Monday, March 31, 2008

A Savior for the Suffering & Suicidal

A new invention in Germany allows people to kill themselves with the push of a button. Since assisted suicide is so hotly debated, the inventor of this machine offers a way around the problem... go back to the old-fashioned way where you actually do the deed yourself but use the modern technology of assisted suicide. This machine injects potassium chloride into its user (the same demise of many Death Row inmates), killing them within seconds.

As I read the article on this, a chill ran up my spine. Death, even suicide, are casually discussed as easy ways to end suffering. The fact is that millions of people around the world are suffering tremendously from terminal diseases. The pains they endure are agonizing. The family members who care for them weep over their loved ones' pain. Many of these people feel that death would be better than the miseries they are living through. Nearly 700 people have traveled to Switzerland to be legally assisted in killing themselves.

How should we, as Christians, respond to all of this?

First, suffering is part of the curse of sin. Genesis 3 tells us that the results of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God are pain, difficulty, and eventual death for us all. This life will not be easy because this world is marred by sin. Diseases, handicaps, suffering, even the desire for suicide itself are all due to the fact that we live in and are active participants in a fallen world. It is so important for us to understand that God is not behind suffering. Satan is. Sin is.

Secondly, God has a purpose and plan for suffering. The Bible clearly communicates this truth. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph, a man who suffered immensely in his life was able to say, "God meant it for good." Romans 8:35 says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ... No!" The classic example, of course, is Job who lost everything he owned including his health. Yet Job was able to confess, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

How could Joseph and Job say that? How could people who suffered immense pain say that it was actually a good thing? How could Scripture teach to "count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds" (James 1:2)? Because Christians know that God has a purpose for suffering. There is no such thing as needless, pointless suffering. Every ache, every grief, every throb, every breath-taking pain serves a purpose!

1. Your suffering can make you holier. (James 1:3-4) God can use the heartaches and body aches that we go through to make us more like Him. Only through suffering, can we learn that the sins that give us cheap thrills here and now really have no lasting value. Only through suffering can the impurities of our lives be removed, making us holier and happier people.

2. Your suffering can make you ready for heaven. (Revelation 21:3-4) For a Christian, every pain experienced reminds us that a day is coming when sin & sorrow will be no more. Only through suffering can our hearts learn to long for God's presence. Only through earthly pain can our souls beg for heavenly rest.

3. Your suffering can bring you to Christ. (Philippians 3:8-10) There are times when the Lord uses trials to humble us to the point where we can honestly say, "Knowing Christ is more important than anything else... more important than money, job, family, health, even life itself." When your health is deteriorating, you see that the things you once held so dear aren't going to last, and you get a glimpse of the eternal value of Christ.

4. Your suffering can bring God glory. (John 9:1-3) Giving God glory, making Him famous is the most important work we can do. Suffering provides an unique opportunity to do that. You can respond to suffering in such a way that honors God and lets those around you know that God truly is all you need. I think of Dianna's grandmother and how she responded to her terminal cancer. Even on her death bed, she was praising God for her life and thanking Him for soon taking her to meet her Savior. She knew that this painful death was her way to draw closer to Christ, and she embraced it as such.

The Christian answer is that pain and suffering, though a result of the Fall, can and are used by God for wonderful purposes. These poor souls considering assisted suicide are desperately seeking relief and rest from their tremendous pain and immense suffering. Surely, we can understand that desire. But surely we will tell them that the grave does not relieve suffering. In fact, for those without Christ, death is only the beginning of the greatest suffering ever known.

Only Jesus can ease your pain. Only Jesus can give purpose to your suffering. Only Jesus can lead you through the valley of the shadow of death. Flee to Him now. Make Him your refuge in this time of trouble.

"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden,
and I will give you rest."
- Jesus (Matt. 11:28)


Chris said...

While this may have absolutely nothing to do with the topic, just wanted to wish you a happy birthday.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to you from the Little family!!! Thank you for being born so that you could marry Dianna and have Thomas. We love your family and hope to see you soon. Hope you liked your gifts too!

The Culbertsons said...

Well, I didn't expect to get "Happy Birthday" messages on the blog... especially not on the post about suffering & suicide! But thank you both, anyway!

Chris said...

I did say may have nothing to do with the topic.

Leo said...

Hey Josh. Apparently "Happy Birthdays" are in order. So, Happy Birthday. Also, this is a good post. Would you mind if I used it, with proper author credits of course, in some of my counseling cases?

The Culbertsons said...

Cecil, thanks for the b-day greeting. If you can use this in any way, go for it!

Chris said...

Poor April not getting any blogging love...

Anonymous said...

You have not posted in quite some time--fresh out of ideas?