After receiving a request from my father to write a short article about dialysis and faith and how they both affect those dealing with kidney disease.
Me and my dad, Bernie Gilmer
He is writing a book about dialysis and wanted the perspective from a Christian Minister on these topics as it pertains to dialysis and faith. a response to this subject, I was able to share a few thoughts.
My prayer is that this will be helpful to anyone who is facing dialysis or has a loved one facing dialysis.
How dialysis can affect one’s spiritual life.
As a Christian man and a Preacher in the Christian church, I have been alongside many who were facing the end of life. Some because of Illnesses that were known about well in advance and some that were sudden and unexpected. Either way each comes with its own difficulty as well as tough decisions. We all live in this World with the general scents that the average life span is 80 – 90 years. When it is a bit shorter than that. Life coming to an end is something that most people generally are uncomfortable with and therefore seem to tuck it away in the back corner of their mind. By doing so, we have been created this false understanding that we have plenty of time to deal with it later. Any person who is in their right mind would agree that none of us will live forever yet many days we all live like our lives will never end. Because of this many who experience a sudden incident that shortens their life will go through the process of dealing with what we have put in the back of our minds in a short amount of time. This can be very stressful for the individual as well as the family. Just recently I was informed of a Preacher at a nearby church who was in his late 50’s who suddenly passed of a heart attack. Dealing with those kinds of events can be shocking and traumatic as would be expected. But when a person is informed of a life ending sickness that can be treated but not healed, well that’s something a little different. Yes, both situations are shocking and traumatic for the individual as well as loved ones. But there is something very different about receiving any type of time limit on a person’s life. When a doctor informs a person of something such as kidney disease and the road to come, the reality of limited time inevitably sets in. Suddenly that which was hidden away in the back of the mind is forced to the front and demands to be dealt with. There definitely is something different about knowing and waiting for the inevitable.
For the person who has a relationship with God and has understood the arrangement that God has put in place so that anyone who chooses could have life after we leave this World, well I won’t say that it would make things less shocking or traumatic but I will say that there can be hope and peace in the middle of it all. Many who trust God and believe His Word will know that God has promised to never leave us and that we can rely on His Spirit to give us the courage and strength to do whatever we need to do in this life. There are many difficult things that happen during a person’s life. If a person has been living life as a believer well this situation, although is quite real and seriously permanent, should be no different than any other challenge that God has led the believer through during life. So, to put it plain, everyone will come to the end of life but not everyone will have hope and peace through it.
How to Cope
There are many people, professionals and non-professionals, who can advise a person how to cope with dialysis or any other end of life experience. I personally will offer advice from a Christian Pastor’s perspective.
As like anything else in the Christian life, prayer and fellowship with God is the key to living with dialysis. Of course, seeking out friends and loved ones to share thoughts and desires will always be helpful. Human beings were created to need other human beings. It is always helpful to seek others who are living through the same situations. Many people who are dealing with dialysis can help each other along the way. It is much easier to talk with others who understand and have been experiencing what the struggles are with being on dialysis.
I will say to the person who is a Christian, everything that happens to us is another chapter in the testimony of our lives. We are instructed by Jesus Himself to go into the World and make disciples. Everything we are about and everything we believe points to helping others to get to know God. Sure, not everyone on dialysis is a believer but that is exactly the reason that it is important to allow God to use you even during this time in life.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 talks about how there is a time for everything. This part of God’s Word talks about the fact that there is a season for everything. And as we see in verse 2 it tells us that there is a time to be born and a time to die. So, what is happening to us as we come to the end of life is not outside the plan that God has laid out for each of us. It has always been God’s plan that we spend eternity with Him. Living in this World in these bodies has always been a temporary situation. We must trust that this World is not our true home and that our Father in heaven has a place prepared for each of us.
Hope in the middle of Suffering, Dialysis without God.
As was stated before, hope comes from believing that no matter how difficult, stressful, or fearful a situation becomes we believe that God will have His way. Many throughout the history of man have suffered in many ways. Some suffering comes due to our own choices. Other suffering comes due to choices of others. And frankly, a lot of suffering happens just because we live in a World that has been contaminated by sin since Adam and Eve. Therefore, there is sickness in our World today. So, the question really comes down to this; how is a person going to live through this part of life?
The answer to this question will mean the difference in living with dialysis with hope and peace or pain, suffering, and misery.
The choice is this, we either believe that Jesus is the Christ who God sent to live in this World for the sole purpose of being crucified to pay for our sins, or you do not believe that. That’s not all, once a person decides whether that is true, a response is necessary. We read in Acts.2:37-39 where Peter made this clear to all the people in Jerusalem. After telling them this, they then replied in verse 37, “what shall we do?”. They believed this about Jesus and responded. So, if a person believes this about Jesus, the same question should be asked, “what shall we do?” To that question I will point out Peter’s answer in verse 38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” You see, without repentance, there is no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there is no hope of eternal life with God. And without hope there will only be pain, suffering, and misery now and for eternity.
presence of God living in peace and Holiness or will it be at a place called Hell where God is not and no chance of ever hearing from Him again?
Refusing treatment, is it selfish? Are there spiritual consequences? What does the Bible say?
There are many questions that we all ponder over that we really do not have the answer for. There are some things that only God knows. So, when it comes to the decision of whether to be on dialysis or not, well there really is not a cut and dry answer that would apply to everyone. What I do know is that there is nothing in scripture that specifically forbids a person to refuse dialysis or any other medical treatment. In fact, I would go so far as to say that God has answered many prayers by way of the use of the skills of Doctors and Nurses and the like. We must remember that God is greater than anything and everything in existence. God also know the hearts of each man, women, and child. I personally do not believe that a person who willingly takes his or her own life is something that God intends for us to condone. Although, each situation in people’s lives are unique. Each person dealing with dialysis has different variables contributing to the thoughts and circumstances that would lead a person to consider receiving or not receiving the treatment. In fact, I believe that the comparison of refusing dialysis to committing suicide would be not only an inaccurate comparison but would contribute to adding even more undue stress and anxiety to the decision-making process.
My advice as a Christian Pastor to the believer would be to make sure that all decisions are made prayerfully. Honestly consider what God is doing with you and your life. What might be His plan in all of this. Prayerfully consider loved ones and others. Ask God to lead you and give you peace about each step along the way. If in fact a person is a believer, then God’s will be done will be the goal.
The bottom line when it comes to deciding to receive dialysis or not to receive it, I believe it is no different that deciding to turn off life support for a person who had already made decisions about the quality of life he or she desired. I do not believe that God would look upon a person’s decision to refuse or stop treatment as sinful. I personally believe that for the person who is a Christian, what God is looking for is if the person brings glory to God as they go down the road of being on dialysis or not. For the person who does not believe in God or chooses not to receive the salvation extended to them through faith in Jesus as the Christ, well, this decision would seem to be a little easier or less stressful.
Once again, we can see in Ecclesiastes that God had ordained a time for everything. For those of us who are believers, although we may have struggles and suffering during life in this World, there is a promise of eternal peace that we can look forward to. So, for those on dialysis as well as the rest of us, let’s live life to the fullest until there is no more life to live here in this World.
Archie L. Gilmer