基督徒对祝福与挑战的回应 | 当我们所爱之人患了绝症时

When Someone We Love Is Afflicted with a Terminal Illness




•     To grow in understanding the spiritual and emotional needs of those who are afflicted with lengthy, terminal illnesses.

•     To learn how to help those who are suffering from terminal illnesses.

  •   To learn how to comfort both those suffering with terminal illnesses and their family members with the Word of God.


Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-born psychiatrist who has worked extensively with the dying, has observed that the terminally ill go through a series of stages as they come to grips with impending death. The following chart shows the five stages along with Scripture references related to those stages.

瑞典籍精神病学家Elizabeth Kübler-Ross对死亡展开了广泛研究,她发现在面临即将到来的死亡之前,绝症会经历一系列的阶段。如下列出了这五个阶段及相关的圣经参考经文。



Denial and Isolation


      1 Kings 19:1-5

      Romans 8:18-21



      Job 2:7-10

      Romans 8:28

Bargaining with God


      1 Samuel 1:10,11

      Romans 8:31,32



      Psalm 88:13-18

      Romans 8:37-39



      2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Although these five stages describe with almost surprising accuracy the experiences of the majority of those struggling with terminal illnesses, not everyone goes through all the stages. Some may go from hearing the news that they are terminally ill to the acceptance stage. Others may repeat the cycle or portions of it as they hear more about their diseases. Since these grief stages are the common experience of the majority of those who are dying, we will use those stages as the framework for our lesson.


Life example


Denial and Isolation


Eunice, age 55, was often so exhausted she could hardly finish her daily chores. She had to stop to catch her breath while clearing the table; she had to hang on to furniture when she walked around the house. Thinking that she was just out of shape, she decided on a walking regimen. But after walking only one block, she became so dizzy and out of breath that she could hardly make it back home.


A trip to the doctor brought bad news. She was suffering from congestive heart failure, emphysema, and kidney failure. Besides needing powerful medication, the doctor explained that she would no longer be able to live alone. At the very least, she would need round-the-clock care in her home. She might even need to move to an assisted-living facility.


When Eunice called to break the news to her family, she showed no emotion. Though Eunice is not by nature a cold and distant person—others have called her their angel for the compassion she has shown for the sick—she spoke to her family in a very matter-of-fact way. There was no emotion in her voice. There were no tears. She asked for no help. She didn’t even ask for advice about how to make plans for her needed care.


Reflections of faith


1.   Eunice is in the first stage of death and dying—the denial and isolation stage. Why do you think people who react like Eunice refuse to accept a doctor’s diagnosis?
They are in a state of shock and don’t want to hear what the doctor says. Denial is a way of coping with painful news.


2.   This will be a challenging time for family members who want to help her. Why?
She will resist efforts to talk about her situation. That will frustrate attempts to make necessary plans for her care.

3.   When people are in a state of denial, they tend to isolate themselves. But they need family and friends around them. They need someone to listen to them. They need someone to talk to them. If Eunice was a member of your church and your friend, what would you say to her?
It is important to be honest. We don’t want to pretend everything is normal. We need to talk about how death came into the world and how we are subject to death. Then we can remind her that Jesus conquered death.

Light from the Word


Read 1 Kings 19:1-5.


1.   Elijah heard the news that his life was threatened by the queen. Eunice found out that she was dying from a terminal disease. Compare the ways they reacted to the news. 以利亚听说王后威胁要杀他的消息。尤尼斯发现她将死于绝症。将他们两人知道这事时的反应作比较。
They both were stunned. Elijah had expected victory for those who were faithful to God. Eunice had expected to continue living a full and meaningful life. For both, this represented a dramatic turnabout. Defeat loomed before them. Both of them were  afraid and wanted to be alone.

2.   Fear, denial, and the desire to be alone are often part of the first stage of grieving. Elijah’s fear was immediate. Jezebel had threatened his life. He fled to the desert and then lay down and asked God to take his life.

      How might fear show itself in the actions of people dying of terminal illnesses?
They might spend thousands of dollars trying questionable cures, no matter how suspect the claims for the product might be. Or they might threaten to commit or actually commit suicide. Some might try to drown their fears with alcohol or drugs.  Others might put on a pretense of bravery and live wild lives.

3.   Lack of trust in God often contributes to the fear we feel when we have received disturbing news. Explain how lack of trust contributed to the fear exhibited by both Elijah and Eunice.
Elijah trusted God in the great confrontation with the priests of Baal. His trust seemed to weaken when he saw the apparent success turn into apparent failure. He didn’t seem to trust that God could rescue him or that the Holy Spirit would keep some fellow Israelites faithful. His problem seemed to be that he was looking more at the faithlessness of man, rather than the faithfulness of God. Eunice seemed to lack trust that God would be with her and that he had her welfare in mind.

4.   Elijah didn’t seem to think he deserved what was happening. That is an expression of self-righteousness. Explain why a feeling of self-righteousness might be one reason for Eunice’s apparent denial of impending death.
When trouble comes, we often forget the many blessings God has given us. The sinful nature tries to tell us that, because of our faith or the good lives we have lived, God owes us better than this. We don’t want to accept the trouble that faces us. That could be the case with Eunice.


Fear, denial, and the desire to be alone are emotions that often overwhelm people shortly after hearing that they may not have long to live. Those are normal emotions, but they are not the best way to deal with troubling news.


Elijah prayed for death. Likewise, a person afflicted with a terminal illness may often pray for a quick death or may even be tempted to take his or her own life.


5.   Romans 8:18-21 tells us that all creation waits for the day when every heart will be revealed (judgment day). On that day, creation will be released from bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom enjoyed by the children of God. How might you use these words to help and comfort Eunice as she deals with the doctor’s diagnosis?
We could remind her that in the midst of death, there is life and hope and joy and peace because of Jesus. Though there is frustration, shock, and fear now, she is still a child of God. Through Baptism she was made God’s own. Through Baptism, Jesus’ sacrifice was made her own. Therefore, glorious freedom is hers.


6.   Read Romans 8:26,27. Sometimes the burden of our hearts is so great that we don’t know what to pray for or how to pray. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. What comfort could Eunice find in those words?
God loves her, and the Holy Spirit is praying for what is best for her. We can’t help but be thankful, especially when we think of the sins that separated us from God. Through Christ’s sacrifice, that wall of separation is broken down.

Life example




Eunice was very angry with her doctors because they weren’t helping her. (She switched doctors twice.) She did get some help through a home health-care organization, but that didn’t work out either. The caregivers kept quitting because Eunice was so bitter and angry and so hard to please.


Reflections of faith


Why would it be very difficult for you to help Eunice as she struggles through this stage of dying?


In her anger, she is ready to fire everyone, including her friends and God.


Light from the Word


Read Job 2:7-10.


1.   The story of Job focuses on his spiritual struggle, but his wife also lost her children and her wealth. How is Job’s wife similar to Eunice?
They were both angry with God.

2.   Job and his wife went through a serious spiritual struggle as their lives seemed to fall apart. As depressing as this struggle might seem, Eunice might be encouraged as she studies these words. In what way?
We live in a sinful world. Others have fallen into despair too when they experienced the destructive effects of sin. Yet God is faithful. If we remember all the good things he has done for us, we can persevere, even in pain and suffering.

3.   It is relatively easy to recognize the truth expressed in Romans 8:28 when our troubles are small. But when death is approaching, we may have trouble comprehending the good that God is working in our lives. What can we point to when a person is struggling with a terminal illness?
God has our eternal good in mind, though we can’t always see how he works for that good. We can’t claim to speak for God and to know exactly what he intends to accomplish through the illness, but we can point to some blessings that he may bring through our illness. For example, a terminal illness provides time during which a person can become prepared, through Word and sacrament, to be with God. A terminal illness encourages a person to search God’s Word, in which he reminds us of his special love for us and his promise not to forsake us. It points us to Jesus as proof of that love. When a person expresses anger, we can witness to the fact that God does not bring evil. He may permit evil, but always for our good.



1.   It often happens that family members and friends go through some of the same stages of grief as a person who is terminally ill. Why do you think that is the case?
It hurts to see a friend or family member grow weak, knowing that our loved one will soon leave us.


2.   What kinds of relationship problems might develop if Eunice and you (a friend or family member) are each at different stages in the grieving process?
At the very least, we won’t be very helpful as she progresses through the stages of grieving. For example, if we are in the denial stage and she is dealing with anger or depression, we will probably avoid talking about her illness. There is also a possibility we could delay her progress through the stages. If we are angry and she is depressed, our anger may reinforce her depression.


Life example


Bargaining with God


Eunice remains terribly frustrated. She tells you that she is praying and praying that God will make her healthy again. She has promised God that if he heals her, she will give the money she would have spent on her hospital care to the WELS Scholarship Fund. That will help future pastors and teachers get an education so that they can be sent out to preach God’s Word. “Still,” she tells you, “I am not getting healthy.”


Reflections of faith


1.   The bargaining stage isn’t healthy. The person’s entire thinking process is skewed. What false assumptions might lead people to think they can bargain with God?
Bargaining can so easily turn into an attempt to bribe God. God cannot be bribed. Also, underlying the belief that we can bargain with God is a work-righteous attitude that we can earn this blessing. It also displays an arrogant attitude that we know, better than God does, what is best for us.


2.   How would you respond to Eunice as she complains that her bargaining has gotten her nowhere?

We need to lead her to trust in God’s love and mercy, which is always unconditional. The best place to start is her sin and God’s forgiveness. She could offer nothing that would earn forgiveness; yet God has dealt with her in mercy by sending Jesus to die for her. In every aspect of her life, he still deals with her in his mercy, because she is a child of God by God’s grace through Christ.


Light from the Word


1 .  Read 1 Samuel 1:10,11. Hannah wanted a son. At first it may appear that she was bargaining with God, but notice that she was making a vow. She didn’t offer the vow as a strategy to incline God to answer her request—to try to change God’s will toward her. She was stating what she would do out of thanks for this marvelous gift. What might you point to in the story of Hannah that might encourage Eunice

Hannah poured out her heart to God in prayer. God showed his compassion and his power. (We want to be careful that we don’t imply that God will necessarily answer her prayer just the way she wants.) People tend to hear what they want to hear, so we don’t want to make statements about what God will do in answer to her prayer. We don’t know what God intends to do in the future, but we do have proof of his compassion and power. We can assure her that God will be merciful to her.

2.   Read Romans 8:31,32. What proves God’s love and compassion for Eunice?

The proof of his love for her is the fact that he sent Jesus to be her Savior.


3.   God will not automatically give Eunice everything she asks for, the way she wants it. However, what can Eunice know about God’s answer to her prayers?

God will answer her prayer according to his love. His answer will be what is best for her.


4.   In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, we read that Paul too prayed that God would take away some physical problem that troubled him. Review God’s answer to Paul’s prayer. What did it mean?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God wanted Paul to know that more important than physical healing was the love God had shown by calling him to faith and giving him the privilege of serving as his missionary. Besides, God used Paul’s physical weakness to underscore his own strength. The spread of the gospel and the growth of the church were not the results of Paul’s prowess but were due to the power of God working through the Word and sacraments. So God used Paul’s weakness to further his kingdom work.


5.   As you read about Paul’s struggle concerning his affliction, point to several truths that would be helpful to Eunice.

“No” is sometimes God’s answer to our prayers. And when his answer is no, we can be sure it is the best answer for us. He knows the future. Eunice can trust his goodness though she may not know how God is using her illness for the good of his kingdom.


Life example




Bargaining with God has failed and Eunice knows it, so she gives up. Deep in self-pity, she sees no hope for her future. Since she doesn’t sleep well, she is listless and lies around all day. She forgets things. She neglects her grooming.


Reflections of faith


1.   Depressed people often focus on the wrong things. What is the focus of Eunice’s attention? What should she be focusing on?

She is focusing on herself. The result is self-pity, because what she sees is not what she wants to see. She needs encouragement to focus on Christ and what Christ has done for her.


2.   Counselors urge family members to monitor a depressed person’s moods carefully. Why?

Counselors want family members to be especially sensitive to the possibility of suicide.


Light from the Word


1.   In many ways, the thoughts expressed in Psalm 88:13-18 reflect the thoughts of a depressed person. Using this psalm as a guide, describe some of the feelings Eunice might likely be feeling.
Rejection by God. Fear of death. Hopelessness. Helplessness. Despair. She likely feels that God is angry with her and that she is all alone in her pain. She will feel overwhelmed, and even though we are trying to help her, she will feel that there is no one to help her and that none of her friends understand what she is going through.


2.   How might you use this psalm as you counsel Eunice?
Reading the psalm may very well benefit us the most. It will help us understand her feelings of despair. But it can also be helpful for her by showing her that others have felt the same way she does. It is important that we listen, listen, listen. Then we can speak about objective justification. Jesus is the Savior of all the world. Therefore, Eunice has not been left out. Jesus is her Savior also.


3.   When Paul wrote the book of Romans, he and many other Christians were suffering because of their faith. Romans 8:37-39 is a passage that offers comfort, no matter what kind of suffering people may be enduring. List all the comforting thoughts in this passage that might apply to Eunice.
We are conquerors—even more than conquerors. God loves us in Christ, and nothing can separate us from Christ’s love. Not even all of Satan’s powers can separate us from Christ.


Life example




As time passes, Eunice begins to accept the fact that she is going to die. She trusts that her Savior loves her and that she will be in heaven. When she sees a tear in your eye as you visit with her, she encourages you, “Why are you crying? God is taking me to heaven to be with my Jesus. I am not sad. I am happy.”


Reflections of faith


Is your work of encouraging finished? Explain.

No. We thank the Lord with her, but we keep encouraging her. Satan will still try to drive her to despair. She will have relapses. We will need to keep encouraging, keep listening, and keep speaking God’s Word to her.


Light from the Word


1.   In 2 Corinthians 4:7-15, God reminds us that he uses frail, ordinary human vessels to convey his precious gospel. He follows with a description of the hope every Christian has. Summarize for Eunice the hope that is hers.

Paul illustrates the preserving power of God as it shows itself in the protection of his “jars of clay.” Because of Jesus’ love, we will not be defeated. We may be struck with troubles and persecution, but we are not crushed. In the eyes of others, our lives may give the appearance of weakness and death, but through the eyes of faith, we see victorious life in Christ. We have the wonderful assurance that we will rise from the dead to eternal life.

   保罗描述了上帝保护的大能,正如同它在保护上帝的“瓦器”上显现出来一般。因着耶稣的爱,我们将不会被打败,我们可能被困难和逼迫所打击,但确保不会被压碎。在其他人眼中,我们的生命可能看起来遍布虚弱与死亡,但在充满信心的眼里,我们看见在基督里得胜的生命,我们拥有宝贵的确据,那就是我们将从死里复活得永生 。

2.   What does this passage say about the purpose of human suffering?

Paul recognized that his suffering was a reflection of the suffering and death that Jesus endured. Eunice’s impending death doesn’t have the same cause, but in both cases the purpose is that the life of Jesus may be shown through their lives.


3.   How might Eunice’s suffering be of benefit to others?

Though she may or may not recognize this during her lifetime, others may benefit from her suffering as they see her faith in her loving Savior Jesus Christ.


Let’s think about the lesson


At each stage in the grieving process, Eunice has needed slightly different help. What does that tell you about


•     the need to listen to what Eunice is saying before trying to help?

Unless we listen to her carefully, she will know that we don’t really understand her struggle. We also might miss opportunities to offer her appropriate comfort from God’s Word.


•     the need to be persistent in offering to help Eunice?

Never-ending love is demanded of us. God will bless us. He will bless his Word as we speak it to her.


Perhaps you are already helping someone who is suffering from a terminal illness. If not, ask your pastor to offer your assistance to someone in your church who needs loving encouragement as he or she struggles with a terminal illness.