Paul Kalanithi, a brilliant neurosurgeon, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the age of thirty-six. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next day he was a patient fighting to live. The future that he and his wife had planned out evaporated just like that. On the challenge of facing mortality, he wrote, ”Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ’I can’t go on. I’ll go on’.“
We all have to deal with grief at some point in life. Paul Kalanithi and his wife say that they realized through this hard time that life isn’t about avoiding suffering at all cost, but about striving and living in the midst of suffering. Coping with the loss of a loved one or encountering one’s own mortality in the form of a terminal illness can be the most formidable challenges any of us ever face. But there may be many other things which make us feel like our life has ground to a halt and it is too hard to keep going.
Each of us has different ways of coping with such grief or heartbreak. Some of us try to run away from the problem, while some of us lean on those who love us. But sometimes, in spite of all these coping mechanisms, we still continue to feel inconsolable. These are the moments when it may be worthwhile to lend our ears to what the Bible says about the peace which God gives – a peace that transcends all understanding. This peace can enable us to stop denying and running away from the harsh realities of life, but overcome them and gain a fresh perspective. It can help us to begin seeing life as a gift from God, meant to be enjoyed each day by receiving His love, strength and peace, and imparting the same to those around us. This is the sort of perspective that will embolden us to say even in the toughest times, “It feels like I can’t go on, but I will go on.”