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Christian Philosophy Lite: Will to live a powerful force

Sept. 9, 2011 at 4:09 a.m.

Raymond Smith

By Raymond Smith

We all have a psychological force within us to fight for survival. Some of it may be a fear of the unknown after death, a need to complete a work we have started, a wish not to leave our families, a need to fulfill some purpose we have felt or a combination of things. The fact is, God fitted us with a strong will to live.

Eddie Rickenbacker, president of Eastern Airlines went through a plane crash in 1938. He related later that while near death, he could have simply relaxed and died, but he had much yet to do and fought death valiantly. As he lay in the hospital room with a radio at his bedside, Walter Winchell came on the air announcing that Eddie Rickenbacker was dying. Summoning all his strength, Eddie tossed the radio across the room.

Physicians sometimes comment on how the attitude of a patient can contribute greatly to the outcome. The greatest, single factor for living is hope. Without hope, there is little in life to live for. Proverbs 13:12 says, hope deferred maketh the heart sick. The cruelest malady that can befall man is depression. While most cases of depression are treatable, the depressed person may not see a way out.

Stories abound of people who survived grueling circumstances, including many who survived as prisoners of war. Viktor Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist, spent the war in a German concentration camp. In his book, "Man's Search for Meaning," he stated, "the prisoner who had lost faith in the future was doomed; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay." It would not be long before that prisoner would become uncaring and unresponsive. Death was not far off.

I cannot remember the details, but I read a story recently of a woman in a nursing home who was alert and sociable. She was looking forward to going to live with her daughter. When the news came that her daughter would not take her home, she rapidly declined and in a couple of days was dead.

These feelings are also shared by animals, and even growing things. There is a locust tree on the lot next door that is dying from the drought. While the tree looks pitiful, a shoot is growing up from the root, lush and green. It appears to me that the tree knows it is doomed, but will start over on a scale it can handle with this small healthy shoot.

In Brownsville, I had a poinciana tree that was blooming its heart out. My brother, a plant pathologist, told me the tree would probably die. A couple of weeks later the tree died. In blooming so heavily, it intended to make sure that enough seed was available to carry on the species. Talk about Intelligent Design.

For the Christian, death holds no fears. I have met several who had finished their course and wanted to die. Life had nothing left for them and they were confident of what lay ahead.

Raymond F. Smith is a deacon at Fellowship Bible Church in Victoria and president of Strong Families of Victoria.

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