I am writing this post to champion the sanctity of life and the individual, and point people to Jesus who offers hope, comfort and eternal life to those that trust in His love and grace in this life. It deals with some sensitive cases and is not exhaustive (most examples are from a disability perspective, rather than severe illness). This is something that has been on my heart, and although some may disagree with my outlook, I ask that we can love one another through our disagreements.
This is NOT meant to be a ‘for or against’ debate on the Assisted Dying Bill. You can find that on the website of CARE (Christian Action Research and Education): http://www.care.org.uk/advocacy/end-of-life/euthanasia-the-arguments-for-and-against
‘Quality of Life’
There have been a few articles that have caught my eye recently about ‘quality of life’ in light of the ‘Assisted Dying Bill’ being discussed in Parliament at the moment. In a strongly written article in The Guardian, Christians are painted in a dismal, bleak picture – something that I am seeing more of in mainstream media, and will be writing about this further in future posts. Christians are seen as having the potential of ‘wrecking’ the bill, that they are ‘hiding’ the real reason why they do not want the bill to go ahead – the idea that God is ‘in control’, not us and this secretive argument is driven by ‘dogma and orders from above.’
Admittedly, even though I do believe that God is in control, I would not use this idea of ‘dogma’ and ‘orders’ to represent the God that I believe in. He is not a Sergeant Major in the Forces, shouting out lines of instruction, pushing his face into your face and exerting his authority through yelling and press-ups. The God that I know hates suffering and its root cause, sin. That is not to necessarily say that someone’s own sin was the cause of their illess or disability etc. An example of this is when Christ’s disciples asked him about why a man was born blind:
‘As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi [teacher], who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”‘ (John 9:1-3)
Many forget that Jesus himself went and experienced gross suffering and pain such as lashings, beatings and crucifixion so that we may find everlasting hope and life in Him. He is able to sympathise with us in our weaknesses and we can confidently approach Him, receive His mercy and find grace in times of need (Hebrews 4:15).
The Words of a Disability Activist
Joni Eareckson Tada, a woman who is quadriplegic and has undergone treatment for breast cancer, is a disability activist and through her disability founded an International Disability Centre. She has many friends who cannot walk, talk, eat and/or are on ventilators, but are still ‘happy people’. Speaking to The Christian Post about a 12 year old girl who has died as the UK High Court granted her mother permission to euthanize her as she was severely disabled, she says:
“I have many, many friends, whose functioning ability, is much like Nancy’s: they can not talk, eat, walk, they are on ventilators. They are happy people,” Eareckson Tada said. “Now we are going to look at somebody whose functioning ability is [limited] and say that their life is not worth living?”
When the girl’s mother said that she could not forgive herself for what she has done, Eareckson Tada went on to say:
“What is heartbreaking about it is that the mother, in her statement, said that she will never be able to forgive herself. That’s a terrible burden for a woman to carry… It seems to me that the only people that were speaking into the mother’s life were right-to-die advocates, and I am convinced that she had the proper resources, the proper support, the proper peer counseling, the proper networking with other parents, it would have been a different story.”
The Assisted Dying Bill is a sensitive and delicate matter and many people have different experiences with people they know and love who have went through or are going through severe amounts of pain and long periods of time in suffering. I have spoken with people who are watching loved ones get weaker and frailer as I write this post; they are feeling hopeless and lost at this ongoing suffering and pain experienced by the one they love. But let me tell those that feel at a loss, and maybe even angry at a God who should have stepped in by now and intervened, there is life and hope for the one you love. There is life and hope for you too.
There Is Life And Hope in the One Who Made You, The One Who Loves You, The One Who Died For You
I wanted to see how God views our lives. Is He really out to get us and to cause us endless pain and suffering? Is there hope in this dark and fragile world? Is there any comfort?
- God made us and knows us intimately – He values our life, we are made in His image and He loves us so much:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13-16)
- We have value and worth in the eyes of our God – He is a God of detail and takes care of us:
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)
- Whether we live or die, when we believe in Jesus and what He did on the cross for us all, we have no need to fear because we are the Lord’s and He meets our every need:
“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8)
A Personal, Powerful Testimony: My Sister
Many of you may or may not know that I have a sister who was born with cerebral palsy and other complications. This verse is of great comfort as it reminds me that God uses ALL people, whatever their circumstances, troubles, illnesses and disabilities to reach out to other people and touch their lives. My sister has blessed so many people as she is always smiling, helpful, loving and has such a gentle and peaceful nature. There have been times when she has moved me to tears when she has reminded me of God’s love for me. She has sat with me and prayed. Many people may look upon her, and question her quality of life as she is fed through a tube in her stomach and as she sits in her wheelchair. But many more people, when they get to spend time with her, realise just how much she is capable of and how wonderful she is.
I understand that my sister is not on the spectrum of the most extreme case of disability or illness. There are those that cannot speak, or are unable to move at all. Many have multiple complications that are hard for the human heart and mind to grasp. Some are just babies, others are still so young. Many have had to endure the same pain for an unbearable amount of time. I may never personally experience their plight, but I would like to think that I could share with them something truly wonderful.
A woman with multiple disabilities and given a life expectancy of 3 weeks from birth tells The Christian Institute that “No disability is without hope”. The doctors told her mother to bury her, because even if she did live she would have ‘no quality of life’. Similarly, when my grandad was told by doctors that he had terminal cancer and only had 6 weeks to live, he went on to live another 2 years and was out mowing the back garden 2 weeks before he died. This ‘quality of life’ phrase is being used to help justify the need to allow assisted suicide, but just imagine what could have happened if her mother had ended her life, or Eareckson Tada had cut short her own life, or my own grandad gave up hope because of his predicted time scale, or my sister decided it was all to much.
I understand the Assisted Dying Bill is much more complex than this post wishes to explore at this time. However, once something like this is passed, it makes it easier for amendments and changes to be made which can target the vulnerable, and it could become grossly misused.
I must add that this post is not meant to be a for or against debate on the Assisted Suicide Bill, but it does want to champion the sanctity of life and the individual, and point people to Jesus who offers hope, comfort and eternal life to those that trust in His love and grace in this life. God made us, loves us and died for us, and He wants us to lean on Him through our pain and suffering, like Christ did on the cross.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)