WHERE I live, voters were recently asked to decide whether terminally ill patients should have the legal right to choose an early death by means of physician-aided suicide. The proposal, which failed to gain voters' approval, stirred me to think more deeply about the meaning of life. Is there ever a time when death or suicide is the only alternative?
This certainly isn't a new question. Even in Bible times people sometimes felt that death was desirable as a way to end their suffering. Jonah wished for death, and Elijah even went so far as to pray for God to end his life. As I thought about these Biblical figures, however, I realized that instead of granting the request for death, God answered their prayers by restoring them to greater usefulness. In the New Testament, Christ Jesus never suggested death as a response to human difficulties; rather, he raised the dead and dying to life and health. He taught his followers that the power of God brings life, not death.
In more modern times, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, succinctly expressed God's life-giving relationship to man in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes: "God, divine good, does not kill a man in order to give him eternal Life, for God alone is man's life.
Today, however, with so much of society depending, it seems, on anything but God for life and health, it is widely assumed that any disease that has no known medical cure is therefore incurable. This misguided conclusion is not accurate. It ignores decades of documented proof of spiritual healing. Worse still, it drives desperate people to conclude that only death will bring them release from suffering.
But when we're willing to turn to the power of God, divine Love, we find that there is a better way. Mrs. Eddy points out in Science and Health: "When it is learned that disease cannot destroy life, and that mortals are not saved from sin or sickness by death, this understanding will quicken into newness of life. It will master either a desire to die or a dread of the grave, and thus destroy the great fear that besets mortal existence.
My own family has seen the effects of this greater understanding of man's life as wholly spiritual. When my maternal grandmother was a young woman with four children, she was told that she had only a short time to live. Her younger sister's poor eyesight had been healed though Christian Science prayer, so in her extremity she also turned to Christian Science for help. Not only was she completely healed through prayer within a short time, but she went on to enjoy an active life that spanned more than one hundred years. Another member of the family was also healed through Christian Science after a doctor said he couldn't operate because she wouldn't live through the operation.
Such experiences--and these are not isolated events--show that disease is not a fixed and unchangeable reality.
While it's true that healing through prayer does not always come immediately, a deeper understanding of God's love and care for His creation offers hope for anyone who has been told that his or her own condition or that of a loved one is incurable. God has not abandoned us, for we are His beloved children. And we can rest assured that today, as in Jesus' time, when God is rightly understood as the only Life, the sick are healed, the suffering comforted. Because man's life is spiritual, it is eternal and does not result in death. This inspired vision brings hope and gives new meaning to the Psalmist's words "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord."