“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent.” – Steve Jobs
I received the news this morning.
We had our chat tonight.
Sometimes I think we argue on different planes… We don’t believe in the same things. How do we even begin?
But this is important, so let us try…
(I am not sure what to say, or that I trust myself to speak. In the meantime, these are some articles that seem to say what is in my heart. I hope they speak to you… And that you will at least allow the words to run through your mind before deciding your stance.)
The fact that suffering almost inevitably increases with the approach of death is often a terrifying prospect. Even those who are fearless of death tremble at the process of dying. I have seen terrible suffering in the hour of death…
But this tragic fact… did not change the truth: Giving and taking life belongs to God, not to us. And the suffering of our final days is not meaningless.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
In one of her videos, Brittany [Maynard] wisely says, “Make sure you’re not missing out. Seize the day. What do you care about? What matters? Pursue that. Forget the rest.”
I could not agree more. What matters is that we have been bought with a price. We are not our own. We live and we die and we suffer for the glory of Christ, our Lord. And we never forget the truth that makes everything worth it: “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Death is a natural occurrence. Sometimes God allows a person to suffer for a long time before death occurs; other times, a person’s suffering is cut short. No one enjoys suffering, but that does not make it right to determine that a person should die. Often, God’s purposes are made known through suffering. “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
Romans 5:3 teaches that tribulations bring about perseverance. God cares about those who cry out for death and wish to end their suffering. God gives purpose in life even to the end. Only God knows what is best, and His timing, even in the matter of one’s death, is perfect.
We should never seek to prematurely end a life, but neither must we go to extraordinary means to preserve a life. To actively hasten death is wrong; to passively withhold treatment can also be wrong; but to allow death to occur naturally in a terminally ill person is not necessarily wrong. Anyone facing this issue should pray to God for wisdom (James 1:5).
And we should all remember the words of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who warned that the practice of medicine “cannot be both our healer and our killer” (from KOOP, The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor by C. Everett Koop, M.D.).
At what point do we no longer believe God has a plan for each moment of each person’s life? At what point do we sanction ending it all to avoid suffering?
If we are swept along with cultural tides, we will be swayed into believing that assisted suicide is compassionate. Maynard was roundly praised by the media, chosen as one of CNN’s “11 Extraordinary People of 2014” and crowned a “hero” by People magazine. All this for choosing to commit suicide rather than face brain cancer, which she rightly called “. . . a terrible, terrible way to die.”
That is the wrong message to send the millions fighting with great dignity against terminal diseases. It’s like telling the depressed stranger on the ledge to go ahead and jump.
Rather, we should share Hill’s resolve to never give up, to always trust, hope, and persevere, as this is the way of love (1 Cor. 13:7).
On behalf of people who are facing terminal illness, severe depression, or any acute suffering: Act with true compassion. Get involved in their lives. Be present in their suffering. Pray for their healing. Let the reality of death change your life.
And rest assured that defending life is not merciless or judgmental—and that to endorse assisted suicide is simply to give up hope.