O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?
Some psychiatrists believe that all anxiety originates from the fear of death. But research shows that the fear of death declines with age, as seniors adapt to the many challenges of later life, including exposure to death. As people age, many become less self-centered, less materialistic, and develop a more eternal perspective on life that helps them realize that the process of living is not confined to this life on earth. Some fear of losing independence, going to a nursing home, or even giving up driving more than death, and the grief and losses due to the deaths of family and friends creates more anxiety than the prospect of their own death.
Most studies on death and dying (though not all) show that spiritual beliefs and practices reduce anxiety about death. Interestingly, a person’s certainty about their beliefs is more important than the details of the beliefs themselves. For example, someone who is sure they are going to heaven will have less anxiety about death, as will an atheist who is confident that death means just ceasing to exist. In contrast, people who are unsure about what awaits them after death are more likely to have a high degree of fear and anxiety.
End-of-life situations are perhaps where faith is most valuable. Christine Gibson, a resident of Greenspring in Virginia, faced such a decision with her husband. “At the emergency room the family was informed that rigorous surgery was normally dictated but it would be extremely doubtful that he could survive. The final decision was that we should make him comfortable and wait for the end. Although we prayed for the miracle of recovery, he died peacefully. Would the surgery have resulted in a productive period of well-being? I have to look at it in faith that God really is in charge and that He said it was time. The ultimate healing had indeed occurred.”
Faith allows us to view death with the confidence of King David: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”
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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)