She shares the Gospel on TV and radio, hosts summer camps for mentally and physically disabled youth and, a ministry that is so needed, she provides wheelchairs to the disabled in third-world countries, like the boy below in Haiti. Her ministry has given away over 150,000 wheelchairs so far.

wheelchair-haiti
It’s really amazing what God can do with broken (humbled) vessels, regardless of our physical state. This year, give God permission to use you – this is the ultimate expression of His gift of a freewill. We are Christ’s hands to help a hurting world.

And, as the Apostle Paul wrote, when we’re done fulfilling God’s purpose for us in this life, it gets so much better:

“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

aim-at-heaven
No matter how depressed you might be over your current circumstances, please don’t give up, your story doesn’t have to have a sad ending.

“Therefore we do not lose heart (don’t give up). Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

think-of-heaven

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186 thoughts on “The Will To Live

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  1. Extremely encouraging and uplifting. It is good to know that God can use us no matter what our status, condition, or shortcoming.

  2. Wishing you and yours a blessed Easter, Bill.

  3. Appreciate this post very much, I needed this nudging right now. And thanks for joining my blog, I’m honored, I hope it will be a blessing to you. I look forward to more from you, you are an inspiration.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Preston.

      • A friend made this comment on my blog, which I think is spiritually very insightful and in line with your post.

        “Because you are showing us how to die. . . . with a backbone of steely determination, and filled with the Holy Spirit, with hands upraised in praise to The Great I Am. We constantly look for examples of how we want to live. But we need to know how to die too, because we are just a mist/a vapor…….a breath.

        “What amazes me is that if we were to have a measuring scale & put your trial on one side, and the glory/joy you bring to God right now on the other, the weight of glory must be heavier, or you wouldn’t be here.”

        Ken Wackes

      • Thank you for sharing this, Ken. Good stuff. I hope you’re doing well. Happy Easter!

  4. Great post. There is so much depression in this world and I can see it becoming much worse. If many with mental health issues truly knew and had a relationship with God, I think their burdens would be much lighter…..Sure Christians also have many health issues, but we have a hope in God, and know that He is our Rock, regardless of the outcome.

    • Amen. Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that Christians deal with depression and mental health issues too, but, as you said, I know first-hand that Christ helps us carry our burdens – if we allow Him to do so.
      (Jesus said) “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

      • Amen, Amen and Amen again. God is so loving and kind. I wish that the whole word would find enough faith to give Him a chance. So many lives would be greatly improved.

      • Yes, “improving lives” while here on earth is very important, but changing eternity for others should be our focus. Eternity with Christ is the only Unshakable Hope we have – everything on earth can and will be shaken.

  5. I really needed to hear this. We’ve had some health issues in the family, and well, it’s just got me really paranoid. I start thinking about my girls … how I want to see them married and see grandchildren …. But paranoia will drain your living … Maybe I do have health issues hiding in the dark, but they aren’t hidden from God … and I want to enjoy this day and every day that I’m given …. I’m praying for you.

    • Thank you for your comments and for your prayers, Shelli.
      Regardless of how severe our health problems might be, it seems that fear always creeps in, doesn’t it? With some people, the overwhelming fear can be much worse than the physical condition. I know it sounds cliché, but, like the Manna given to those living in the wilderness, God’s provision, for everything we need, including our emotional peace, only lasts for a day – “He is new every morning.” One day at a time, Shelli.

  6. Madonna on said:

    My sister Paula is your brothers neighbor. We have talked and prayed for you many times. I could not agree with you more.
    I would like to share a little of my story with you. May 2011 I went to work at Delnor hospital in the OR ( I had at that point worked as a stub nurse for 21 years ). I was completely short of breathe when I reached the locker room. Long story short, I was brought to the ER where I was diagnosed with a Pulmonary blood clot. Bad news!! I was sent to the ICU and within 72 hours I was in a coma! Part of my lung was removed, sent to mayo clinic and I was diagnosed with a deadly form of pneumonia along with the blood clot! My situation was grave. I come from a very devout Catholic family, my brothers, sisters and friends had me on every prayer chain. My family would say the Rosary around my bed, pictures of Mary went up in my room My health was not improving but getting worse. My funeral arrangements were made. My sons who had power of attorney refused to take me off life support!! What my family was going through was horrible, what I was going through was no better. While in a coma I experienced pain, mind bending pain. I knew I was dying but I chose to fight!! Like you, I absolutely believe in the Trinity and all the love, peace and beauty that heaven will provide!! I’m not afraid to die but I know God had plans for me to do his work here still. While in a coma, the Virgin Mary came to me in my room. She never spoke to me but just Her presence brought me so much peace and comfort( words cannot explain). I came out of the coma in just short of 3 weeks!! Every cell of my body was saturated with Gods love!! My life has never been the same!! Every material thing in this life was taken from me, God had removed it! But I have great love from family and friends through our Lord Jesus Christ!! I have an almost constant joy that sometimes is hard to keep it all in!! I know my life was spared to tell of this great Love God has for us!! My lungs are permanently damaged, I’m now permanently disabled. Like you a lot cold for most, will make for me, a hospital stay!! I have trials and suffering, but Jesus our Lord is with me through it all. I can never earn this great love, but God gives his love unending to all of us!! That is my purpose, that is the joy of my life!! With all my heart I hope to leave this world helping people experience this profound love!! May God continue to Bless you and your family!

  7. What a powerful challenge–giving God permission to use us, rather than deciding or even discerning what we would like to do for God. I also appreciate the quotes from C. S. Lewis. Thanks, Bill, for your careful thought and exposition of your life in light of your Christian faith. It matters because you matter as God’s beloved son.
    Elouise

  8. Bill, I found myself here through a Reblog by Tricia of Freedom Through Empowerment.
    This post is so very powerful and had me taking in every word, every sentence. I called my wife over saying “You got to read this”.

    I am concerned of the legislations that is being passed in Canada, and for the doctors in our government funded healthcare system who could in the future be forced to perform euthanasia against their convictions.

    I am encouraged to read this post filled with faith, strength and conviction.

    God bless you so much,

    Carl

    • Thank you for your encouraging comments, Carl.
      With healthcare costs for the government insured increasing drastically, especially for the chronically ill, I think there will be increased pressure on the elderly and terminally ill to choose assisted suicide. Or, they will limit the care, medical equipment and medicine to the point that is effectively assisted suicide, a slow and painful form of euthanasia.

  9. Thank you for sharing your blog. I enjoyed reading about your amazing relationship with our LORD and Savior. You are an encouragement to others to consider Christ’s way of living. Thanks!

  10. Thank you for this. I remember reading Joni’s story as a girl and wondering why God didn’t heal her, when he could – easily. What a powerful vessel of hope she has been. God bless you too, and keep you well and safe and always cradled in his holy and precious well.

    • Thank you for your comments, Selina.
      I don’t understand why many people haven’t yet received healing, but I have seen many others healed and I’m so happy for them! I haven’t seen physical healing for my ALS yet, Selina, but God has done so many miracles on my behalf. The point is, God still heals and performs miracles. Our job is to keep seeking Him – not just for God to act on our behalf, but to know Him.

  11. Thank you, Bill, for sharing from your heart. I’m glad you’re here because your blog is one of my favorites. Reading one of your posts is like visiting with a brother in the Lord. By the way, I’m troubled by the legalization of doctor assisted suicide in Canada. It’s one thing for an atheist to desire death, but I’m concerned people who have terminal illnesses may feel pressured or rushed into ending their lives sooner because the option is here now. My heart goes out to the suffering, but I can’t help but believe the money spent on ending lives would be better spent on improving the lives of those still living. We need to focus on decreasing pain–not ending lives.
    You, like Joni E.T. are a huge testimony to the grace and hope found in Christ.
    Blessings to you and Mary ~ Wendy

  12. Wow. Awesome 🙏🏼❤

  13. Thanks for sharing this! It is encouraging.

  14. Very excellent brother!
    Keep up the good work!

  15. Wow, what a powerful testimony you have! Although I do not have ALS, I have had many of the same thoughts while struggling with chronic pain. The verse you ended with is one that I love and constantly remind myself and others about! I want to share this with my very young friend, a teenager who is dealing with disabling chronic migraines and seems to be falling prey to depression. This is such a beautiful message with so much truth. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Having difficulty breathing is so uncomfortable and scary. So glad you’re feeling better!

  17. Just awesome bill. The inspiration you provide is part of that much needed will to live.

    Glad you mentioned Joni too. What a light she is. God bless, and your ‘unshakeable hope’ has an awesome setting in the jewels of God’s purposes.

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