The God That Failed Us: When Medicine Doesn't Prevent Death

Death despite medicine. That it is common, perhaps nearly universal, does little to numb the pain of it every time it happens. After a round, or two or five or twenty-five rounds, of professional medical attention, advanced medicines, treatments, operations, surgeries, and the like, our loved one dies. "Dies anyway," we might be inclined to elaborate, including in our addition of the word "anyway" the fact that we expected more from medicine than death. Particularly if the patient is a young person, grief over such a death can easily turn into claims, often unexpressed but still quietly believed, that God has failed us.

The thing is, it is true. Our god has failed us. But only if that god is medicine, not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of the resurrection. This God is indeed the Healer, but this does not mean he must or shall heal now or that he should use our medicines to do so. It means he is the Healer who heals more deeply than any illness and more fully than any chronic condition we may experience here. His identity as Healer is bound up with his identity as the God of the living, the God of the resurrection, for in the final resurrection of the body will come the final and full healing of our whole persons and of his whole creation.

When we listen to the Tempter's suggestion that God has failed us because medicine has not prevented death in the young or the old, the Tempter proves once again that he is subtle enough to entice with half and partial falsities, not whole ones. For he is, in fact, quite right: we protest and shriek and shake our fists in newborn cynicism because our god has failed us, but this is because our god was medicine, not the God of the resurrection.