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.