I haven’t wanted to say anything about this story. As a general rule, I don’t talk about issues such as these because I find that they do more to divide people than they unite us. And considering the plethora of opportunities that exist for such divisions, I haven’t said anything about a lot of them. But, when I saw the headline of this article scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, I knew I had something I needed to say. Then when I watched Brittany Maynard’s latest video, I felt it was a necessity to speak up.
Let me preface all of my comments with this, I can’t imagine the horrible pain and suffering Brittany is going through. I would never pretend to understand how she feels. And even though my position as a pastor has afforded me the opportunity to walk with some through difficult circumstances, I have never walked through what she is walking through on a personal level. When she speaks of the suffering she experiences, the seizures, the headaches, the lack of recognition and I’m sure a plethora of other pains and turmoil she has had to endure, I can’t even begin to imagine how strong the desire for it all to end must be. And God help me and my family if we ever have to endure something this painful and tragic.
I also want to make it clear, I am not trying to stir up any controversy. I’m not trying to take advantage of a popular topic to gain popularity. I am trying to speak, what I see in the Bible as well as in the natural order of things, to be truth.
But, this morning I saw the headline: “Ore. woman postpones planned suicide, still feels well” something went off in my head. And it is to that I must speak up.
In Brittany’s most recent video, she says: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lHXH0Zb2QI)
“If all my dreams came true, I would somehow survive this.” – Brittany Maynard.
In the article on KGW.com, there is this quote: (http://www.kgw.com/story/news/local/2014/10/30/brittany-maynard-postpones-oregon-assisted-suicide/18167099/)
“I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now,” she said in a video on her website The Brittany Maynard fund.” “But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It’s happening each week.”
What I fear about not speaking up is yet another area of life in the Northwest and our entire western culture, that becomes clouded by the exercising of broken people making broken rules to fix a broken world. There are so many issues that we need to address, but they have become taboo for Christians and especially pastors to talk about.
Where does it end? I know there are laws to deal with this issue, but once we take steps in this direction, it could easily become a much bigger issue than being terminally ill with a disease such as cancer. There are those who struggle with mental illness who would describe their lives with as much pain and sorry, if not more than what Brittany has endured. How can we say that Brittany’s physical pain is any more justifiable than the emotional and mental pain some people endure? There are hundreds of other qualifications that can be added to this issue that cloud the water to an inextricable level.
But, it’s not even just that. I believe that Brittany’s life is a gift. I believe that having been given the opportunity to exist, she has received a great gift from our creator. I don’t know Brittany, to know how she feels about the gift she’s been given or to know where she is on her spiritual journey. I would like to know. And, honestly, part of my hope in writing this is to get that opportunity. I am a Pastor at SixEight Church in Vancouver, WA. I would love the opportunity to discuss this with her. I maybe help her understand the gift she has. I doubt I will get that opportunity, and if I do, it seems that the ball is already rolling pretty fast down hill, but you never know.
And that’s exactly the point. You never know what’s going to happen. It is not for us to know, only for God. And only God sits outside of our lives and situations. Only God has the vantage point with which to judge when a life should begin and when a life should end. That is how He designed it. That is how he created this world to function.
Even though you are having to endure the greatest pain you have ever known, God can use that pain and adversity to shape you and those around you. Just as Brittany may not be healed of this disease and her pain may never cease, whatever pain you are dealing with may last the rest of your life. But what if God has a plan to use that pain to sharpen you into a tool He can use to accomplish great things for His Kingdom?
When you go through suffering, when you endure pain, you gain credibility – especially if you handle it well. Some of the people I admire the most are those who have suffered greatly but still honor God with their lives and thank Him for His blessings. I know someone right now who is suffering that way, and the way She is handling this adversity is speaking volumes to me and our community.
But, when you decide to end it all, you rob yourself and those around you of that opportunity. You may feel right now that there is nothing worth living for. But, can I, perhaps a total stranger, implore you to look a little harder. You may be all alone right now, but that doesn’t mean you will always be alone. And maybe God wants to use this suffering to lead you across someone else’s path. And maybe it’s that crossing of paths that will lead to your ability to endure for the long haul. And maybe you crossing their path is what gives them their reason to live.
There is so much about what’s going on in our lives that we don’t understand. There is so much we will never see from where we sit, because we are in the middle of the situation. But, just as an offensive coordinator has the ability to adjust the plays he calls because he’s sitting up in a booth where he can easily see the changes the defense is making – God sits much higher than us and has the ability to see how what we are doing right now is going to affect the lives os those around us.
Can you imagine what would happen if Brittany changed her mind? There are millions of people who know her story. But can you imagine what would happen if she decided to endure because her life is a gift? There would be millions of people who would see and want to know why. And that would give her an amazing chance to tell those people about God and why, even though it will be the hardest thing she and her family have to go through, to tell the world about how God has a purpose for every day of her life and she wants to honor Him with that.
Psalm 90:14-16 says:
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May your deeds be shown to your servants. Not only does this tell us that God’s ways are higher than our ways and that we never fully understand what God is doing, but it is teaching us to make the most of every day God has given us.
Where do I see that? In Psalm 90:12:
12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
And what about Psalm 139:16:
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Teach us to count the days. Teach us to make the most of every opportunity. There are so many opportunities ahead of you. No matter who you are or where you are, there are opportunities in front of you. All you have to do is start looking for them. All we have to do is to follow the example of Christ on the cross. Who endured the greatest pain and suffering so we could have the hope of eternal joy beyond our time of pain and suffering on this earth. Your life was worth so much that He gave up his own so you could walk in a redeemed and restored relationship with the creator of this universe.
To see those opportunities, we must learn to walk in humility. We do that by following in Christ’s example: (Phil 2:3-8)
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very natureGod,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
What if our purpose is not solely wrapped up in what we can get for ourselves out of this life, but instead is intricately tied to all the people around us. What if, instead of making our whole existence about ourselves, we valued those around us more than us? What if we had the same mindset as Jesus who made himself nothing, endured great pain and humiliation all for us?
Whatever turmoil you find yourself in, not matter how deeply you wish to end your life on this planet, can I encourage you to make the most of every day you’ve been given? Can I implore you to stick it out? That the life you live is a gift from the God of this universe, and to cut that life short is to cut short the purpose for which you’ve been created. You are worth so much. You have so much value to our God. He created you in His image, which means you have intrinsic dignity, worth and value.
You are amazing and you have been amazingly made. Your value is not determined by how cool you are, how many friends you have, or (even as I have argued in this post) because of the difference you can make in the lives of those around you. Are those important? Except for being cool, yes. Being cool isn’t important, that’s just dumb to worry yourself about that. Regardless of those things, you have worth and value because you are made in the image of an amazing God. All the other stuff aside, you are amazing because of whose image you are made in. And that’s reason enough to endure.
The fact that my phone just went crazy announcing an amber alert for my areas speaks to the truth of this matter. Life is important. Life has value. And when a life is in danger, we should fight like crazy to save it. Brittany’s life has value. The life of these missing children have value. The fact that murder is illegal around the globe speaks to this fact as well. Life is valuable. It’s a gift. When I think of your life, I think of it as being precious. When I think of my wife and the gift her life is to me and my family, it’s precious. When I think of my children, I think of them as being precious gifts to me and this planet. Life is a gift.
Death is a certainty for all. So it’s what we do with our lives that matters. Our lives should be about life, not death.
To quote the greatest movie of all time: “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”