Friday, December 8, 2017

Book Review: When Is It Right To Die

When Is It Right To Die? A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1992/2018. Zondervan. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the preface: The last twenty-five years have brought a lot of change. When I first penned the words to When Is It Right to Die? much of what I discussed was theoretical. We had begun to see the first signs of the soul-chilling societal acceptance of physician-assisted suicide, but we had to travel abroad to find places where such acceptance of murder had become commonplace. Twenty-five years ago, my hope had been to provide a primer of sorts to readers whose only exposure to euthanasia was the occasional headline. But in the last twenty-five years, I’ve ached as I’ve seen more and more people stand behind the idea that a person has the “right to die.” And it gets worse. It is no longer a matter of merely “supporting” a person who has decided that his or her own life is not worth living. No, we are witnesses to more instances where the “right to die” has been given to a person with no say in the matter.

Joni Eareckson Tada's When Is It Right To Die is a must read in my opinion. Why? This book is literally a book about life and death, living and dying, right and wrong. It asks questions--tough questions--and provides some answers. But perhaps more importantly than providing all the answers, it shows readers how to go about finding the answers yourself--by digging deep into the word of God.  

The book is divided into three parts: "A Time to Live?", "A Time To Choose," and "A Time To Die."

One of the questions asked is: Do we have the right to die? Does a person have the right to choose how he/she dies? when he/she dies?
Is it right to die when a person sees no hope? Is it right to die when the pain becomes excessive, the medical costs prohibitive, the personal dignity shattered? Is it right to die when life becomes too burdensome? Where should the line be drawn? And who has the right to draw it? When is it right to say, “This much I can take, and no more!” Of this much I am certain: There is for each of us a time to die, and when that time comes, we should be prepared to go. But the problem remains: Exactly when is it time?  
Another question asked is: Does having a "low quality" of life mean that life is no longer worth living?
Some say a society that measures people in terms of quality of life will preserve those who have a potential to function . . . and will neglect those who don’t. Oddly enough, society will ascribe to physically fit and intellectually capable people a very high quality of life, despite the fact that they are sometimes the most miserable, and a very low quality of life to people who are poor and disabled, despite the fact they are sometimes the most content. “Quality of life” is generally used as a counterbalance to the term sanctity of life. 
The first part focuses mainly on current issues and culture. It is good. It is important. It is foundational. But the second and third parts are where the book enters greatness. The second part has some great spiritual gems. The third part is very practical.

Some of my favorite quotes from the second part:

  • "Your actions, your decisions, matter. What you do or don’t do has a ripple effect on everyone around you."
  • "Your gutsy choice to face suffering head-on forces others around you to sit up and take notice. It’s called strengthening the character of a helping society. When people observe perseverance, endurance, and courage, their moral fiber is reinforced. Conversely, your choice to bow out of life can and does weaken the moral resolve of that same society."
  • "No thinking person chooses suffering. But we can choose our attitude in the midst of suffering."
  • "It’s called resisting temptation. A provoking thought. A strong inclination. An inducement, an enticement to give in and give up. A crazy idea that settles in and begins to sound pleasing and plausible. Thoughts leading to death begin that way. I’ve had enough experience with temptation to know that such provocations aren’t furtive ideas that dart out of nowhere, disjointed and having no connection. There exists an intelligence behind those ideas. Such thoughts are part of a deadly scheme, the end of which is always death."
  • "Your Creator never intended for you to shoulder a load of suffering by yourself. That’s the whole purpose of spiritual community. God deliberately designed people to need each other. We must rub shoulders with people of hope and faith if our innermost needs are to be met."
  • "“Nothing Awaits Me after Death” This could be the biggest lie of all. And this is exactly why the devil enjoys helping you scheme your own murder. Does that sound harsh? You may call it selfdeliverance or aid-in-dying if you wish. It matters little to the devil; it’s all murder to him. Moreover, it matters little whether or not you believe in hell. The devil doesn’t care whether you label it “a white light at the end of a tunnel” or “nirvana” or “never-never land.” It’s all hell to him."
  • "Whether you are approaching the final throes of a terminal illness or you’re deep in depression, the devil delights in hearing us bad-mouth our bodies. Why? Because your body, even underneath wrinkles or fat, and in spite of the ravages of illness or old age, is made in the image of God."
  • "Your heart, mind, hands, and feet are stamped with the imprint of the Creator. Little wonder the devil wants you to do your body in!"
  • "Each day God gives us the precious gift of hours to invest in the lives of others—investments that will have eternal repercussions for us and them."
  • "We are always called to think of others, no matter how difficult our circumstances."
  • "Jesus chose not to sidestep suffering—not to take a shortcut—but instead to meet painhead-on. In short? The Bible teaches that any means to produce or hasten death in order to alleviate suffering is never justified. Or in the language of the Bible, it is never right to do evil."
  • "However, letting someone die is another matter entirely. Allowing a person to die when he or she is, in fact, dying is justified. The Bible is full of examples of people doing all they can to help a person live, but when it came time for a person to die, Scripture doesn’t do much more than record the death."
  • "You were made for one purpose: to make God real to those around you. Don’t think He has left you without any means whatsoever for fulfilling that end just because you are confined to bed or struggling with pain."
  • "In a mysterious way, each day you live; each hopeful thought you think, however fleeting; each smile you muster—all of it brings God incredible joy. That’s because your positive attitude and actions, however small and faint, are fingers pointing others to a God who is larger and finer and grander than they thought. That’s what it means to glorify Him as you lie in that bed, sit in that wheelchair, or persevere through that depression."
  • "God works in your life up until the final moment. It may appear that nothing is taking place in the life of a dying loved one, an individual in a coma, or someone with a severe disability, but God is not hindered from accomplishing His work in a life just because nothing seems to be happening. The work of God is spiritual activity, often separated a long way from one’s cerebral, neurological, or muscular activity. Only eternity will reveal the work that was accomplished."
  • "God points to the peaceful attitude of suffering people to teach others about Himself. Not only is He teaching those we rub shoulders with every day, but He is also instructing the countless millions of angels and demons. The hosts in heaven stand amazed when they watch God sustain hurting people with His peace. It matters to God not only that you live, but how you live."
  • “God doesn’t give strength to face next year’s headaches or even next month’s heartaches. He won’t even loan you enough strength to face tomorrow. He only gives you and me strength to face today. To live one day at a time.” 

 Favorite quotes from the third part:

  • "Dying begins when a person rapidly and irreversibly deteriorates. This is a person for whom death is imminent, a person who is beyond reasonable hope of recovery. Such people have a right to not have death postponed. The line of distinction is not so much between life and death as it is between life and dying."
  • "What is extraordinary care for some people is plain ordinary care for others. Every person is different, each circumstance unique."
  • "We would communicate a far more compassionate message to those who are terminally ill and dying—and to be honest, even to those for whom dying is a long way off—if we focused our energies on helping people die right. To die right. That’s what it’s all about. Unfortunately, euthanasia has become a popular topic because people are led to believe that death by suicide or homicide is more dignified than dying naturally."

The book cover-to-cover is compelling and relevant. I highly recommend it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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