First, this is not a statement of the legal issues surrounding assisted suicide. Brittany made her decision about the legality of assisted suicide by becoming an advocate for Oregon’s ‘Death with Dignity’ Law. She did not simply take advantage of the law, but chose to advocate for it. I do not agree at all with assisted suicide in any form, but I admire her for giving action to her beliefs. But I am not concerned with the legality of it. I do not trust the government to regulate morality. There are many things that are legal that are not moral and there are things that are moral that we are beginning to see outlawed. This is how the god of this age is moving our nation.
Before I give any comment on this issue, I would like to express my deep sympathy to the family of Brittany Maynard. I have spoken with someone who had a family member recently pass from a very similar form of brain cancer if not the very same. My point today is simply to comment on the social movement we are seeing in our nation that I believe is revealed vividly in the idea of legalizing assisted suicide. It is not simply that people are respecting Brittany’s decision to handle death on her own terms, but there is a push to make this something not only legal but socially accepted.
I do understand the point of view that says if someone is going to pass in a way that has already has precedent of a horribly painful death, why not let them choose how and when to end their life rather than letting the disease win. There is an assumption that if we can escape the pain and suffering caused by a disease, we have won. But I would say, at least for people of faith, the battle is not with pain and suffering. Our battle is to maintain our faith and service to the Lord in the pain. We have been promised by the Lord Jesus Christ that there will be suffering in this world, but our battle is not to avoid the suffering, but to fight to hold on to our faith in the midst of the suffering.
Assisted suicide forfeits the unique opportunities only afforded in suffering. Suffering pushes our faith. It reveals to us how great our faith is. Can we continue to love the Lord when He does not answer our prayers? Can we continue to love the Lord when we are in great suffering? Can others hold on to their faith when God allows such horrible things to happen to someone we love? The suffering that manifests on death beds, because it is so difficult, has the potential of revealing a greater glory in God.
What does it say to people when I choose to face the suffering in faith that the Lord will be with me? I am not saying that I want anyone to suffer or that I celebrate suffering. I am not saying that at all. It broke my heart to even hear the story of Brittany Maynard. What I am saying is that horrible suffering provides a backdrop for faith that cannot be found, seen, or experienced anywhere but the death bed. A great proclamation of the greatness of God when extreme suffering and pain is not enough for someone to let go of God. It proclaims that God is so great that even as I suffer, I refuse to let go. His presence is a greater prize than relief from the pain. His love is enough to sustain me in horrible suffering. Those around the death bed have the opportunity to hear this truth proclaimed from the spirit of a suffering believer. I believe the Lord would want to use this Gospel to bring people to Him that they may be saved.
For those praying for their loved ones, but the prayers are not answered and they still pass away. It is an opportunity to increase faith. It is easy to pray for a miracle when the diagnosis is just heard. But 10 days, 30 days, 6 months, or a year later, to still be praying for that same miracle requires increased faith. It takes more faith to keep asking when the Lord seems to have already said ‘no’ for so long. And though our loved one may still pass, after an experience like this, is there anything in this world that could keep us from praying. If we maintained our faith through even that, what is left in this world that would have the power to break down my faith? And faith pleases God. We may not receive that miracle, but the increased faith as the result of unanswered prayer will release power from God in other miracles.
We also know that God honors faith and what miracles may be forfeited because of a lack of faith to endure suffering trusting the Lord to help us maintain our faith. When we look at Stephen in Scripture, do we not see the Lord, at the very moment of death, giving him a vision of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ and putting him to sleep to keep him from the suffering? This was a response to Stephen’s great faith. What prayers of those who hold on to their faith even as they look death in the eye are upheld because of the increased faith? To honor the Lord even as our body is wasting away is a powerful thing and the Lord promises to honor those who honor Him. Suffering in the face of death does focus our priorities where they need to be as believers and with this comes a greater faith and greater power in our prayers. Is it possible that the faith needed to grant our greatest desires in the lives of others can only manifest by the deep faith required to still believe when it appears that the Lord has not answered our prayers for healing within our own body. I hope that I will one day have the strength and faith to hold on to the Lord even as I suffer horrifically in my own body that my prayers and desires for my wife, my children, my grandchildren should I live long enough for them, would be answered. If great suffering is needed to increase my faith enough for that to happen, Lord help me to hold on even as I waste away.
I want to end this blog with a strong statement against judging Brittany Maynard. I know nothing about her and this blog is not a judgment of her decision. It is a question of whether or not this is the decision that, as followers of Jesus Christ, should make. I dare not judge Brittany’s spiritual life nor her eternal destination. I do not condemn Brittany either. That is none of my business. Instead, I will pray for comfort for the family. And whether or not, the Death with Dignity law is passed or not in other states is not my concern right now. But as followers of Christ, how should we approach impending pain and suffering. As followers of Christ, judge if there is not a greater value in suffering than relief. Judge whether or not our victory is found in the relief of suffering or if it is found in grasping tightly our faith in Christ even as our body wastes away and our prayers for healing seem to go unanswered. I believe, a greater victory is found in increasing faith amid horrible circumstances.