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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

When Death is Brave

Photo by: Evgeny Dinev

Brittany Maynard Diaz ended her life this week. She was 29 years old and had terminal brain cancer. She traveled to Portland, Oregon, which permits medically aided suicides, because she believed strongly in the right to choose, the right to die with dignity. She even started a foundation to promote assisted suicide. Brittany was married. Her husband and family supported her in the decision to kill herself. Her mother said, “I wasn’t going to tell my daughter how to live, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell her how to die.” Brittany often used words like “compassion” and “health care rights” to describe the option of suicide. She campaigned for everyone to have the same "right to die"--meaning assisted suicide.

She was hailed as a hero. I heard descriptions like “brave” and “fearless.” Newscasters spoke of their admiration for her.

(My heart goes out to her family and friends. I cannot imagine losing such a beautiful daughter or what her husband is going through today.)


Some years ago, a young woman in our family, younger than Brittany, got the same diagnosis: brain cancer. Sarah* fought it with a beaming smile and a lovely spirit. She went through many rounds of chemo. She lost all her hair twice. She had several--at least three--brain operations. She, like Brittany, was on strong medications that made her gain weight. Like Brittany, she left behind a husband and a loving family. 

Sarah* didn’t complain. She gracefully and joyfully lived each day. Her smile lit up the room. She loved her Lord with all her being.

God took her to heaven a few years ago. She lost her fight against brain cancer, but she left a beautiful testimony of trust and joy through the darkest trials.

Brittany chose the time and place of her death and killed herself. 

Sarah* let God choose the time of her death, and when she succumbed, she immediately found herself in the arms of Jesus.

Tell me: 
  • Is it fair to say one choice is braver than the other?
  • Is one way “death with dignity” and the other not?
  • Is assisted suicide actually “health care”?
  • Is a young woman who toughs out a terminal illness less courageous than one who takes her own life before it gets worse?
  • Which is more compassionate for the family: to commit suicide or to succumb to disease?

I totally understand (though I don’t agree with) the arguments for assisted suicide. They’re the alleviation of suffering and the idea that a person should have the choice how and when he should die. The arguments are particularly poignant for those with terminal illnesses and with major suffering.

What light does the Bible shine on this topic?
  • Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13;  Deuteronomy 5:17; Matthew 5:21; Romans 13:9) This includes killing one’s self. This is one of the Ten Commandments, God’s moral law.
  • Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling? (Job 7:1) If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come (Job 14:14). In the midst of great suffering, Job recognized that there was an appointed time for his death. In the end, he recovered and lived many more years, and God blessed him.
  • The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil (Psalm 90:10, 12, 14-15). May we use every day that God gives us to apply our hearts unto wisdomrejoice in God’s mercy, and be glad according to the days and years He gives us!

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, 
that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, 
as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, 
whether it be by life, or by death (Philippians 1:20).

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this subject.

*"Sarah" is not her real name.


  1. It is definitely a hard thing to face a certain death knowing there is going to be pain and deterioration in the process. We just went through this with my pastor, who died of pancreatic cancer just a few weeks ago. I don't see how anyone can do it without the grace of God. I wish those in the news and those facing these decisions privately all could and would come to Him so they might access that grace and not only know where they are going after death but also have His grace and help and comfort along the way.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Barbara. Yes, the difference is in a relationship with God. I firmly believe He gives special grace to the dying. Thank you for your thoughts! God bless you.

  2. I think this is a compassion and well done post on the subject. The bottom line is: it doesn't matter how we think or feel about assisted suicide. God has spoken.

    1. Thank you, Rose. I agree; God has spoken. God bless you!


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