After suffering for weeks from debilitating headaches, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer on New Year’s Day. Soon after, she underwent brain surgery and was given up to 10 years to live.
Three months later her doctors found that the tumor had returned and was growing rapidly. It was a grim diagnosis: malignant stage 4 glioblastoma; and Maynard’s life expectancy was reduced to six months.
She and her husband discussed the treatment options — full brain radiation and hospice care — and decided that neither was satisfactory.
“After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion,” Maynard wrote in an op-ed for CNN. “There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.”
So Maynard and her family uprooted from San Francisco to settle in Portland, Oregon, where she could take advantage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.
Under this law, Maynard could receive a prescription from her physician for a lethal medication she could use to take her life any moment she chose.
She selected Nov. 1 to be the day of her death, and when the day came, she died quietly in her bedroom in Portland, surrounded by her mother and stepfather, her husband and her best friend, just as she had planned.
With her decision to take her own life in the name of “Death with Dignity,” Maynard became a media darling overnight. Society has lauded her as a heroine and praised her for her courage and insight in making a difficult choice.
But was the choice to end her life really hers to make?
As Christians, we must step back from this sentimental storyline and ask ourselves who should have the power to give and take away our suffering. Is it ourselves or the God who made us?
In her op-ed for CNN, Maynard said, “I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.”
That’s how we all too often choose to live our lives—on our own terms. When faced with painful circumstances, we look for an easy way out. We try to micromanage every aspect of our lives so there’s no possibility of things going wrong.
In stark contrast to this mindset is a statement made by righteous Job in the midst of his sufferings: “Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand? Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
Even though he didn’t understand the pain he was feeling, Job knew it was foolish to take his life into his own hands, rather than trusting it to a just, kind and loving God. And just as with Job, God often uses our sorrows as the avenues by which to send His greatest blessings. None of our suffering is in vain.
So the next time you’re tempted to squirm under the testing hand of God, look to the lessons God is trying to teach you and to the blessings He wants to send your way. Trust your future to an all-knowing God who loves you more than you can imagine.