I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13–14
I know of no passage in Scripture that obliges us to do everything in our power to prolong life. Even if there were such a passage, it would give us too much power vis-à-vis God, who after all is the only master over life and death. It would be as if we should somehow force life by our own power. What Scripture does tell us is to be patient and wait for the help of the Lord.
To try and do everything to save or prolong life seems almost rebellious. Besides, where are we to draw the line, if we are duty bound to always extend life? What about the coward or deserter in war? Would they be justified in sparing their own lives? Doctors are required to risk their lives and be ready to visit people with even the most contagious diseases. They would be in a real dilemma if they were obliged to preserve their own lives at all costs. Surely there is something far greater at stake than saving our own skins.
Of course, it is not wrong to consult physicians. We should let the physician do his job, even if caution is warranted. To reject physicians out of hand not only amounts to loveless harshness toward their profession, but reveals an exaggerated insistence on faith –that faith has to accomplish everything.
What is wrong is frantically using any and every means. Those who desperately try any means are at risk of falling under the criticism laid on King Asa (2 Chron. 16:12). If we are going to use medical help, then we should at least be sure that it will be truly beneficial. Only when we are confident of this, are we justified in trying our utmost. But to try everything – especially haphazardly – is almost a sin.
We know how most physicians are always ready to give advice. All of them promise results, even when they contradict each other. And if they do contradict each other, what are we supposed to do then? In fact, if we step back a bit and are honest, how reliable are man’s outrageous treatments anyway? How can relying on them exhibit a devout attitude to God? I do not call this faith and trust. The Lord is the only true physician, and so even when we use means allowed by God, we should never give them too much importance, as if they bring the decisive help.
We are called to wait for the Lord. Again, this does not exclude making use of the good things God provides in his creation. But we are too used to depending on these things, and then we don’t experience the goodness of the Lord. Because of our lack of faith, we no longer live in a time of miracles, as did the Apostles. We must always be open for what faith can do. But how is this possible if we go to the ends of the earth to find a cure; if we run from one doctor to the next; if we consult specialists who live hundreds of miles away, incurring exorbitant expenses; if we squander all kinds of time and energy; if even in the last hours of life extreme measures are employed?
The Lord retreats more and more when we try and find help in our own strength. But he who stays humbly in the circle assigned to him and uses the means at hand, be they great or small, in the faith that any real help can come only from above, such a person will fare best. He who trusts in God, who waits for him to work, will find that the Lord comes to him, and that his life will be truly preserved.
Therefore, wait for the Lord. Direct your heart’s thoughts toward the coming time of salvation, and dare to pray for a foretaste of this time. Then you will surely find the best help.
Johann Christoph Blumhardt