Daily Riches: Death and the Temptation to Despair (Dan Clendenin and Atul Gawande)

“Atul Gawande has written a best seller about about dying well: Being Mortal; Medicine and What Matters in the End. Gawande argues that instead of acknowledging ‘the natural order of things,’ we’ve been seduced by ‘the prevailing fantasy that we are ageless.’ Instead of acknowledging the limits of medical treatments, we’ve turned mortality into an almost purely ‘medical experience,’ which in turn has led to denial, dishonesty, arrogance, and, for the elderly and the dying, horrible social isolation. This reduction of mortality to medicine, says Gawande, harms instead of heals. Acknowledging your mortality is a tremendous gift. It reorders your desires. It narrows your focus and gives you a new perspective that’s rooted in reality instead of futile medical fantasies. Medical interventions are only justified, says Gawande, ‘if they serve the larger aims of a person’s life. When we forget that, the suffering we inflict can be barbaric. When we remember it the good we do can be breathtaking.’ … Various writers describe this experience in similar ways. The Benedictine nun Joan Chittister calls it a ‘spirituality of struggle.’ The Orthodox theologian John Chryssavgis calls it a ‘spirituality of imperfection.’ The Presbyterian pastor Don MacCullough has written about the ‘consolations of imperfections.’ …Luther famously reminded us that God’s ultimate act of redemption and revelation was through suffering on a cross. A ‘theology of the cross’ affirms that we often experience God’s power in our human weakness. …Paul is a realist, not a sentimentalist. And his realism is liberating and refreshing. He begins and ends his reflections on ‘wasting away in the body’ with the identical words: ‘we do not lose heart’ (2 Cor 4:1, 16). That counsel of encouragement is necessary because the temptation to despair is real. In the end, Paul is an optimist: ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ Daniel Clendenin

“we are being renewed day by day”
2 Corinthians 4:1

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you in denial about your approaching death?
  • Are you letting losses in your life now prepare you for the Great Final Loss?
  • Is your faith a “spirituality of imperfection” in which you discover “consolation?”

For More: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)


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