Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Should I break your heart?



2 Kings 1:16-17 (NIV)
Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” [17] So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.

I'm in the privileged position of having to prognose ( medical for "prophesy") regarding the future health or otherwise of some of those I care for. It is a privilege and a solemn responsibility, not unlike a prophet of God. 
I am sometimes at a bedside with results and observations in my hands, consulting a hopeful but anxious patient. Often they have had   a sleepness night or longer waiting for my visit with news of results and expected outcomes.
My opinion is valued and powerful. Honesty, faithfulness over many years, love and the hand of God have made my opinion well respected in my current circumstances.
I know that hope can be enlivened or destroyed by my words. Or so it seems. So I am careful and measured in what I say, and I need all of the Spirit of God to aid me in these times. 
Of course I can be wrong in my opinion, but this is not the point of my little discussion.
The question I pose is not necessarily a simple one.
If in my hands is a serious result that suggests there is no hope of recovery, and before me is an individual with every desire to continue living, and eyes full of hope and expectation that what I bring is good news, do I break the persons heart with the truth, taking away their last glimmer of hope and thereby paving the way to an accelerated death, ( It is my strong opinion that people die quicker once they give up), or do I play down the implications, giving false hope and possibly delay death for some time, as well as saving myself the trouble of comforting someone in distress and grief, after all, there are always small chances that people will beat the odds. (By the way, doctors are not supposed  to give people firm time predictions in their prognosis)
Of course my answer is to tell the truth, with all it's implications, not holding back. It is best to do this out of love for the person receiving the news and to continue caring for the individual in their remaining illness, with all of my abilities. 

Yes, this will break the heart. 

Or will it?

At the start of my discussion I quoted an example of death pronounced and fulfilled. But this not always the case, even in 1 Kings.

1 Kings 21:27 (NIV)
[27] When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.

The words were Elijahs pronouncement of death upon Ahab from God as a result of the deliberate murder of an innocent person out of greed. The judgement was deserved.

But the result was repentance and, against expectations, God relented in his punishment.

By the way, God knows the difference between repentance and pretendance. 

When we speak the truth in love, we do not cancel the power of God, the Holy Spirit, able to do immeasurably
more than we can hope for or imagine. In fact sometimes honest bad news closes up a person to all avenues bar God, and sometimes in that situation faith comes alive in the form of deep felt prayer  or repentance, and the power of God brings about amazing outcomes. Sometimes miracles, sometimes reconciliation, sometimes assurance of forgiven sin and hope in Christ for heaven.

Our responsibility is to speak the truth in love, trusting our wonderful God with the outcomes in people's precious lives. Also trusting  in the inner strength that is undoubtedly present in those we care for.

Breaking bad news is hard. Holding back is harder.

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