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Awareness of the Holy: Faith, God and Facing Our Fears

Awareness of the Holy: Faith, God and Facing Our Fears

There is something about the human condition that may lead us to wonder about the meaning of it all. That something appears to be the sudden realization that we are indeed finite and that our existence will end.

This existential fear is normal as well as universal. It can be found in all human societies that have ever existed and whose human histories have been recorded. Humans fear dying, and this fear can be crippling.

In my experience as a Hospice Chaplain, these feelings often go beyond the fear of facing our mortality. Patients coming to the end of their life may also experience a subtle fear that there might be a God that is present and exists.

Throughout human history and, in particular, throughout the church's history, we encounter souls who fear meeting God face to face. God is that holy Other who, as self-existing and sovereign, awaits us as we depart this world.

To those who believe, God is a comforting presence and death a simple step into Eternity. However, for those with doubts, the very idea of meeting a holy God can be a rather frightening thought.

As the body prepares itself for death, so too does the soul. As it does, it recounts its journey through life with all the regrets, fears, and shameful memories. People may experience an internal dialog that revisits the past and feel the guilt and the shame of having somehow neglected to have lived in conformity and formed an intimate relationship with God.

These are real fears, and the soul of the dying person knows them very well. Even if before, the person was inattentive and sometimes derisive of God, now, somehow, the very idea of standing in the presence of God becomes a genuine cause of existential despair.

In this slow journey of return, I, as a Hospice chaplain, join the soul of the dying person to encourage them to reach out to God in faith. They can find peace in him, who stated, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." The soul wants rest and peace. The soul can find it in reaching out to a God whose very presence is that of peace and reconciliation.

What a difference I have seen when a soul does reach out to God in faith. They leave the world of human existence not with fear of the unknown and a sense of anxiety at having no control. But with peace and a sense of holiness and reconciliation with God that allows them to accept the end of this journey and embrace the blessing of eternal life. This embrace of forgiveness in reaching out to God in trust, as the soul prepares to encounter God, is in and of itself a final chapter worth all the suffering of this temporary affliction in the words of the Apostle Paul.

There is no doubt in my soul that patients who dare trust God in their final breath with themselves can see a holy God in all his glory. And that would be a dignified ending to a life.

About the Author

Gerlin Valencia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Bluefield College, as well as a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling with specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy; a Master of Theology in the Psychology of Religion and New Testament Language and Literature, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology of Religion and Pastoral Care and Counseling from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

About Hospice Care

Allied Services Integrated Health System offers both hospice care services to people throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Care is provided in homes, medical facilities, and in our Hospice Centers in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. For patients who have life-limiting illnesses or health conditions, Allied Services Hospice is committed to delivering the highest standard of care with compassionate attention to the patient’s comfort. We offer expert medical and emotional support, with respect for the wishes of the patient and family.