Euthanasia was the solution for our family dog yesterday. She had been getting steadily worse over the past three weeks and there was no improvement even with antibiotics. The vet phoned to prod us to action; the situation was hopeless, and Lassie was beginning to suffer.
The current rise in interest and political lobbying for human euthanasia may have some core similarity to our dog’s situation. I don’t mean about the suffering, because that’s a given. I’m wondering, rather, about that daunting word ‘hopeless’ that has such a dark and hollow ring to it. Is it more an issue of hopeless suffering that begs a solution than just the suffering alone?
We’ve all suffered to some extent. There have been the scrapes and bruises of life, the physical as well as the mental and emotional; there are the deeper injuries of broken relationships and interpersonal conflict. The cancers and dementias and chronic deteriorations take their toll and reveal how frail we really are for a species who thinks we have so much in our power. But is it the pain itself that defines the worst of suffering, or is it the hopelessness we fear?
Could it be that when we can envision no good purpose to our pain that our suffering becomes insufferable?
Read that again. Let that thought mull in the mind for a moment. The bottomless shaft of pain is not really the worst of the suffering, is it? It is the failure of the situation to embody any sort of good purpose. We want to know we are intrinsically bound to a higher purpose, a good that transcends the pain we are feeling now.
And if we can’t find that higher purpose, we’ll do all sorts of things to move that thought out of our consciousness: we’ll destroy ourselves if we have to, but we cannot endure the thought of hopelessness.
So when God, in His Word, the Bible, communicates the main theme of hope, it seems like that is about the most relevant piece of information our species could be given, doesn’t it? Listen:
Ephesians 2:12 “Remember… you were without hope and without God in the world.”
Colossians 1:27 “God has chosen to make known…this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Hebrews 6:13-19 “God made his promise…’I will surely bless you’… (and) we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Yes, there is and always will be on this aching old planet more suffering than we can see a purpose for. (Some people will use this as their main rationale to discount God’s existence). But in the midst of it all, God has made a promise to bless us. ‘Surely’, He says. ‘I will surely bless you.’ In other words, the pain may be chronic and far-reaching in this life, but this life is not all there is. There is a life fuller, more expansive, eternal and good for every person on this planet, just waiting to be grasped. There is even a good purpose to our suffering which, while we may not see or realize it in the here and now, will be revealed in that eternal life. That’s what generations of people who have opted for faith in Christ have chosen to believe.
It’s a narrow doorway to hope – we can only access it by entrusting ourselves to Jesus’ work on the cross for us. But it’s the most spacious and expansive place awaiting us on the other side. That’s what hope from hopelessness is all about.