Brittany Maynard, My Dad, and Suffering.
Brittany Maynard took her own life, assisted by doctors. While her decision is sad, it is actually quite easy to understand. If you have ever seen the pain one must suffer as cancer destroys their body, you will understand why she chose not to endure that kind of suffering.
I watched my dad die.
The suffering my father went through, especially in his final hours, was heart wrenching. But he would never have chosen to die. When the doctors offered him medication to ease the pain and help him sleep in his final hours, he asked, “That is not for euthanasia is it?”
After 2 years of suffering, he knew it would be over soon.
He knew he would die in mere hours, but he wanted to die on God’s terms.
Not on his own terms.
His eye was on Jesus, not on himself.
Robert M’Cheyne spoke of the contrast between the unbeliever and the believers in the midst of suffering in his book, the Believer’s Joy,
“When a man’s eye is closed on Christ and the eternal world, he cannot stand the shock of afflictions; but if his eyes clearly see Jesus, you may take away houses and lands, his dearest earthly possessions, his loved ones, still his chief treasure is untouched.”
You see, even though my dad could not bear that pain he was enduring, he knew that his suffering was not for nothing. His suffering was for Jesus. He knew it was not meaningless. He knew that his saviour suffered more than he was at that moment. One of my favorite texts is 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
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.
Do you see?
Our suffering is not meaningless, but has purpose!
God does not delight in our suffering, but weeps with us as he did in John 11. But he doesn’t only cry for us, He also gives us hope and assurance that our sufferings are not meaningless! Just as Jesus cried with Mary before he raised Lazarus, the Lord cries with us, knowing that he will redeem our suffering. Our suffering is not meaningless. It is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that we cannot comprehend.
But we live in a world that says any type of suffering is meaningless; that was the ideology to which Brittany Maynard clung. It is the reason she chose to end her life. It is an ideology of hedonism which seeks to reduce pain and suffering and acquire pleasure, at any cost. Just look around us. To dull physical and emotional pain, people turn to sex, alcohol, drugs, gluttony, and other sinful behaviors. If we don’t want the trouble of raising a child we can kill it through abortion. If we have a terminal illness, and if we do not want to face the impending suffering, we can just end it “on our own terms.” Soon, when our parents become a burden we’ll be able to end that as well. As if human suffering is meaningless and human life has little more value than cattle.
But your suffering is not meaningless and your life does have value.
The Heidelberg Catechism states,
“I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood…”
This is from 1 Corinthians where Paul tells us,
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Do you want to know what the value of your body is? What is the value of the precious blood of Christ? That was the payment for us. And since Christ owns us in body and soul, who are we to decide to end it?
But I get why Brittany Maynard did it. Humanly speaking, anyway. In a life of suffering, without the hope of salvation through the blood of Christ, it is easy to see why she chose to do it. But as believers, the Lord never tells us that we will not suffer. This is so important to remember as we make our journey through this life in a culture that seeks instant gratification and believes it is a divine right to avoid suffering and have a comfortable life. Knowing that suffering will certainly come, be it from cancer, persecution, joblessness, the death of a loved one, or something else altogether, encourages us to look for God’s purpose in our suffering. In God’s purpose and design, nothing that a Christian endures is wasted. Opposed to the ideology of the world, and of Brittany Maynard, no suffering my dad endured in his last moments of life was meaningless.
Soli Deo Gloria.