I am graced to be part of a close-knit internet radio community in Chicago and a subject came across one of our weekly shows, “Mind, Body and Soul w/ A Net” hosted by Annette Harris (tcmradiostation.com). While many topics have undergone the scrutiny of our magnifying glass and many more will be subject to going through the ringer of our Christian perspective, there is one in particular struck a chord with me.
In a recent Facebook post, the subject was introduced to our audience and reads as thus:
RIGHT TO DIE? (this is a very sensitive subject..)
Brittany Maynard (Portland, OR), a 29 year old young lady, who is suffering from terminal brain cancer, has decided that rather than endure living with a terminal illness, that she’ll end her own life on November 1, 2014 (she’s got everything planned out of how it will be done too).
Many have weighed in on this subject, even Kara Tippets (Colorado Springs, CO). Kara, Christian mother of 4, who is suffering from cancer and dying, wrote a letter to Brittany to discourage her from ending her life.
So many say that it’s Brittany’s decision, BUT, what do you think? Is she right for deciding to go through with this act? Does she have a right to choose to die? Is this a selfish move on her part? What does God say about this? Was Kara right for trying to discourage Brittany from going through with it? How would you advise someone in either Brittany’s or Kara’s situation? Should Christians stand up and say something or should we just pray about it only???
This is a weighty topic. One that does not warrant my personal opinion nor call for any witty banter or clever jokes. This is a serious matter. Many members of the church-at-large suffer from feelings of hopelessness and despair. The thought of suicide has often come into the minds of many Christians that sit alongside us in the pews and no one says a word or has any idea that they are going through this.
I, myself wrestled with the thought of suicide – to the point where I can truthfully say that I was plagued by a “suicide demon” or “spirit of suicide” for almost nine years. At the height of my songwriting career and in the midst of preaching to encourage thousands, I felt inadequate because my personal life did not live up to what I thought the life of a person of my stature should have been.
I tried pills, I talked myself out of jumping off a roof once. During one bout with depression, I even deliberately walked in front a moving Semi truck (at which time, I felt an unknown force pushing my back and I was thrust out of harm’s way. I know this was an Angel). I also got hold to a gun and tried unsuccessfully to put a bullet in my head. Four times, the gun jammed – amazing.
Many people would have thought that I had everything to live for, but because of low-self esteem and a traumatic upbringing void of affirmation, I could not see it. Problem after problem, loss after loss, trial after terrible trial left me with the feeling that I could not overcome these hurdles and that the best way to resolve my life’s issues would be to end it. I had no resources and no tangible support. I could see no future.
Dare I confess, that there were even days I woke up angry with God because I had gone to bed the night before and woke up the next morning. Didn’t God see what I was going through? Why didn’t he let me die in my sleep?
It is safe to say that I began to feel like a burden to others. In an effort to relieve the pressure of others and not be a bother, suicide was best. I knew that people would cry for a while, but I thought they would at least have one less worry with me out of the way.
Many times, we are unaware that people deal with this temptation because the church has taught us that we are to be soldiers in the fight and that suicide is a cowardly move. While it is safe to agree, I don’t think that we take into account the emotions that lead to a terminal decision.
We have to be cognizant of how people feel in this position. What leads to them wanting to kill themselves? What is going wrong in their lives that makes them feel this way? Most importantly, What perspective is the individual looking from that the rest of us cannot see? These questions juxtaposed against these feelings are not meant to glorify the horrors of suicide, but to help people understand the mindset of someone who is struggling with these thoughts.
Let me go on record as saying that suicide is not for Christians. God gives life and it is not ours to take. The Bible speaks clearly about where we stand in the control of our lives and that death and life are in God’s control – not ours. Adversely, I came to discover that I was not the only one that had the same emotional rollercoaster ride. Some of the Bible’s greatest characters suffered from terminal tendencies and sentiments:
Abimelech lacked personal identity.
Samson died for a cause he believed in and for revenge.
1 Samuel 31:4
Saul was stressed out, unable to live up to certain expectations; felt rejected and a failure
07. Saul’s armor-bearer
1 Samuel 31:5
Impulse, he wanted to die with his boss. 40% of teenage suicide is impulse.
2 Samuel 17:23
Ahithophel was bitter because his advice was not followed.
1 Kings 16:15-20
Rebellion; Zimri had a problem with authority.
Depressed, Judas felt trapped by materialism and guilt.
You don’t think Job had everything around him gone and everyone around him doubting his faith and felt he had nothing to live for:
‘May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, “A boy is conceived!” 4 That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it.’
“….I would this cup pass from me”
“Why has thou forsaken me?”
Paul (2 Timothy 4)
Paul charged Timothy to do what he felt he would no longer be able to do.
These individuals had the same sense of desperateness that people feel who deal with the thought of suicide. I acknowledge the feelings and, although I had occasion to, disagree with the action.
In this young lady’s case, the idea that the quality of life would be greatly compromised, who are we to say? Who are we to not allow God to come through at the 11th hour? Can we predict that the end for us is actually the end for us? We must also understand that our lives are a testimony to God’s sovereignty – right up to the insufferable end. Whether we are upright or shriveling on a death bed, God is to be glorified. I am sympathetic to this young ladies feelings, but realize that If I had taken the initiative to end my own life, I would not be enjoying the Plan of God for my life now. There are people who would never have been encouraged by my words and my testimony of His goodness would be marred by a death certificate.
Children of God!! We need to be more discerning of people’s emotional state as we interact with them and walk this thing as if someone’s life depended on it. People need a sense of relief from life’s stresses – sometimes more than you think. Be easily entreated and show the Love of God in everything. You never know whose life you are saving. We know not the pressures of the job, marital turmoil, feelings of insecurity or any other problem another person is facing under the guise of “I’m Fine” as their eyes drift over into a glaze. I am no clinical Psychologist nor Therapist, but I am a Minister and more importantly, a Christian. Suicide is not the answer for us. We are to allow God to orchestrate our lives, even in the dismal parts. We have been given the right to live. We do not reserve the right to die.