Hope for Brittany Maynard and the Terminally Ill
A young woman suffering from an aggressive brain tumor made headlines with her public decision to end her own life. What does the Bible say about suffering?
On Nov. 1, Brittany Maynard ended her life with lethal drugs prescribed by her doctor. Earlier, her doctor had declared that she had roughly six months to live. Rather than suffer, she chose to move to Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal.
For weeks leading up to the time she ended her life, the media published and aired stories about her and her decision.
Brittany was only 29 years old and recently married. She and her husband were trying to start a family when they learned of her inoperable brain tumor.
Brittany was told that, as the tumor grew, she would lose control of her bodily functions and cognitive abilities.
After considering her options, Brittany decided that she would end her life on her terms, not on the terms of the cancer. And on Nov. 1, Brittany ended her life.
When hope is lost
Brittany is one of a small number of terminally ill people who have resorted to physician-assisted suicide because they have lost hope in a productive future for themselves. They feel there is no hope and wonder why they should continue living if their quality of life will only get worse.
When I watched interviews with Brittany, I noticed she didn’t make any reference to God. Perhaps that is why she had such little hope.
God’s Word, the Bible, provides encouragement and hope on many topics—life, death and even suffering.
Our temporary suffering—no matter how severe—is nothing compared to the incredible future that God has in store for us.Encouraging stories in the Bible about suffering
The Bible tells us that God is merciful and offers comfort to those who are suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). It dedicates a whole book to a man named Job who was struck with intense suffering in the prime of his life. He lost all his wealth, his children and his health. Job’s condition was so heart-wrenching that his friends not only cried when they saw him, they didn’t say a word for seven days (Job 2:11-13).
Another account in the Bible tells of when King Hezekiah was extremely sick and near death. This king wholeheartedly sought God and had his life extended 15 years (2 Kings 20:1-6).
Suffering builds lasting character
The Bible actually does say that suffering has a positive purpose and helps a person build character. There is no better example of suffering than the Son of God—Jesus Christ.
Throughout His life, He knew the excruciating and painful way He would die (1 Peter 1:18-20; Revelation 13:8). But that didn’t make the prospect of suffering any easier. The night He was imprisoned, Christ pleaded with the Father three times for relief. But Christ accepted God’s will (Matthew 26:36-44; Luke 22:41-44).
Jesus Christ set each of us an example of enduring suffering through trust in God—and even growing and learning through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).
It goes against our human reasoning, but learning how to properly deal with suffering will improve our character (James 1:2-4). We must always remember that our temporary suffering—no matter how severe—is nothing compared to the incredible future that God has in store for us (Romans 8:18).
Brittany had a list of things she wanted to see and do before she died. She apparently saw no future beyond this life.
Thankfully there is a future hope for Brittany! God has a plan to resurrect all people who have ever lived. At that time, Brittany will be healed from her suffering and will learn about God’s purpose for her. Read our articles “Resurrections: What Are They?” and “What Happens to Those Who Died Without Hope?” to learn more.
Yes, it is God who said to the Jews who were captive in Babylon, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Other scriptures show that God has the same thoughts toward you and all mankind (1Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9)!
To learn more about the topic of suicide, read our article “What Does the Bible Say About Suicide?”