The Life and Death Brigade

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Gentle Reader,

Many thanks to the secretive Ivy League club and “Gilmore Girls” for the title.

I’m going to get heat for writing this. I know it as I type.

Brittany Maynard was wrong to end her life.

Cue explosions and much hand-wringing.

I am NOT saying that Maynard is in Hell. I have absolutely no idea about that. I am NOT saying that she was an evil person. I never met her. It hardcore sucks that she was dealt such a blow so early in life. What her family has had to deal with since the diagnosis is terrible. I am acutely aware that there are real people who are hurting and grieving. I don’t at all wish to throw mud at anyone.

What I want to talk about here today has nothing to do with this specific person or this specific family, but rather the more nebulous realm of the topic itself. I’m talking about suicide. Dress it up with the phrase “death with dignity” if you want, but the result is the same. Death.

It’s wrong.

I can say that. I can say that because I took steps along that path. I decided that I no longer wanted to live. My pain was too great. I thought that it would be better for those around me if I were gone.

I can also say that because an hour ago I was told that I have a tumor in my liver. Benign, praise God, but a tumor nonetheless. I’ll have to have major surgery. I don’t know what that is going to be like. I don’t know how difficult or long recovery will be. This will impact the rest of my life.

I hear the objections, things about apples and oranges and how dare I judge. But here’s the thing, and I believe it’s a thing that all Christians must address in the debate over “death with dignity”: Who is in control? Who is in charge? It leaves me staggering that the answer of many who claim Christ as Lord is so ill-defined.

It is my firm conviction that a follower of Christ must trust Him in all things. Of course, that’s a process. We’ve all always got room to grow. It is also my firm conviction that a follower of Christ does not, in any way, have the right to end the life of another human being. I stand resolutely in the pacifist camp, opposing all forms of violent action from abortion to war.

Nor do we have the right to end our own lives. I oppose suicide. I don’t care if it’s physician-assisted (which opens up a whole can of worms when one considers the Hippocratic Oath) or not. I believe that God has a good, unique plan for every single person – and that He alone is the determiner of life’s span. I believe that He is ready and willing to give us grace and strength for every situation, for every pain, for every sorrow, for every valley. Far sturdier than any umbrella, He will provide shelter in every storm.

This should be the witness of every Christian. Trust me, I know what a difficult witness it is. I know how easily and how quickly tortuous doubt descends. I know how overwhelming sudden loss, unexpected diagnosis and change of finances can be. Yet God has not failed me once. Not once. Things have not always turned out as I hoped or expected, sure. But He has always been there, always truthful, always faithful, always more and better than I could hope for or imagine.

I don’t know what you’re dealing with today. I don’t know how you’re being tried or tempted. Please, dear one, turn to the Lord. Seek His wisdom, His peace, His comfort. That is the way of life.

My journey to faith. (15)

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8 thoughts on “The Life and Death Brigade

  1. You’ve taken on a highly emotionally charged topic, and since I do the same from time to time, I know what it’s like.

    Actually, I’m not commenting to discuss the right or the wrong of suicide and assisted suicide, but because you said this:

    I am NOT saying that Maynard is in Hell. I have absolutely no idea about that. I am NOT saying that she was an evil person.

    Thank you. A lot of us “religious people” have the reputation for judging others, particularly when we haven’t “walked a mile in the other person’s shoes,” so to speak. Many of us have earned our poor reputations, so it is good when one of us can leave the judging to God (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). I realize the verses I just cited are about not taking revenge rather than judging, but so many judgmental religious people tend to nurse the desire to revenge themselves on those others who they believe offended them and/or God.

    I also appreciate the courage it must take to admit you have also thought of suicide in the past and to share your own medical condition and the associated fears. It’s not easy to “bare your throat,” particularly to the entire (Internet connected) world.

    Earlier today, I was reading someone’s blog post about “Why bad things happen to good people,” and on Wednesday, I take a swing at that topic myself. Frankly, it scares the daylights out of me, because God never promised any of us that we wouldn’t suffer in this life and in fact, we have been promised that as disciples of Christ, we will suffer, both at the hands of people and in a supernatural sense.

    In principle, as Christians, we know our response to tragedy and difficulty isn’t to ask God “Why me?” but instead to say humbly “Thy will be done,” but how many of us have the courage of our convictions? Brittany Maynard was facing what she had to face and made the decision she felt she had to make, and I won’t debate such a profound circumstance in this venue. I will say that I believe we will be judged by the same standards we employ to judge others, so a harsh decree from us to any other human being risks us being judged harshly by God. I’m not talking about liberal permissiveness, but rather love and compassion. Even if we disagree with someone’s decisions, we can also see that, in Brittany’s case, she was motivated by fear, pain, and the desire to take some measure of control over her death rather than simply be taken.

    The Hebrew word “bitachon” means “trust” and is usually applied to the requirement that we deeply and completely trust God in all things, including our doubts, pain, and fear. We know that the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper in this world and if this world is our only measuring stick, then suicide in the face of a terminal illness makes all the sense in…the world. But we also know that if we are not rewarded in this life, we will be in the resurrection, when life is eternal. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews in Chapter 11 lists a great many men and women who endured hardship, suffering, and death but who never gave up their faith, even though they never saw the promised rewards while alive. Chapter 12 is the exhortation that we should run the race in the same way as those who have run before us and who have already crossed the finish line.

    Each day is a step in that race. Each day we face a new challenge. Each day we are tempted to give up, even as the readers of the Hebrews letter were tempted to renounce their faith. But even in fear and trembling, even blindly stumbling along the race track, falling and rising, again and again, even if we cross the finish line last, we must cross it. God does not promise to save us from any sort of suffering at all, but He promises that it’s worth it because He loves us and as long as we’re alive, we are serving Him, hopefully out of love, too.

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    1. Your whole comment is good and I wish I had the mental capacity to interact with all of it. But I haven’t had coffee today. So I’ll have to settle on this:

      “…motivated by fear, pain, and the desire to take some measure of control…”

      Maynard was absolutely motivated by these things. I don’t doubt that at all and I do have a measure of understanding. And certainly compassion; it’s a huge thing to be told that you’re going to die in a painful, prolonged way.

      What moved me to write this post was a few things I saw from fellow Christians who seem to think that her choice was admirable. I don’t stand in judgment over Maynard (I keep using her last name; it’s the three years in journalism school coming out) but I can’t see how suicide in any form meshes with a Christian view of the world.

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  2. Marie, you are much stronger than you think. As with so many going through such hardships my prayers are with you and thank God for the testimony of your faith. Keep me posted on your schedule: and who knows what God may do in this process. The words God speaks often, “I am always with you ” are his way of telling us what we may see as the most difficult or impossible to go through are his miracles of his promise of getting us through it. He is with you.

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  3. I think you made a good point when you mentioned that we don’t have a “right” to take our own lives. In our culture and society people live with the idea that they are entitled to whatever they want, many Christians following along in this train of thought. What we do have is free will and God’s lets us make our own decisions. But that doesn’t mean that all of our decisions will be the right ones.
    I think the whole thing is quite sad. I can’t imagine what it was like for her or her mom and husband. I can’t imagine being faced with that kind of pain and being told that I only have months to live. But that’s the thing with committing to a relationship with God – we leave the days of our lives in His hands, trusting Him and believing that He will use them for His will and for our good. And a lot of people don’t have that in their lives or they claim to but really don’t believe it or put any weight to it.
    So sorry to hear about your liver tumor. Thankful it is benign. Lifting you up in this season.

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  4. I’m not sure if it was every established that this beautiful young woman was a believer when she decided to take the course of action that ended her life. Having said that, I agree with what Becky said about how God lets us make our own decisions because of free will that He has given us. Right or wrong, we make those decisions. Maybe, just maybe, if she had a relationship with the Lord, she would have chosen differently. In this world we see a lot of suffering and it’s not always pretty, to be sure. Perhaps that is the lens with which she viewed her situation and the potential for more heartache for her family. I just trust that the Lord knows already!

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    1. It’s hard to see anything but hardship in this world. That’s why it’s important that we ask God to grace us with His perspective, hard as that is at times.

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