Q: Is it acceptable to pray for someone who you love to die? My mother-in-law has completely deteriorated physically and mentally, and has been in hospice care for about 18 months. As far as I can tell, she's not in acute pain, but she can't communicate and seems so sick and uncomfortable.
She was a wonderful, loving person, and I don't think she would want her family's emotional and financial resources depleted any more than they already have been. When I pray for God to take her, I feel sort of guilty. Am I wrong?
A: I join you in praying for a good death for your dear mother-in-law. I understand how you might feel guilty for praying such a prayer, but I believe your guilt is unnecessary. Your prayer is one of compassion, not a prayer to save the family money.
You are praying for God to take your mother-in-law home to a place in heaven where souls behold the radiance of the Lord and are freed from all pain because they are freed from their bodies in the act of dying.
The main responsibility of all physicians and caregivers is to recognize the time when therapy ends. When therapy is no longer possible, palliation must continue.
I am surprised your mother-in-law has been in hospice care for such a long time. The average stay in hospice care is just a couple of months. However, the main issue you face is spiritual, not medical.
It is hard to let someone go whom you love dearly. But death is part of God's plan, and the time of death is totally in God's hands. I urge you to continue to be compassionate and hopeful when you visit your mother-in-law. At the end, when she's clearly near death, it would also be a loving act to tell her it's all right to go home to God.
Q: After God creates the world in Genesis, the Scripture reads, "And God said it was good." But you'll note that it never says it is "perfect." If we then skip over to Paul's writing in Romans (8:22): "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail (birth pains) together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves." And then in (8:19), "for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own, but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God."
It seems to me that adding these pieces of Scripture, from the Old and New Testaments, gives a strong reason for believing that God will save his imperfect creation, as well as the people in it, from death and destruction. What do you think of that analysis? Peace!
-- Rev. H.K., Kaukauna, Wis.
A: Nice work. I love your wonderful insight that God declares the newly created world to be good, but not perfect. You surmise that God will therefore return to bring perfection out of mere goodness some day. I join you in that hope and prayer for a messianic time where God's chosen messenger will come to us (my version) or return to us (your version). Either way, it will be (to mix a metaphor) a hell of a day!
There is, however, another textual possibility you may have overlooked. In the first words of Genesis, we read, "In the beginning of God creating this world. " (The traditional English translations which render it, "In the beginning God created" are incorrect.) The Hebrew text clearly means, "In the beginning of" What this means is that our world, our solar system, our galaxy, may be just one of the worlds God has created and destroyed on the way to the ultimate perfection of the universe. If this interpretation is true, God could still allow us to be destroyed but then continue the work of creating until the end time. Peace back to you, my friend.