“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Monday, November 7, 2016


I have been asked by an U.S. Christian physicians guild to present my experience with more than thirty-two years of incurable and chronic illness and degenerative disability (multiple sclerosis). Because my grief journey has been overshadowed by my relationship with Christ, it must be understood in that context. Among other things, I want to speak about:

a) The shock of a serious diagnosis and early struggles with physical decline.

There are constructive ways to aid (or at least not hamper) a patient's life-altering diagnosis, and associated physical, emotional and spiritual challenges they will surely encounter. In its best scenario, physicians and other medical professionals can forge partnerships with patients in the management of disease processes or disability. I say "best scenario" because patients much take an active role which involves ownership of their conditions -- not assume a passive role in their care -- and understand there are people to assist them.

It was important to me, right from the outset of my diagnosis (both with multiple sclerosis and later cancer), to know what my physicians and medical team could do and could not do. What sorts of resources were or were not at their disposal? It was important to me because it put my care and personal responsibility into a context. Yes, I needed to know that they expected me to be an active participant in managing the course of my disease and disability.

b) Encouraging healthy grieving

This means understanding that the classic stages of grief commonly associated with death may also occur with serious adult acquired disability or illness. My experience also involved denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. With a degenerative disease or disability this process may reoccur, which complicates the flow of grief.

c) A Christian perspective of suffering and grief:

In my experience it was important to take ownership of my disease and anguish. I believe it is important to take ownership of one's pain in order to relinquish it to God. We can only give away what is ours.  I want people in the doctors' conference -- or elsewhere for that matter -- not to overlook or discount this point because it is so important to freely surrender to God that which ours but may be out of our control. 

Within the framework of these three categories I will flesh out my grief journey, punctuated with anecdotes and personal reflections of mine and other people. After the tears and fears, I came to the foot of the cross and found Christ's redemptive suffering. It gave meaning and purpose to my suffering.

I am available to address other professional, pastoral, church or community groups. Write to HumanLifeMatters@shaw.ca 


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