(This is Part 2, Part 1 may be found here.)
Somewhere along the way in our modern culture, it became socially and medically acceptable to exchange compassionate care with artificially ending life early. Somehow palliative care, hospice care, and the old-fashioned presence of loved ones have taken a back seat in our culture, as physician assisted suicide has taken the driver seat. We’re seeing movies like “Me Before You,” reading headlines about Brittany Maynard’s right to “die with dignity,” and hearing about insurance companies covering the cost of suicide medication but not cancer treatment.
Real death with dignity involves compassionate doctors, a team of caregivers, and family and friends who care for a patient who is dying from natural causes, not in the provision of medicine to kill the patient. It’s crucial that we as a society, and especially Christ followers, push back against the tide of devaluing life. In order to avoid being swept away with this destructive tide, we need to bolster ourselves with tangible ways to value life, even as it’s fading.
Palliative care and hospice care are two fields that offer immense resources to patients and their families. Their purpose is to alleviate suffering, provide relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness, and tend to the emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual needs of the dying and their families. Historically, the church has been very involved in these approaches and now—given that 40% of Evangelicals support physician assisted suicide—we need to rightfully herald their value to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The simple presence of loved ones is also an effective way to show compassion to those who are suffering. A friend wrote me today and shared with me how she and her siblings sang hymns in her mother’s hospital room and her sister read scripture to their father in his. I observed a dear friend reading to her mother in her last days, encouraging her with truth. Let’s not flee these precious days—ordained by the Lord!—but let’s lean in to them, believing that the Lord has a purpose in them.
Creating genuine community is a crucial piece in helping those with terminal illness. We have a dear friend who is, at this very moment, battling cancer for his life. This husband and father of six children is surrounded by dear friends night and day. He and his wife have invested in their church and friends for decades and they are now reaping the sweet fruit of those friendships: people come over daily to do household chores, run their kids to appointments, do their grocery shopping, put away their Christmas decorations, sit and pray with the wife, sit and play games with the kids, lay hands on him and pray for him—it’s endless. They are dearly loved because they have loved. When I witness their community I want to spend all my energy making sure my family has the same thing as soon as possible.
As loved ones, we need to be prepared to remind those who are terminally suffering of the Truth. Clearly, living in a terminal space is scary, lonely, and heart-sickening. Those who are nearby can stand ready to read scripture, sing hymns, and push back the darkness for our dear one. When both my mother-in-law and a dear friend lay dying we friends and family created huge posters with scriptures and wall-papered their rooms so that whenever their eyes were opened they would see Truth.
It goes without saying that terminal illness and dying is tragic. But for those who profess Christ, we must profess Him even in these hard times. As we walk in the truth that He is sovereign and good and trustworthy, we can proceed through the days He has numbered for each of us. May we grow in our convictions of who He is and what He can do—even in our dying—so that we may reject the world’s solution and honor life to the very, natural end.
(As I’ve been pondering what exactly has led the church to embrace physician assisted suicide, I’ve come to one conclusion that I plan to share tomorrow. See you back here, then.)