Redemption: Death and Dignity

Redemption _Death and Dignity

“I want to die with dignity.”

The words of those fighting to legalize euthanasia.

This breaks my heart. I’ve wanted to talk about it for a long time, but I wasn’t sure how to put my thoughts into words. This morning I found an article from Relevant Magazine on the issue, that showed me how to talk about it.

I’m going to ignore the huge issue of how God judges suicide (call me a coward…) and ask you a question. What makes dying naturally undignified? I am not  pointing fingers at Brittany Maynard. The idea of dying slowly, my brain degenerating, is terrifying, and it isn’t even a reality for me. The idea of Stephen and my family watching me suffer hurts, but I know that they would never look down on me for it, never consider me undignified. 

Dignity is a point of pride, and this is where I think our perception of death has been twisted wrongly.

To live a life that wears my body, and my brain out – is dignity.

To fight a disease, to know how to release my life to God and trust Him wholly – is dignity.

To admit that I am scared, a mess, and broken, but then learn to cling to my Saviour – is dignity.

Death, no matter how quick or slow, is a beautiful process of returning to our Father. The process may hurt, it will be scary, but we will leave all our brokenness behind. We will be given the whole, heavenly bodies, the final declaration of our redemption.

Jesus has forgiven me. He redeemed my life on the Cross. He has made my spirit new again, and will make me whole. This will happen in His timing, in His way. If I trust this, if I truly believe this, then death isn’t something to fear. It is something beautiful. I will lose myself and be made whole in Christ’s blood and His presence.

I have been redeemed from a life of death, so I can now reconcile death and dignity.

Death is dignified.

For more reading, check out this beautiful piece from Kara Tippets, dying slowly of cancer, written as an open letter to Brittany Maynard. It’s made it’s rounds through social media, but it touches my heart every time I read it. John Piper also just wrote a great article with big, hard, wonderful thoughts. 


6 thoughts on “Redemption: Death and Dignity

  1. Beautifully expressed, Kayla. My heart breaks, too, when I hear those words “Dying with dignity”. I sent an email to our local MP last week explaining how I felt about the suggestion that suffering and death are undignified. I have been with a few people going through suffering and even death, and it has been a very beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. This topic is big, tough and complicated and I think you have addressed it well! I agree with everything you’ve said yet I feel the answer is not simple merely because death is not simple. It is messy and complicated and a consequence of sin. I do not by any means think suffering and death are undignified yet I understand the desire to want to go on your own terms because suffering is hard. The challenge comes with modern medicine where we are keeping people alive who in the past would not have survived. Is it fair to keep them here when they are ready to go just because we can? What about the quality of life? What if there mind is no longer present/functioning and it is just a body? Just some bigger questions to complicate an already difficult subject.

    1. Thank you!
      In the spirit of asking questions, can I address yours and ask some more?
      I agree that modern medicine presents huge ethical questions. The biggest thing is to ask how we can value life in the situation we are in.
      If the mind is no longer present or functioning, the person should be in, or near a state of being clinically brain dead. In this situation, they really are just a body that we may be helping function. In this situation, the person may well have passed on from earthly consciousness already, and it comes down to what the family requires for grieving, and what that person’s wishes were (DNR’s, life support personal policies etc.). Of course, this is a simple view of one situation.
      In regards to wanting to have control over suffering, I want to point back to John Piper’s words in the article I linked, specifically his points near the end. I am not my own. Any suffering I have in this life is not meaningless, or ugly. We have hope, and assurance of purpose. God will receive glory, and the final reconciliation will be beautiful.
      The biggest thing I want to say is that because I write from a Christian perspective, I write with hope. I know that I was not meant to have control over my life. I am given choices, but when I choose to surrender to, and participate in God’s plan, beautiful things come out of Earth-sized messes.
      Have a lovely Monday night! Come again, I love questions 🙂

      1. I’ve got several questions in response this as well as the main paragraph. Please don’t think I’m trying to attack your thoughts, they are eloquent as well as sensical. However, since I do see both sides of the issue, I would like to hear your thoughts.

        1. How do you feel about assisted suicide from a legal standpoint? Should it be legal/ illegal?

        2. Because modern medicine would (and does) prolong our suffering before death, ARE we in fact in charge of our own suffering?

        3. What about people who choose not to seek treatment?

        Well written blog post by the way, I enjoyed it!

      2. Thanks for joining the conversation Heath!
        I hope things are going well in Indonesia 🙂

        I’ll get right to your questions. This will be interesting, as just reading them I can feel the Christ-lover and biology nerd sides of me both rising up!
        1. I feel assisted suicide should be illegal. While I understand that for non-Christians, suicide is a completely different issue, assisted suicide has it’s own problems. I am quite convicted that doctor-assisted suicide breaks the Hippocratic oath. We must value life, whether we believe in Christ or not. Our ability to care for those who are suffering, to protect life rather than act purely selfishly is what sets us apart as a species, biologically speaking. That same point is a huge reason why I believe in the Christian God, whether or not evolutionary theory is correct.
        2. Oh goodness, yay for combing faith and science!! Modern medicine may prolong suffering, but it also prolongs life, and may provide healing. It can also provide relief from pain when suffering is all that is left. This is a great question, but may be simplifying things. When scientific discoveries are made, we must be prepared for good and bad consequences of this. (3.) While we can change our levels of suffering, I believe that all scientific discoveries are God speaking to us – revealing His incredible creativity and plan to us, piece by piece. I believe that He acts through modern medicine (we haven’t invented anything, only discovered what He has created), but can also act without it. Because of this, I believe that trusting God and asking for supernatural healing is logical, and necessary. I have witnessed healing without medicine. But I have also witnessed healing with medicine. This is not any less from God, than healing without (going back to my answer to 2.). He may also not work through modern medicine. We must be stewards of the resources He has given us, and this means using the medical technology available to it’s full use. It also means that we need to be able to evaluate, and ask questions about whether or not we are acting in accordance with God’s character, or selfishly.

        Another point to consider, is that this life is a gift. We must fight for it, to use it as best as we can, and accept that death may be the way to use it best, however that decision is not up to us. The grace with which we respond in all situations is what we can control, and this is why we need the Cross. Over and over.

        Such great questions! Any replies to my answers?

  3. In regards to question #3 from HeathG2014 I would just add that choosing not to seek treatment is generally done as a decision that quality of life, though shorter without treatment, is more important to the individual. Often our treatments available may prolong life by a few weeks or months, but the individual is quite ill and can’t enjoy the time they have. I’m talking about terminal cases here, choosing not to seek treatment due to religious reasons i.e. God will heal, there is no room for medicine/Dr.s – a whole other topic. In conclusion I would add that the death that results from not seeking treatment is still part of the disease process, it is the disease that has taken the life, not an individual. A pretty big defining point I believe.

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