Since I was asked to write a weekly blog posting for Desiring God, some interesting emails have come into the office. I haven’t been able to respond to all of them, but I received one that was so serious I decided I needed to attempt a response, even though I think it was ‘above my pay scale.’
I am trusting that God gave me something, but the question still makes my heart race and palms moist.
In essence, the emailer asked if he was wrong to ask his family to withhold food from him if he became incapacitated sometime in the future.
What would you say to that question?
Here is my attempt at an answer:
As long as you let me speak solely for myself and not for Desiring God, I’ll take a try at a response.
There is a difference between end-of-life issues and issues related to lifelong disability, but I would suggest we be very careful in both cases.
And I strongly suggest that issues like this really need to be hashed out personally in the presence of other mature Christians, with Bibles open and a humble desire to pray for and receive God’s wisdom.
But I do want to raise a caution.
As you can probably tell from my recent posts, I am very concerned about our culture’s view of people with disabilities as represented in the rate of abortion of children identified with disabilities in the womb. But we see echoes of that thinking elsewhere – even in your own statement about not wanting to live if you can’t feed yourself. I’m assuming you mean that you are so incapacitated that you cannot perform any duties that right now are important to your functioning – feeding, toileting, communicating, living independently, etc.
Does (being incapacitated) make you less human? Does that make boys like my son less human to you?
My guess is that you would answer ‘no’ immediately to the second question but might pause before answering the first. I pause as well – I’m as American, middle-class, and independent as you probably are, which means even the thought of being incapacitated is revolting.
But our lives are not our own. The classic Biblical text used to address abortion is Psalm 139:13-15, but if we continue to verse 16 we see this:Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16 ESV)God himself knows our days, even the days ahead that would frighten us because of things like loss of capacity. Do we believe he is sovereign over those days as well? Do we believe he will help us in those days?
And in 1 Corinthians we see this:Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)
So, asking our families to withhold what is natural to our existence – such as food and water – rather than being a helpful thing for yourself or your family could be an expression of sinful self-determination. It could also rob them of a life-changing opportunity to love and care for you, trusting God to supply all their needs and make much of Jesus in the midst of really hard circumstances.
Dementia is a horrible thing, as is cancer, blindness, and autism. The creation is groaning. Yet, God is sovereign over all things – and we can make Jesus look even more beautiful as we wait:For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)
We haven’t met personally, and I know what I’ve written could come off as arrogant and judgmental. I pray it doesn’t land on you like that but rather as one brother to another who wants to understand this life in light of the Word of God. These are tremendously important questions.
Someday, we will both see clearly! May Jesus come back soon!