This is a difficult (and personal) discussion. I have experienced firsthand the complexities of this topic. Three times in the last several years I have had to deal with this issue on a personal level. First, with my best friend from college, who almost twenty years ago was hit by a truck and until his recent death lived in a near persistent vegetative state. Then one of my students developed a rare blood disease that almost took his life and led to some of these same questions; and finally, with my grandmother’s debilitating battle with Alzheimer’s disease for the last 6 or so years of her life. I know that this is a tough one!
In many ways – certainly in specific terms – the Scripture remains silent on this issue. I concede that. I also want to make it clear that I think it is OK for people to wrestle with the issue and not have guilty feelings about wishing that someone who is suffering could leave this life for the next. All of those kinds of emotions are what make us human. But ultimately that is part of the main point… we are human. As certainly as we cannot definitively decide when a life should begin, as difficult as it may be for us to admit, neither do we have the right to decide when a life should end. Intuitively we know this. It makes sense. But those passionate feelings in us decry our good sense and render it inoperable.
What of the Scripture? Can we find any direction… even in principle? Certainly the Bible does make mention of suicide – even that done for seemingly “noble purposes”. The Bible consistently casts these actions in a negative light. There are at least 6 such times when suicide is spoken of…
Abimelech in Judges 9
Samson in Judges 16
Saul in 1 Samuel 31
Ahithophel in 2 Samuel 17
Zimri in 1 Kings 16
Judas in Matthew 27
The takeaway here is admittedly an argument mostly from silence, but God never casts these actions in any type of positive light. But the point can be made better in examining the originator and sustainer of life. Again, that’s why a future discussion about creation is so crucial. If you don’t have the beginning right, you certainly will struggle with the end.
While there are no easy answers, and each case is different in its scope, the same God who creates and sustains life must be the one to control the destiny of man. To do any other is to question God’s authority at least and purloin it at worst.
God’s control is only frightening to those who resist it. Though none of us enjoy seeing someone we love in pain, God knows all of that. He knows what that person is able to endure. He knows what things that person may need to make right before their time is up. He knows the effect that person’s life may have on others as they journey through this difficulty with them. He knows. He cares. We must do the hardest thing that we can be asked to do in difficult situations like this… trust Him.