Yandex Metrika
How to Overcome Anxiety about Sickness and Death

I Have Suffered with Anxiety about Sickness and Death my Whole Life

Anxiety about Sickness and Death

Question: I have suffered with anxiety about sickness and death my whole life. I tried other spiritual paths in the hope of releasing myself from this pain. Sadly I wasn’t successful. Given how short and painful life can be I often despair and wonder what the meaning of it is. Particularly when we may suffer dementia or other horrible diseases of mind and body. I have suffered many health issues and always fear further decline. I have been attending an Orthodox Church for about a year as a catechumen. Father I would love to hear any words you can share concerning these fears, what can I do? Is it realistic to think I will ever find peace? How is this to be done? 

Answer: It is time for you to transition from catechumen to faithful believer. Soon, you'll hear the call "Let the catechumens depart," and attend the Divine Liturgy with those fully initiated. You need to receive Holy Baptism and begin your active participation in church life.

Now, there's an important distinction to understand: the outward appearance and the inner reality. Some people suffer from physical or mental illness, including memory loss in dementia or other age-related conditions, and they may say things unintentionally. But we must remember to look beyond the external.

Consider this example: at Easter, we offer communion to bedridden children in the orphanage. Some may be physically small, while others are chronologically older. They might be confined to bed, perhaps even relying on feeding tubes. Yet, these are human beings with inner lives. We can't judge their souls based solely on their outward circumstances.

But I'll tell you, as I give Communion to them, I feel like I am in paradise. But you can administer communion to someone who appears radiant, handsome, and beautiful – yet their inner world might be a hollow void, shrouded in darkness. God's presence can touch a person in unexpected ways. Take someone stricken with cancer, or someone in a horrific accident, confined to bed with a broken spine – like a young man I met while serving in the military.

He told me, "I don't care about being like my peers anymore, those things don't interest me." His words struck a chord within me. It felt like a victory over death itself. From an outsider's perspective, he might seem tragically unfortunate. Yet, here he was, expressing such profound thoughts – "They come to me, but their concerns are so trivial: girls, parties..." He seemed to have grasped a deeper meaning of life.

When a person touches this deeper reality, the superficial aspects of life – like what clothes to wear or which party to attend – lose their appeal. This young man, for instance, told me, "I even earned money on the computer and bought a present for my mom for International Women's Day." That, to me, was a true triumph.

This is a stark contrast to someone who wallows in self-pity: "I can't do anything anymore, I'm so unhappy. Everyone should feel sorry for me, give me something." It makes me reflect on those residents at the orphanage. The first time I visited, I was shocked to see people contorted by illness, yet their faces beamed with smiles, their eyes radiating warmth. It filled me with shame, realizing how often I complain about minor inconveniences, and how quickly I get discouraged.

March 22, 2024
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