Monday, August 11, 2014

On Life: Gaining and Losing it

Life. It seems such a huge subject but two things happened today that have been cause for considerable pondering on the topic. 

First, a patient came in for follow up. She had a tremendous improvement with treatment and was ecstatic. "I feel like you've given me my life back!" she said. 

Later this evening, an alert on my phone indicated that Robin Williams, an actor and gifted commedian, had died. My first thought was, "Wow. 63 seems young for a fatal heart attack!"  When I looked at the alert article, however, I found that he had committed suicide with the cause of death as asphyxia. He very likely hung himself. 

The two events triggered a long line of pondering on the idea of losing and regaining our lives. In every life, there are good times and bad times. Jesus said we would have trouble, and He was right.  There are some troubles, however, that seem so severe and last so very long that it seems as if we have "lost our life". What we mean, of course, is that the lifestyle we prefer has been changed to one we don't like quite as well. 

When I fractured my hand a while back, I had those horrid Frankenstein pins and that cast for so long, I felt like I had lost my life, and I was one whiny baby. I hadn't lost my life at all. What actually happened is that I gained tremendous insight into the difficulty of compliance with doctor's orders and a better understanding of how to help patients comply! The very thing that seemed like losing my life actually enhanced it. 

What is it, then, that drives someone to such despair that they would take their own life? A suicide such as Mr. Williams was not a sudden, impulsive act, nor was it an accident. It was deliberate. No one will ever know all the thoughts that went through his head at the time of death nor all the factors that led to his tragic decision.  Every death by suicide is a heartbreaking reminder that we can feel alone though we live in the spotlight, and feel as if we have nothing to live for though we own everything our heart has desired. 

The question, then, becomes one of "What makes a life?" If it's not lifestyle, fame, or possessions, what is it? Jesus had a very simple answer.  "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus IS life, and He is the one who makes a life. 

On those days when we are despairing because of one change or another in the circumstances of our lives, we would do well to remember that, if we have Jesus, we have all the Life we need.