A few weeks ago a friend posted something on Facebook about people talking about natural remedies for cancer. The friend’s post was (as a PSA) encouraging people who like alternative care to make sure they’re not implying “If _______ had tried _______ they’d still be alive today.” And the reason my friend was concerned was that they’d lost a family member not terribly long ago to cancer.
Full disclosure: My older sister died of cancer a couple of years ago and was not yet 50. It was almost 10 years, on and off, that she was battling various forms of cancer before she finally went home to be with the Lord. She went through a rough time, especially at the end, but God used her death and her life in some amazing ways. And now I have to wait a long time to see her again. Today’s her birthday, and she would have been 51 if she was still around.
The first thing I want to say is that if you’ve ever said something like what’s in the quote above you should be ashamed of yourself. And if anyone ever says that to you about a loved one you’ve lost you have my permission to slap him. Unless it’s me. Ok…even if it’s me. It’s just rude and unkind and really has no purpose.
Second point: God determines when people die. So the statement above, in addition to being stupidly rude and mean is theologically incorrect. Here’s Paul speaking in Athens:
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us
Source: Acts 17:26-27 ESV
God determined the allotted periods of each of our lives, before the world began. Where we would live. When you were born. How long each of us will be here…every breath is counted. When someone dies there is never an “if only ______” left. Those of us who believe must trust in God’s goodness and grace in that. He is sovereign over life and death.
The third thing I want to mention is that you need to be charitable with one another. I know it’s hard, but if someone says “I think that chemotherapy is harmful and I wouldn’t do that to myself” it is not the same as the statement above. Don’t assume that your friend is making a conjecture about your loved one’s death. Sometimes people don’t know. Sometimes people aren’t as careful with the words they use as they ought. But all the time we need to believe the best (“love believes all things”) about other Christians and assume they don’t mean harm unless it’s spelled out clearly.
Sure, sometimes it’ll bother you and you’ll have to ask. And that’s how people learn to be more careful in their speech. But try to find the best possible way to take something when it’s said.
I am a big fan of alternative care in many cases. But I don’t give unsolicited advice about health care, finances, or child-raising because I’m also a firm believer in liberty. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our lives, my family and me, and maybe someone else can learn from some of them. But if you don’t ask my opinion about a specific you won’t get it.
But that’s not the same as saying here that I’d personally never get chemotherapy. That I believe that the health care industry perpetuates bad treatments that make money sometimes and has little interest in finding cures. That drug companies manipulate the governmental systems to make more money (they’re not alone in that, by the way).
I have strong opinions and so do you. And one day you’ll die and so will I. And the fact that I can’t stop that doesn’t mean I don’t take my asthma meds and it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t perform CPR on you if you had a heart attack in front of me. It does mean that once death occurs we need to trust God’s timing in it, and to remember that everyone, all of us, will die. There is no health care service, conventional or alternative, that will stay off death. Only when Christ returns will death die.