Years ago when my father-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer, my husband and I wanted him to get another opinion and seek treatment. The response we received from my mother-in-law was, "He’s lived his seventy-years, that’s all God promises." (See Psalms 90:10.)
Yet I couldn’t help but think of Moses. He was 80 years old when God called him out of the desert to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. (See Exodus 7:7.) I guess he didn’t know he was living on borrowed time.
More and more Christians are buying into the belief system of our present culture, one which promotes the philosophy that life only belongs to those who meet certain requirements and terms. Value of life is determined by whether or not a person is planned, wanted, physically and mentally fit, youthful, healthy, productive, effective, and a number of other requirements. If judged lacking or defective in any of these areas, life is deemed without quality and unnecessary. Death is considered the answer to suffering, weakness, incapability, and lauded as the higher, more compassionate avenue to take.
Alarmingly, I’ve been in prayer groups were people have prayed for the Lord to take a loved one. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but I ask myself, Is this found in the Bible? Did Jesus pray for God to kill the sick? Has the culture of death seeped into the church and taken root in prayer? Are some Christians practicing euthanasia by prayer?
As the wife of a Hospice chaplain, I’m well aware that people die. My own father died two years ago this month. But I didn’t pray for him to die. No, the opposite. Until my dad breathed his last breath, I prayed life for him. He suffered with a variety of painful physical conditions, but his life was a gift from God. Yes, it was hard to watch him deteriorate, but young, old, strong, weak, conscious, unconscious—my dad’s life was worth living and of great value to God.
Physical death is not the answer to suffering and pain. It’s the penalty for sin, not the answer to sin’s results. Scripture warns us in Isaiah 5:20, woe to those who call evil good, and good evil. Asserting that some people are better off dead, is not good. Abortion is promoted as a good choice to an inconvenient child. Euthanasia is hailed as a good alternative to sickness and suffering. And starving to death a disabled person such as Terri Schiavo because she is dependent on others to help sustain her life, is ruled good by our U.S. court system.
There’s also the Right to Die society. Right to die? What a spin! Death is an inescapable appointed time for each man as a result of sin’s entrance into the world. It’s not a right, it’s a consequence of sin. (See Hebrews 9:27.)
Since my dad’s death, my husband and I have been managing my mom’s care. She has Alzheimer’s and experiences many difficulties, but her life is still a gift from God. Her condition is temporary and God knows her days, not me. I pray life for her. I also pray that when it is her time to die, because Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:2 that there is a time, God will help her through her transition to eternal life. Life is the answer to weaknesses and suffering—not death. Life is a sacred gift breathed into each one of us by our holy Creator.
At times, life is mysterious. Scripture talks about the mystery of life formed in a mother’s womb. (See Ecclesiastes 11:5.) It’s also a mystery at other times, such as my mother’s life now, one that’s filled with confusion and a dependency for daily assistance. To some, her life may appear useless at this point, trapped and imprisoned in the circumstances of a fallen world effected by the tragic results of sin. Even though I don’t understand the restraints on her life, or what God can accomplish in and around her despite them, I do know that God is the Giver of her life. He has not given me the responsibility to decide if her life is over, or if she is incapable of being a vessel for Him, or the value of her life.
What I am given is the opportunity to treasure her life and the lives of others as a gift from God, in every stage, whether it makes sense to me or not. I’m also given the option to reach out and care for someone who needs help in living out their life, even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient for me. Galatians 6:2 encourages me to bear one another’s burdens.
Months before my dad’s death, I had reoccurring dreams that I visited my parent’s house and Dad wasn’t there. I knew in my heart that God was preparing me for my father’s death, but I still prayed life for him. Yes, he died, but death was not the answer to his suffering and pain. Life in Jesus — Who paid the penalty in full for sin through His death — was the answer.