With the recent assisted dying bills being passed that allows physicians to provide lethal prescriptions to those who have less than six-months to live, there have been some excellent articles that look at this issue from a Biblical perspective.
I enjoyed Joe Carters recent post “Still in the World” that speaks to the painful waiting as a loved one nears the end of their life. The best I have read on the subject so far though is Russel Moore’s “How Caring for the elderly points us to the Gospel.”
In it he describes the emotions after helping move his grandmother into a care-home.
On the phone with my wife, I told her that I hoped that I die the way her father did, this year, suddenly, in seemingly good health, not like this. I didn’t want to contemplate being confined to a bed, dependent on others for everything from food to being turned to avoid bedsores. As I said those words, I was struck with what was at the root of all that: my pride and idolatry. I was reminded, once again, of what a hypocrite I am.
I’ve spent my life, after all, arguing that human dignity does not consist in how “useful” one seems but in the image of God. I’d made that case, days before, in Washington D.C. arguing for the protection of unborn children. I’ve done the same in recent days regarding orphaned children with special needs, Middle Eastern Christian refugees escaping persecution, and trafficked women and girls. I believe that, for all of them, and I believe it for my grandmother. It’s just hard for me to believe it about myself.
Moore continues by describing himself as what he calls a “recovering social Darwinist”
That’s because, when it comes to myself, I’m a recovering social Darwinist. I tend to judge my own worth by how “needed” I am—by what sermon I’ve preached, by what book I’ve written, by what legislation I’ve pushed forward, by how good a father I’ve been to my sons that day. I am accustomed to people seeing me as having a certain amount of “power”—for some that’s influence to get things done, for others it’s anointing to preach and teach God’s word. I tend to believe that that’s who I am.
That’s why I said I didn’t want to be confined to a bed. I don’t want to be dependent. I want my children to see me, right through to the end, as Dad who can fix anything. I want my former students to still see me as offering wisdom and counsel. I want my wife to see me as the whirlwind of activity she married. I want my allies to see me as the joyful prophet, the social conservative with a social conscience. I want to be needed, and not needy. And that’s my problem.
In this way caring for the elderly or watching a loved one suffer from a life-threatening disease is an important reminder of our weakness and need of Christ. It also reminds us as Moore points out the important thing “is not all our doing but the simple truth that we are dependent children who need one another, and who need a Father, to live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).”
There is hope in this because all of us someday will be called up to Heaven to be with Christ, and will live with Him for all eternity. The article ends on that note in a beautiful way.
As I moved my grandmother’s things from her house, I leafed through her Bible, large-print King James Version, and noticed pages and pages of notes in one of my favorite books, that of the prophet Isaiah. Most of them were handwritten passages from the prophet—most of them related to the coming of the kingdom, the abolishing of the reign of death. My Ph.D. dissertation was in the area of eschatology. I’ve preached and taught Isaiah a thousand times. But something tells me, I won’t really understand it until someone has to feed me through a straw.