“Life still expects something from you”


Given the tone of this article, which was reprinted in USA Today and received much sympathetic approval on social media, I find myself strangely unmoved by this 29-year-old cancer patient’s decision to end her life later this month. Whatever else her decision may be, it is deeply unchristian. It denies the fact that God gives us each moment of life as a gift. It also denies that God could have any purpose for permitting someone to suffer—what Tim Keller rightly calls God’s “causal relationship with suffering.”

Easy for me to say, I know. I’m a big coward who doesn’t want to suffer, either. But when suffering comes—and it will come to all of us in one form or another—God wants us to endure it and bear witness to our faith in the One who suffered far worse than we ever will.

I’m reminded of something that psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl said to fellow inmates who were thinking of walking into electrical fences and ending their lives: “You may want to kill yourself because you expect nothing else out of life, but life still expects something out of you: even if it’s only to walk into the gas chamber with your head held high.”

Life still expects something out of us, which is another way of saying that God expects something from us—for as long as he gives us life. If God didn’t, he would stop giving us that life.

Again, I say this as a coward who never wants to endure that kind of trial. But make no mistake: it is nothing less than a test of faith that I hope I’ll pass if—God forbid—suffering of that magnitude comes my way.

We follow a Savior, after all, who asks us to lay down our lives. That might include laying down our dignity as well.

8 thoughts on ““Life still expects something from you””

  1. You are unmoved by the story of a 29-year-old woman with a terminal glioblastoma? You are unmoved simply because her decision is un-Christian? You’d have to be a real jerk to be unmoved by her plight, whatever you think of her decision. If you are using the word “unmoved” in a different way, as in “not persuaded,” you really gotta be more clear about that.

    1. I said “unmoved by her decision to end her life,” not by the fact that she is dying of cancer. But that sympathy alone can’t persuade me that she isn’t making a tragic mistake. Sympathy doesn’t move me to believe that she’s making a brave decision. On the contrary, the brave thing to do is to face it. That’s what I meant.

      Maybe that’s not even clear, though, because I am moved by her decision in that I’m deeply bothered by it.

      Still, “unmoved by her decision” shouldn’t lead someone to believe that I’m unsympathetic with the fact that she’s dying of cancer.

    1. Fair enough, Amy, but isn’t there something slightly abstract about compassion for a person who exists to us only as an image of a beautiful young bride? This is all we know of this person… this image. Would we have the same compassion if the image were different—less attractive? If she were shown living in a trailer park, twice divorced, shabbily dressed, overweight, smoking a cigarette? See what I mean?

      It’s easy to have compassion for an image. So whether we “feel” anything for her plight doesn’t mean that much to me. How are we showing compassion for flesh-and-blood people in our lives who are suffering? After all, people all around us are living with and dying of cancer all the time. What are we doing for them? If we’re going to pass judgment, let’s at least pass judgment on that. Right?

  2. OK, I misread you, then. I saw no compassion for her at all. I didn’t believe it. My compassion for her has nothing to do with her being a “beautiful bride.” I’m not shallow like that. Nothing to do with an “image.” My compassion for her is certainly affected by her age–it’s truly tragic. A friend of mine’s brother died from gioblastoma in the brain. Horrible. What are you talking about “If we’re going to pass judgment”? Me? Or you?

    1. Well, any of us, but mostly you in this case… Compassion in the abstract, or compassion from a safe distance, is incredibly easy. How do we put it into practice? That’s what matters most. If you didn’t think I was at least approaching some dangerous borderline between “jerky” and “non-jerky,” I assume you wouldn’t have bothered to comment. Otherwise, you would give the benefit of the doubt to someone who has spent countless hours in the presence of people of all ages suffering and dying of cancer and all kinds of horrible illnesses.

      Think about it: What kind of insensitive jackass would I have to be in order to not feel compassion for a young person suffering and dying like this? It’s ridiculous. Where’s the presumption of good faith? The second comment doesn’t cancel out the first one.

      Nevertheless, this very cheap compassion that we all feel—and that people advocating for the cause of “death with dignity” intend for us to feel when we see this beautiful young bride—doesn’t affect the values at stake.

      I believe she’s making a tragic mistake, but my opinion on doctor-assisted suicide doesn’t and wouldn’t affect my compassion for her as a suffering human being.

  3. Oh, but if you want to critique big media for focusing on the “beautiful bride” part, have at it, because I certainly agree. See also: murder victims, white vs black; kidnap victims, white vs black, etc.

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