CMDA's The Point

Suffering and Facing Death

June 6, 2024

by JC Bicek

No fewer than 20 states introduced assisted suicide bills so far in 2024, and polling suggests the majority of Americans are sympathetic to the cause. According to the stats, this must mean a number of supporters would at least call themselves Christians, which strikes me as a sad development considering the rich tradition of Christian thought regarding how we should live in our final days. It’s even more troubling when you consider that pro-euthanasia advocacy today encourages succumbing to temptation when things get tough rather than withstanding. So, then, what is really driving this embrace, and what does Scripture tell us about what we can and should pursue in terms of death?


The Key Drivers

The key drivers of the embrace of euthanasia should be considered from two separate perspectives, that of patients and of the public—which are sometimes aligned and at others opposed. In most cases, it can be assumed the act of hastening death is done in desperation, and it is presumed this is a solution for an otherwise insoluble situation. Patients or those who are suffering may be inclined to hasten their death because of fear or despair. In any case, we may empathize with their desire to avoid suffering.


The other perspective is that of the public or those who might be in a position to care for someone at the end of their life. In this case, compassion for those who are suffering would open one up to the idea that hastening death is good and right. Or that, as is a rich tradition in the U.S., one’s self-determination would mean this is the ultimate act of freedom and that we should not be able to tell someone else how to live their life, or in this case how to die. This latter idea is a clear sign of the post-modern thinking and moral relativism of our time.


It may also be the case for both groups that a bit of self-centeredness is driving the embrace of euthanasia today. If the patient considers themselves to be a burden on their support system, they may desire to rid others of that burden and end their life. But then from the perspective of those in the potential support system, it may be a considerable burden to care for someone suffering at the end of their life, and so they would be open to the opportunity to rid themselves of that burden via the elimination of that burden.


Exploration of a Christian Worldview

At the core of why hastening death is problematic is that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 2:26-27), taking innocent/image-bearing life is forbidden (Exodus 20:13), God is sovereign and He numbers our days (Job 14:5), and our bodies are not our own, for we were purchased at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). If these prooftexts indicate that death is not within our domain, what alternatives do we have to euthanasia? What is a “good death?”


Regarding fear and despair, Scripture has much to say. As Christians, we are not to fear death nor to despair in the face of impending struggle. We know what the future holds for us, and we know our suffering is only temporary and does not compare to our future with Christ (Romans 8:18). There will be struggling and hardship in this life, most especially in the end when we become frail, but this is the time to lean into Christ and seek Him and His provision and comfort.


Hebrews 2 says it is the devil who has the power of death (verse 14), and it is Christ who will deliver those who are fearful of death (verse 15). Jesus is our savior and a sympathetic high priest (verses 17-18). His death, by cleansing our sins, destroys the death grip of the devil and gives hope and deliverance to those who are in slavery to the fear of death. To this point, Joni Eareckson Tada writes that “to place your hand in the Prince of Peace’s hand does not necessarily guarantee you protection from suffering, nor does it offer immunity from difficult deathbed situations. But it does give you a steadfast hand to hold onto, including the certainty that a loving and all-powerful God who knows everything is standing by your side.” Putting our faith in Christ, who is sympathetic to our condition, may not mitigate our pain, but it will free us from living as a slave to fear.


In his second letter to his friend Timothy, Paul writes that God gave us a spirit of power and love and self-control, not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). According to notes in the ESV Study Bible, the Greek word for fear, deilia, in extrabiblical literature refers to one who flees from battle and has a strong pejorative sense, referring to cowardice. Especially when we have Christ as our Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit, we must endure the challenges we face. It is boldness, not cowardice, that should define us in the face of death (Proverbs 28:1, Acts 4:31).


Though we may be tempted to hasten death, we should remember that the devil was a murderer from the beginning and is the father of lies (John 8:44), and he has the power to work in the realm of death and to incite people into sin that leads to death (Romans 6:16). The devil tempts us to despair and to take our own lives. Nevertheless, we do not despair, rather we rejoice in hope, are patient in tribulation and are constant in prayer, for these are the marks of a Christian (Romans 12:12). We do not choose to suffer, but we can choose our disposition when we do.


In an essay on the subject, Gilbert Meilaender brought to light that today’s understanding of compassion is deficient. It is debased. He writes, “We will not learn how rightly to keep company with those who are suffering and dying unless we reclaim the limits that shape and govern it.” This is a key point given the milieu of post-modernism and ascendent secularism. It is also important to highlight that, given euthanasia is a solution that does away with the patient/problem, hastening death is the opposite of keeping company with those who are suffering and dying, which would be the sincere, compassionate thing to do. We must therefore look to Scripture to see what genuine compassion is and how to show it. We see Jesus on multiple occasions in the gospels going to those who had need (Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, Mark 6:34). Despite His own needs, He has compassion on them and seeks to meet theirs. He does not send them away or avoid them. And in His parable of the final judgment, Jesus tells us that how we treat others when they are sick and suffering reflects what we think of Him (Matthew 25:36-40). The compassion we have for others is a sign of a transformed heart in response to Jesus’ work on the cross and in our lives.


In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we also see what genuine compassion looks like—it is kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another (Colossians 3:12). This is what it looks like to live virtuously like Christ, to live in a way that brings glory to God and sincerely loves our neighbors in their suffering. Paul is calling us to a holy lifestyle, consistent with our identity in Christ. Similarly, the author of Hebrews writing on the superiority of Christ exhorts us to faith and perseverance. After we have been enlightened and entered the Christian community, we must act accordingly. We understand that none of this is easy, as compassion for others comes at a cost to us, and yet it is done with joy (Hebrews 10:34).


Concerning self-determination, through a biblical worldview we understand that autonomy rightly ordered puts life ahead of freedom, which would seem to be rational. The apostle Paul acknowledges this in his first letter to the Corinthians, where he writes, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12, ESV). From this passage we can discern that God has gifted us with significant freedom, but that freedom should be used to bring glory to Him, not to serve our distorted impulses.


Indeed, we should all agree that autonomy has limits. We all accept moral and legal limitations, which is what Meilaender was highlighting. We could do certain things, but we have accepted restraint because we believe there is a right ordering; that some things are more important than our freedom to do as we please. That we have many laws to protect life in this country is objectively judged to be a correct ordering of rights. There is an objective relationship of dependency that exists between a vulnerable patient and their healthcare professional or caregiver. Just because a patient seeks to end their life does not mean we should oblige.


When it comes to self-centeredness, like the others, the Bible is extremely clear. It is certainly the case that we are not our own and that this life is to be lived to bring glory to God, but then what does that look like? If we love God, then what does it look like to love our neighbor well in their suffering? We must put others before ourselves. A well lived life is one that is lived in service to God and others, not to the glory of ourselves.


As Christians, we are to live generously and sacrificially. We must advocate for the protection of the vulnerable and go to great lengths to serve and comfort those who are suffering, even when it comes at great cost to us personally. God expects us to make moral decisions based on the standards of morality revealed in Scripture, which are modeled by Jesus and written on the hearts of His followers. This way of virtuous living is what Paul calls “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31b, ESV), and it should lead all of us to put others, especially the most vulnerable, before ourselves.


To conclude, either God or suffering will set the agenda for one’s life and death. As Paul writes in Romans 6:16, we are slaves of the one whom we obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or obedience, which leads to righteousness. Choosing death is sin. We should be moved to be obedient to God’s calling, which will lead to righteousness. We should be moved by hope in the face of despair, affirming that Christ has overcome the grave. We should be moved to go to and care for those who are suffering and facing death, even when it comes at a cost to us personally. Suffering is to be expected—how we handle it says everything about who we believe God is.

JC Bicek

About JC Bicek

J.C. Bicek serves as CMDA’s Public Policy and Conscience Freedoms Specialist.


  1. Avatar Nicole Hayes on June 11, 2024 at 12:04 pm

    Excellent blog post, J.C.!

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