Want some empirical evidence? Researchers several years ago asked 345 advanced cancer patients at seven hospital and cancer centers around the United States whether they wanted life-prolonging measures such as ventilators and resuscitation during their last days. According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009, the religious (mostly Christian) patients were almost three times as likely as the non-religious to seek and receive life-prolonging care.
Of course, that result may have been a measure of faith rather than fear—do not assume the end is near—but I suspect some patients were learning the difference between an intellectual acceptance of eventual death and an emotional response to imminence. Yes, we should sing hymns with lines like, “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!”—but also ask ourselves the hard question: At crunch time, do I stake my life on that love?
I’ve now halved the beta blocker dosage, and anxiety is gone—but this whole experience leaves me suspicious of myself and determined to grow my faith rather than assume I already have what I need. Growing it means spending more time with the Bible and in prayer. Growing it means asking God to show me more and more that my only comfort in life and death is not fatalistic stoicism but the assurance of eternal life that only Christ provides.
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