We’ve all seen the news recently about 30-year-old Brittany Maynard and her decision to end her life on Nov. 1st by a physician-prescribed drug, which is legal in Oregon. Her terminal cancer diagnosis and decision to end her life has drawn national attention, sparking much discussion and debate.
Is assisted suicide right or wrong? How are we to navigate through suffering, dignity, quality of life, and death? What does God think about this?
Let me first begin by saying I am not writing this blog to judge or give an opinion about Brittany’s decision to end her life. In fact, I was hesitant in writing this blog for fear of coming across as insensitive to her situation. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for this beautiful, young woman and her family to walk through this heart-wrenching process.
So please know my goal isn’t to talk about Brittany, but to get us thinking about assisted suicide in terms of God’s perspective. So let’s explore…
1. Recognize The Desire to Avoid Suffering is Normal
2 Corinthians 5:8 – … I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
No one wants to suffer! The above sentiment by the Apostle Paul highlights his desire to die rather than continue to suffer in his daily life. He goes on in his letter to the Corinthians to state that even though he wants to be done with it all, he will remain for the benefit of others until God decides to take him home (2 Corinthians 5:14-20).
I think it is important to note in any discussion about assisted suicide, that it is normal and natural to want to avoid suffering. It makes complete sense to me that someone would want to avoid the pain and suffering associated with terminal brain cancer and prefer a lethal injection. I get it and I think most of us do! But it is also important that our desires are brought in line with God’s desires, which can often help us to see things we wouldn’t normally see.
In Paul’s case, he recognized that his life was more than his and he needs to wait on God’s timing to die and to live for the benefit of others. This is an important truth for all of us to ponder. If your life is not yours alone and includes God as well as others, then your pain relief is no longer the end game or decision maker.
2. Remember Not All Suffering is Bad
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 – Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
In one instance, the Apostle Paul shared how he dealt with his suffering by pleading with God for deliverance. In his begging, he experienced something very surprising. He experienced the power of God! That’s right. God gave him strength he didn’t have and peace he couldn’t find. In other words, suffering turned out to be a good thing because God showed up, even though his physical ailment remained. Go figure!
Therefore, we must be careful not to label all suffering as bad. In fact, when you add the God factor, suffering can be a place where you will experience His power like never before. It can even become a place of growth, perspective, compassion, and gratitude. We must also be careful not to predict the path of suffering, even if a doctor’s report tells us otherwise because it doesn’t include how God may work.
Remember, God understands suffering and will show up in surprising ways (Ephesians 3:20-21). “I don’t know” is always a good motto to live by when it comes to the future. It relinquishes control to God and prevents us from making life or death decisions based on fear or our limited understanding.
No one wants to suffer and we can all relate to wanting to avoid it. But the important truth here is that God also understands suffering and is faithful to meet us in our darkest hour if we trust Him. Now that may look different for everyone, but we can rest assured that “His power is made perfect in our weakness.”
Note: This discussion is limited to physician “assisted” suicide. For further discussion about suicide in general see “Suicide – The Unforgiveable Sin?”
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