You anxiously wait for the doctor to come in and give you the test results. Your body has been behaving strangely with unusual symptoms. At first you thought it was too much stress at work or maybe your age starting to show. Finally, you took the advice of a close friend and went to see a doctor.
Your doctor sits down and wastes no time saying, “Your test results are in. You have tested positive.”
“Positive—that’s good isn’t it?”
“No, it is not. You have tested positive for the disease.”
It doesn’t matter which disease it is; the news comes as a life changer. We live with hope and a prayer that our doctor will not pronounce an unhappy diagnosis.
Do you know that most of us have already experienced two incurable diseases? Count how many you have been diagnosed with. Here are the top ten diseases without a cure[i]:
3. Ebola Virus
4. Lupus Erythematosus
5. Jakob Disease
9. Common Cold
If we find out we have a cold or the flu, we handle that news fairly well. Some minor discomfort may be part of it, but we trust that we will get well soon. The drugs and remedies less the suffering, but do not actually cure the sickness. They just help us cope with symptoms.
Imagine instead that you are diagnosed with something more menacing and interruptive to your life. How will you respond to the news of HIV or Cancer?
We usually think of grief in reference to the death of a loved one, but other things in life cause us to grieve. Any major loss can trigger our grief response. The news that you have an incurable disease is most grie
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in studying the stages of grief. She identified five stages[ii] that people go through in a major loss event.
1. Denial – this cannot be real. If I ignore it, maybe it will go away.
2. Anger – why me? It’s not fair. I do not like being sick.
3. Fear – I am going to suffer horribly. I’m going be a burden to others. I’m afraid to die.
4. Grief – I can no longer do what I used to. I am alone in my suffering.
5. Acceptance – learning to live with a long-term illness can give you the joy of overcoming obstacles in spite of difficult hurdles. After the emotional upheaval, one can experience a peace that comes by making the most of life.
If you are a person of faith, you are not immune from sickness, tragedy and loss. The hard rain falls on sinners and saints.
People of faith are not immune from the stages of grief.
In the history of Jesus we meet many people who suffered with incurable diseases. Some of them were righteous and others were not. It’s intriguing to see how Jesus interacted with sufferers.
Saint Mercurialis was a physician in the Middle Ages who noted this about Jesus:
Every kind of palsy, especially of long continuance, is either incurable, or is found to yield with the utmost difficulty to medical skill, even in young subjects; so that I have frequently remarked, that all the diseases which were referred to Christ for cure appear to have been of the most obstinate and hopeless kind. [iii]
Jesus did not come solve easy problems. He came to address the most hopeless conditions found in human experience. You may be in denial, anger, fear, despair or an acceptance of your condition. At every stage, Jesus encounters the sufferer and inspires hope for wellness.
[iii] Mercurialis Deut. Morbis Puerorum, lib. 2. cap. 5