This will be my last Tuesday post for a while.
I have lots of reasons:
- My new job is taking more time than I expected, especially during the growing season.
- We’re expecting lots of houseguests this summer and I want to focus on them while they’re here.
- I have less time to simply think about things, and I don’t want to write meaningless posts just to meet a schedule.
Perhaps when the weather turns cold, and all the hikers and gardeners go inside, when our guests go home again, when I have some down time to mull over what God’s teaching me—then I’ll go back to posting twice a week. For now, I need a break! And remember to check for something new every Friday. See you then!
Pete and I have a cat. Her name is Misty, because she’s that color—a pretty silvery gray with undertones of orange calico. She has long fur, a loud purr, and is quite personable when she’s getting her way. We’ve had Misty since she was about five inches long. She had been at the Humane Society all of an hour when we arrived and adopted her. That was back in 1995. Yes, Misty is approaching her 19th birthday!
For the most part, she doesn’t show her age. She’s still fat and sassy. With her remaining teeth she manages to put away a healthy portion of canned cat food (fish please), plus a pile of dry kibble.
The problem is that she appears to be getting senile. She no longer licks her beautiful coat, so she’s greasy and smelly and I have to give her baths, which she absolutely abhors. Her long fur gets matted, and soiled kitty litter gets stuck to her rear. You can imagine how fun that is to get out.
Worst of all, she often no longer chooses to use her litter box. I’m constantly cleaning up puddlest. (She does use it on occasion, so I know she’s capable.) We’ve had to barricade her into a portion of my office, which has impermeable flooring. No more cat shedding on the sofa or purring on my pillow at night.
Pete, not being a cat person, thinks she’s lived long enough and is ready to take her final ride to the vet. I am a cat person, and this is hard to contemplate. After all, she’s still enjoying life, such as it is. It’s just that we’re not enjoying her.
As I explained our dilemma to our daughter (Misty’s favorite human), we got off on a rabbit trail and ended up talking about euthanasia. She mentioned that, with carefully defined and enforced limits, she was in favor of it—which got me thinking. Why do we consider it acceptable, even noble, to end the suffering of our sick or elderly pets, but not do the same for one another?
I’ve long been against euthanasia laws such as the one passed in Oregon, but I never really examined my reasoning. It was more a gut reaction that this is wrong and against God’s will. Now, in conversation with my daughter, I tried to explain why.
The Bible says that God knows the length of our life before we’ve lived a single day of it (see Psalm 139:16). On the day we are born, He knows how we will die. Our suffering doesn’t surprise him. Instead, it has purpose:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
God doesn’t waste a minute of our lives. Everything that we experience has the goal of making us more like Jesus, right up until the moment we see Him in person, face to face. But there’s more. We are God’s ambassadors to a world that needs to know Him. People are watching us. How we live our lives can influence many others.
We’ve had a number of friends who have died, mostly from cancer. Dying wasn’t fun. They were often uncomfortable, even with morphine and other drugs. It was hard to say good-bye to friends and family, knowing it would likely be a long time before everyone is reunited in heaven.
We’ve also lost relatives who did not know God, most recently my father. There is a world of difference. My dad did not believe in an afterlife. He had nothing to look forward to but the knowledge that every day would be worse—and then he would cease to exist.
The believers, on the other hand, were anticipating their deaths as the beginning of something far, far better. They had the joy of the Lord in the middle of their sufferings. The medical staff taking care of them noticed, to the point of commenting to friends and family who came to visit. Those dying became a glorious witness to God’s love.
My favorite story is about an older, dear man in the last stages of cancer. When he passed away, the nurses were astonished. He had so much peace and joy that they thought he still had weeks of life left to live. In his final moment, a huge smile brightened his face. He literally shone. And then he died. I’ve always wondered, what did he see?
God doesn’t promise an easy way out. He promises to be with us in the hard times. Euthanasia robs us of the opportunity both to know God better and to share Him with others. God knows what He’s doing. As Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints.”
Funny…. that last verse you wrote was what someone wrote me at Mom’s death… that was a strange kind of comfort…. Kind of mad at God and yet at the same time knowing it is true…. she was surely happy to “go home”!
Great piece, Leslie. Gave me lots to think about. Because of Alli’s profession, we talk about this fairly often. Many times patients or their relatives do choose to prolong life through costly and painful procedures rather than merely relieve suffering through the inevitable process of dying. I know you’ve gone through those decisions too, just as we have. We have no regrets about decisions we made to alleviate suffering but not try to halt death’s approach. Would it have been better to at that point, alleviate suffering through euthanasia? I think we instinctively know that it is just wrong, even for good purposes. We would have to override our basic instinct that we just don’t kill people we love, no matter how humanely. We “know” that we don’t have the right. I have thought a lot about why that is.
The concept congealed as I was discussing this with a friend who was struggling about this issue as it pertained to a pet animal she needed to have put down. God is our good shepherd and, except in specified cases where he gives society the right, only He has the right to decide that it is time for this life to end. Because of your role that God gave you in Genesis 1:26-27, you are the good shepherd for your pet. It is your right and responsibility to decide when it is time. The fact that you are thinking more about Misty’s quality of life rather than your own I think is an indicator that you are ruling “in His image” and with God’s self-sacrificial, loving character. But weighing Misty’s inconvenience to you, you would also have the right to decide that it is “time”. I think you may remember when our dog, Todd, was partly paralyzed but for a number of months still enjoyed life– laying on the front lawn in the shade, as we moved him to his usual haunts and into the garage at night. But there came a day when he was no longer enjoying life because of water on his lungs. It was still awfully hard to actually make that decision. So hard, in fact, that Tom now says “no more pets!”, since he was always the designated one to be brave and comfort both Todd and Checkers in their last moments as they were put down. That reluctance to kill I think is a healthy safeguard for our society. Because of sin, I don’t think we can be trusted to always use the best motives as humans. We sure don’t have a good track record. Especially with the growing crisis in the healthcare system’s capacity to meet everyone’s needs, the “right to die” could become the “responsibility to die”. And as you point out, we might short circuit some important work that God is doing in someone’s heart to prepare them to meet Him. OK, nice chatting with you. My next task is going out to assert my right to rule over my back yard and I’m going to go euthanize some weeds and maybe a few slugs as well! Enjoy your summer and we look forward to some more wise writing when you have a chance.