There’s a story in the news lately that I don’t seem to be able to get off my mind. I don’t know if you’ve been following it or not, but it’s the story of Brittany Maynard. Brittany, at just 29 years of age, took her life this past Saturday. Her death has opened up a national conversation on the “right to die” movement.
Brittany was suffering from a form of brain cancer and she decided enough was enough. Last spring she was told that she only had six months to live. She recently moved from California to Oregon where she could “die with dignity.” So this past Saturday she did what she said she was going to do, she took her life by taking a fatal dose of barbiturates which were prescribed to her by a doctor.
Her last post on her Facebook page said, “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more. The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”
There are many questions fueling the national debate regarding this. Was what she did right or wrong? Does a person have a right to kill themselves if they so desire? Isn’t this just a form of suicide and shouldn’t suicidal people be kept from harming themselves? What are the medical ethics involved? Is Brittany in Heaven or Hell because of this?
As I’ve followed this story, I reached a number of my own conclusions. Not to oversimplify this, but one’s interpretation of the ethics of this really comes down to whether or not one believes there is a God. As a country we have become secularized in our thinking, and as a result we no longer consider theological implications as noteworthy. Since we’ve discarded our belief in God, the highest court of reason becomes “man’s” reason. If man is the measure of all things, and there is no one higher to be accountable to, then man has the right to decide the ultimate issues of life and death. We have concluded it is our own right to determine our own fate. But is it?
Again, I have definite thoughts and convictions regarding the Biblical response to what Brittany did, but since many other people have written much on the subject, I want to address a different aspect of this tragedy—the inevitable loss of hope one experiences when they abandon a belief in God. Without God, there simply is no hope left when a crisis strikes. If man is all there is, then once you’ve reached the limit of what man can do, you’ve reached the ultimate limit. And this is tragic!
I can’t help but think of this in regards to our conversation this past week about the story of Ruth. In that true story hope seems to slip away as the husbands of Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah all die suddenly. But it wasn’t over until it was over. It wasn’t over when everyone thought it was over. The best was yet to come because God doesn’t seem to do his greatest work until he fully sets the stage for it.
Further, God doesn’t ever seem to be in a hurry. It appears he tends to show up at “the last minute.” He didn’t hurry to save Lazarus’ life, and he didn’t race into Ruth’s and Naomi’s. He entered the picture at the exact moment he was ready to intervene. Not too early, not too late. You can’t force his hand.
And this is what breaks my heart regarding Brittany. Because she apparently placed no hope in God, she allowed the wisdom of man to inform her of ultimate realities. Man’s wisdom concluded her case was hopeless and she chose to believe this. Once she believed it, she acted on it. You don’t tend to look for a God you don’t believe in, and you don’t tend to pray for a miracle to occur when you don’t think they exist. And yet, isn’t the very definition of a miracle that which defies human logic?
Ephesians 2:12 tells us that there was a time in our lives when we were without God, and thus without hope. When you don’t have the one, you don’t have the other. But when you do have one, the other is the natural outcome. This is why faith in Christ is so critically important. When you believe in God, there is no hopeless case. Nothing is impossible, nothing outside the possibility of prayer.
I just wish Brittany believed in this. If she did she would still be alive and there would still be hope for her. Simply put, faith changes everything.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Is there any area of your life you need to turn over to God? Is there any area you’ve become convinced God can’t change? Don’t make the mistake of taking fate into your own hands. There are better hands in which to place your faith.