Life can be very hard, and for some of us it can be all but unbearable. Hopelessness can set in and leave us wanting nothing but relief, even if it means ending our lives and leaving this world prematurely.
Brittany Maynard concluded her life last week at 29 years of age via physician-assisted suicide in Oregon. Diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, she decided to maintain her dignity and autonomy by avoiding the pain and suffering she knew was approaching.
First of all, I get it. I have nothing but compassion and understanding for Brittany because her projected suffering is similar to what mine is going to be unless yet another amazing miracle happens.
Stand by. This happens frequently.
If it doesn’t, why not take a pill and avoid the misery, Ed?
Because I can’t. It’s hard to explain, but to do so would trap me in too small a story. This world is simply too glorious for that.
You see, I don’t belong to myself and, as a result, I am compelled to take a different path – one that looks like this:
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”
– Psalm 37:3
“Trust in the Lord.”
I’m a planner – it’s my way of staying in control. Now, every day, that control is slipping through my hands. Frankly, it feels like my world is crumbling around me. I have lost “normal” to my great dismay. But this is so that I might learn to trust in God and not in myself.
Death thinks this to be folly. “Curse God and die,” it whispers.
I will do no such thing.
I want to ride this horse called life into the ground – every last day of it. Drinking every single drop of the life God has given me, I want to trust in Him and not in my ability to plan and control things so that my life (and death) are on His terms and not my own.
These two words burn in my heart and strengthen me on hard days. “Don’t collapse in on yourself, Ed. In whatever way you still can, continue to do good and bless others.”
I love this epitaph:
“He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither,
he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”
This is so much what I want to do in the time I have left on this earth. I want to be strengthening to others even if I have to whisper in their ears to do so as I lay dying.
Perhaps this is why I have so enjoyed my IT business. It’s not that I love computers so much (well, okay, I love Macs); it’s that I love you and want to be of help you. The other night I helped a student resurrect a MacBook Pro baptized in beer (domestic – bleh).
Give me more nights like this, God.
“Dwell in the land.”
I think if I could have said anything to Brittany, it would have been this: “As hard as this is and is going to be, dwell in this land. This is where you are supposed to be in the universe. Be fully present to this horrible place, because it’s your part of this mysterious story that we all share together.”
Is this cavalier? Insensitive to her pain? I don’t think so. In fact, I hope you will also love me in a similar way when my time comes.
I will need to be reminded there is something worth fighting for in this world that is greater than whatever pain I must go through to do so.
Just keep shouting to me, “This is important, Ed. None of this is wasted.”
Shout loudly, okay?
This is what we are to be doing as we are dwelling in the land of God’s choosing for us. The phrase can also mean “to feed on God’s faithfulness.”
Cultivation is when you dig deep into the land so that something good can grow there. It’s the same with our hearts. They have to be opened up, cultivated deeply if you will, if we are to learn to feed on God’s faithfulness in spite of our circumstances.
All that bad stuff that has happened to you? It is the plow opening up your heart to life.
I love the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These were three steely-eyed young men who were ordered to bow down before an earthy king or they would lose their lives in a fiery furnace. They replied, “Our God is able to deliver us.”
Don’t you wish that is how life always worked? Stand your ground and God will show up to put out the fire? I’m sure Brittany could have hung on a little longer if she knew rescue was a certainty.
But these three men had more to say that revealed the presence of cultivated hearts: “But even if He should not, we will not bow the knee to you, O King.”
You mean God could let us die a horrible death and still be worthy of our trust to the very end of our days? Only the heart that has learned to live off of the faithfulness of God and not just the hope of good circumstances can say something like this.
It’s hard, just so hard, to have our hearts plowed open so that we can learn to trust Someone other than ourselves, to use every last one of our days to bless others, and to stay in horribly difficult places until the faithfulness of God becomes our only hope.
I understand your decision, Brittany, and it is not my intent to bring shame to your death. On some days, frankly, I am jealous of you.
Still, it breaks my heart.