Assisted Suicide and the Grace of God

 

brittanyOn Saturday, Nov 1, 2014, Brittany Maynard ended her life at her home in Portland, OR.  She had taken her own life by an overdose of barbiturates under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.  Given only six months to live, after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, she chose to end her life on her own terms.

From what I’ve been reading on social media, support for Brittany’s decision has been overwhelming.  Her videos on Youtube were powerfully done and struck a chord within many people.  Indeed, they struck a chord within me.  One could not watch one of her videos or read her story without feeling nothing but compassion for the young woman.  Most of her photos showed pictures of a woman so full of beauty and life.  It seemed so unfair that she was being struck down by a cruel and painful disease just as she was only really beginning to live.  Choosing to take her own life before the disease had a chance to cheat her made it seem like she was somehow robbing the robber.  In a twisted way, it was like she was going to die as a victor, not a victim.

I get that.  Honestly, I do.  My heart went out to her just as it goes out to her friends and family now.  I don’t know what I would do if i were in her shoes and so I refuse to pass any judgment.  I will not say she was wrong – and I will not say that she was right.  That is for God to decide, not me.

Though Brittany may have robbed the robber, the question I have is: did she rob God, too?

Do you recall Paul writing about a personal trial in 2 Cor 12?  In that chapter, Paul described having some type of affliction in his body.  In response to his prayers, God did not relieve him of the affliction, but instead, provided Paul with the grace to endure it.  Amazingly, Paul found that God’s grace was better than having the affliction removed (2 Cor. 12:10).

Earlier in the same epistle (Chapter 4), Paul described the hardship, despair, and constant persecution that he faced (4:8-9).  He described his life as what would seem a death sentence; as if he were a walking dead man.  Then, in verse 11, he explained why, “For … the life of Jesus … may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”  In other words, Paul saw the frailty of his human condition as a way to glorify the strength of God.  God gave Paul the grace to endure so that the love and grace of God would be celebrated by others (vs. 15).

Admittedly, most of us see suffering as something that should be avoided.  No one wants to suffer.  However, we must remember that in our weakness God shows forth His strength.  If we circumvent the suffering that God has planned for us, then we may never get to see the grace that God can provide in the midst of it.  How can we know the grace of God if we won’t enter the places prepared for displaying that grace?  To borrow an image from the book of Daniel: how can we know the God of the furnace if we never go into the fire?

As I said before, I am not judging young Brittany for her decision.  What I would like to do, however, is remind those of us who remain that God has promised to meet us in our pain.  He gives special grace to the hurting.  Regardless of the source of your pain, God is willing and able to enter into it with you and remain along side of you.  I see that as a good thing.

To me, “Death With Dignity” does not necessarily mean suicide.  Rather, death with dignity can also mean dying with a faith placed in the God who gives grace to the humble.  Personally, I would rather die with the grace of God, then live without it.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.

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