Several weeks ago we dragged out our DVD copy of The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and watched it with our son. It is well-known for its Christian themes, particularly with Aslan the lion, who sacrifices his life to meet the justice demands of the White Witch, and to save mankind. Later his life is restored. One of the most memorable lines from the movie happens when the White Witch is about to slay Aslan. She raises her dagger and says, "Despair...and DIE!"
Now, since everyone who lives will eventually die, we know that death is not automatically preceded by despair. Even very happy and positive people get tapped by the reaper at some point. Death is part of the overall plan. However, there are different biological responses to hopefulness and despair, which may play a role in the management of serious illness.
Studies have shown that humor, hopefulness, creativity, and other positive and constructive approaches tend to correlate with better immune system functioning, better self-care behaviors, and optimized outcomes. By contrast, despair tends to correlate with depressed immune system functioning, poor self-care behaviors, and poor outcomes.
Despair is more than just the sadness, stress, and grief of dealing with a serious medical condition. Those feelings come and go like the tides of the sea. But within a framework of faith (okay, and maybe with a little chocolate therapy -- we just had a chocolate-themed family party for my daughter's first birthday), those feelings can be managed in constructive ways. Despair, on the other hand, is a lack of faith. A lack of hope. A lack of anything to help stay afloat. Despair will sink a person. Despair...and die.
Have faith and hope...and live. Well, actually, die anyway...someday/eventually...like we all will. But live more and live better.