Some Thoughts on Suffering, Death, & Dignity

A lot of thoughts and opinions have been floating around the web and social media in the last few days in the aftermath of Brittany Maynard's decision to take her own life while facing cancer. Her decision reminded me of a passage from a sermon preached by Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) entitled "The Sacredness of Life." Bear in mind that his words were spoken in the 19th century, but they remain profoundly relevant.

It is an atrocious insult to the essential and inalienable sacredness of life. “There is nothing but suffering for this poor creature,” cries such an arrogant doctor, “therefore let him die!” Nothing but suffering! As if God were not every day using the body’s suffering to cultivate the soul’s eternal life. As if just as soon as there was a hard lesson to be learned you ought to kill the scholar. One trembles as he thinks what pictures of human patience, what visions of ripened character which have been revelations and inspirations to generations of mankind, what spectacles of the spiritual possibilities of humanity, nay, what sights of refined and exalted happiness in the triumph of the spirit over the flesh, must have been lost to the world if doctors such as these had their way from the beginning. No! The life of the human body is a sacred thing, because in it and through it comes the deeper life. Man must stand by his post, and no other man must drive his from it, because so only can God give man His best revelations and use him for His most effective work.

Brooks' words remind us that, in the Christian worldview, suffering is always redemptive. God uses suffering to mold and shape us more into the likeness of Christ. The ending of life is the prerogative of God alone, for he alone always knows what's best.

This isn't always comforting for Christians, but what IS comforting is the knowledge that, for God's people, and no matter how difficult our suffering and pain, the best is always yet to come.

Reflect on that today—if you are in Christ, the best is always yet to come. Allow God to use your suffering for your good and His glory.

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