I’m going to veer off the beaten path of our ministry just a little in order to respond to this story that is suddenly becoming viral on Facebook. It affects all of us, and even more specifically, it affects several cop families who are going through similar struggles as we speak. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, news outlets are reporting on a young wife, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who is dying of terminal brain cancer. She moved to Oregon so that she can end her life – and the terrible agony of physical suffering – using a doctor prescribed pill on November 1st. Click HERE to read one such article.
I see so many good people pondering this issue, and many of them are Christians. This is a very tragic and troubling story, and our hearts go out to her family. It also becomes very personal as we think of our own struggles and possibilities of the future. So I want to share a few thoughts that will hopefully help us gain a biblical and God-centered view of this issue.
1. This is a new take on the old discussion of EUTHANASIA.
Euthanasia, or mercy killing, has been a topic of debate for many years. Remember “Dr. Death” – Dr. Jack Kevorkian? He was sentenced to eight years in prison for practicing doctor-assisted suicide. Society has pondered this as a moral-ethical dilemma for many years, but the younger generation will now take it up in this new package that the media delivers.
2. What Brittany Maynard is committing is SUICIDE.
One article said that Brittany wants to live a healthy life. She conveys that not a cell of her being wants to die, so what she is doing is not suicide. She also doesn’t want to continue in suffering or place her husband and family through further agony, so she is methodically ending her life. That, my friends, is suicide no matter what you call it – euthanasia, mercy killing, doctor assisted, or any other.
For those who may be looking for me to answer the sin or not, right or wrong, question, you will be disappointed. I will say that this is a much different issue than what we recently faced with the death of actor Robin Williams. Suicide as relates to euthanasia is much different from suicide as relates to mental illness. With that, I believe that God is so merciful and gracious that we cannot comprehend His great love and compassion for us. While I do not believe it is God’s will for us to end our own lives, the discussion would take much more than I can write here.
3. This most certainly is a BIBLICAL issue.
Many commenters on social media assert that this is not a biblical issue. To that, I simply respond that every issue is a biblical issue. There is no separation of life or its issues from the Giver of Life. So, to say this is a matter of personal decision that doesn’t involve God or the Scriptures is naïve at best.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and because we have been bought with a price – namely the precious blood of Jesus Christ – we are not our own. We are God’s prized possession. He formed us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139), He numbers our days (Psalm 39:4, Job 14:5, and others), and He directs the path our life is to take (Proverbs 3:4-5).
4. Suffering, sickness, and disease are a part of the FALLENESS of humanity.
When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), death entered the world along with all of the means that lead to death (Romans 5:12). Suffering terminal brain cancer is certainly not part of God’s original design in Creation. Here it is that the issue of “Theodicy” comes in – that is, if God is good and holy then how and why does evil exist and why do bad things happen?
The Bible tells us the rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45) and that we will face troubles in this world (John 16:33). Life happens to all of us, and now the ugliness of sin and death have reared their heads. To be clear, as in the stories of the blind man in John 9 and Job, I am not saying that Brittany Maynard sinned, deserved this suffering, or is being punished in some way. She is experiencing life – and death – in a Fallen world.
5. All of fallen humanity has now been REDEEMED by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The latter part of John 16:33 tells us that although in this world we face troubles, Jesus has overcome the world. Through His death, he redeemed us – bought us back to God. Both in this life and in the eternal life to come, all those who believe His sacrifice, ask for His forgiveness from sins, and confess Him as Lord and Savior will receive life. The Kingdom of God comes to life in us, opening the possibility for healing here and now. Even if and when we die a physical death, we enter into eternal life where there is no more suffering, sickness, sadness, or crying (Isaiah 25:8, Revelation 21:4). That reality becomes our HOPE.
6. Suffering serves a very real PURPOSE in the life of believers.
One Facebook commenter said, “God does not expect us to experience the pain that Jesus experienced.” Never has the influence of Western Christianity and prosperity preaching been more prevalent and damaging. The Bible is very clear that Jesus suffered, and that we will not be exempt from suffering and persecution (a completely different matter and discussion). Because of the scriptures in Isaiah 53 and elsewhere, Jesus is called the “Suffering Servant.” Because He suffered, He can now IDENTIFY with us in our suffering (Hebrews 4:15). There is something very real and powerful about ministry from our weaknesses – identifying with and ministering to others out of our own deep pain, suffering, and experience. While none of us should seek or glamorize suffering as some in history have, we also should not avoid it when God allows it.
Jesus did not take a way of escape, but endured the will of the Father. Likewise, we should endure whatever the portion of our lives, trusting in God’s plan and purpose.
Paul was given grace to deal with the thorn that plagued him, and considered it an honor for God to entrust him with suffering and persecution. James chapter 1 tells us to consider it joy when we face various trials. Why? Our faith in God is developed and produces patience. Paul, in Romans 5:3-4 goes on to say that troubles produce patience, experience, and hope. I love the Andrae Crouch song “Through it All,” which says:
I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow,
there’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
7. Our test leads to our testimony, which brings GLORY to God’s name.
The manner in which we endure our tests, trials, and troubles stands as a witness to the world that God is real. He is a comfort in times of trouble. He gives grace to the weak. He exalts the humble. The world is watching how we live our lives, and the hope is that we will be faithful so that He can be exalted. Then, others will be drawn to Him for salvation. Every day until her death, even when she is suffering and no longer able to speak, is a testimony of God’s grace and a reason for hope in salvation and eternal life.
8. Jesus is still a HEALER.
Because Jesus suffered, and because through the Holy Spirit the Kingdom of God is alive in us, the healing of the Kingdom can also break into the here and now. Every sickness is an opportunity for Jesus to perform a miraculous sign, which thereby proves that He is the Christ and the Son of the Living God. Throughout His ministry on Earth, Jesus healed many. John’s Gospel records seven specific miraculous signs, and then tells us the purpose for recording them in John 20:30-31. They are written so that we will believe Jesus, and by believing, we will have eternal life.
When Jesus departed the Earth, He sent the Holy Spirit – another Comforter like He was through His physical presence on Earth. The Holy Spirit worked through the Apostles, the Early Church, and throughout all of history. He is still working today. I am a witness of Jesus’ miraculous healing power, and my wife was literally raised from the dead. Every moment, even until Brittany Maynard’s last breath and beyond, is an opportunity for Jesus to heal her and bring glory to His name.
I know barren women who gave birth. I know many people who were miraculously healed of cancer. I have seen the dead raised. I have seen and experienced fevers and infections relieved. Jesus is still alive, He still heals, and we should continue to pray for Brittany’s healing.
9. We must demonstrate complete TRUST in the will of God.
Hosea 14:9 NLT says, “Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them.” I also like the KJV, and quote it often. “The ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them.”
As I heard an old minister say once at a funeral home, God is too wise to make a mistake and too just to do any wrong. Even when we don’t like what we are facing, even when it seems unfair, even when we don’t understand, we must learn to trust God…that “we’ll understand it better by and by.”
10. As a community, we will MOURN with the Maynards and share in their burden.
The Bible tells us to weep with those weeping (Romans 12:15), to love one another (John 15:12), and to help carry the burdens of others (Galatians 6:2). We don’t stand in judgment of Brittany, but grieve at the struggle she is facing. We join in solidarity to pray for her, and pray that she has come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. As easy as it is to say “If I were you…,” I believe we must encourage her to seek life and trust the plan of God as difficult as that may be. God could take her before November 1st. He could heal her and she could live for 70 more years. Either way, it should be God’s plan for her life and not anyone else’s.
There are other issues that come into play, such as God’s sovereignty. Another good article to consult is “What does the Bible say about euthanasia / assisted-suicide?” from the GotQuestions.org website.