Will to Live

Every day you wake up is a day you have chosen to live. Evidence suggests that the human mind and its will to live can shorten or lengthen life.  Let me share about two people I once knew.

As a hospice chaplain I received the case of a middle-aged woman with brain cancer. She knew she was dying, which only made her more thankful for each day of life.  She expressed a firm faith in Christ, and was assured of her eternity.  She was tenacious, and had already out-lived the expectations of doctors.

Yet the day came when she became unresponsive. Lying in her own bed, she continued to live unassisted by medical devices.  Her family waited.  During my visits I talked to her and prayed with her since it is possible that an unresponsive person can still understand.  One day I shared with her it is OK to let go, that by faith she knew she was not of this world.  Her future held more promise than her present.  The next day she was gone.  Coincidence or choice?

Haiti was a cash economy when I lived there.  I was responsible for certain purchases in Port au Prince for my organization, which required traveling with sums of money that would stagger the typical $5 per day worker.  The drive from the Artibonite Valley was about 4 hours, which required a very early departure and a grueling day of travel.

The day of one such trip, I tossed my backpack with the cash into the jeep. In those pre-dawn hours not a soul stirred in our village.  I stopped to pick up a colleague, and stepped to his door, a mere 20 feet away.  I heard a sound and looked back at the vehicle, seeing nothing in the darkness.  I soon discovered that the backpack was gone.

The village knew who did it. In a few days, before the wheels of justice could turn, the young man’s family rushed him to the hospital.  He died.  The Harvard-trained medical director told me that he could identify no physical cause of death.  He speculated that the young man was so shocked and afraid by the magnitude of his theft that he willed himself to die.

The Christian faith offers a reason to live, and paradoxically requires choosing to die. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:35).  Paul understood it this way:  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  Let your will to live be enriched with the joy, hope, and peace of sharing in the life of Christ.