Monday, March 30, 2020

Quality of life. . .

My mother is almost 90 and has a number of serious health issues.  Truth told some days it is an effort to get up, make her way to the kitchen, and sit for most of the daylight hours.  When I talk to her, almost daily, she often wonders why the Lord has kept her alive for so long and what purpose there is in her continuing to live.  She is a Christian and believes that life is God's domain but it does not prevent her from speaking and praying from her pain, frustration, and fears.  We all know this because it happens to all of us from time to time and for others more often.

Add to this is the constant barrage of concerns fueled by a world which does not believe in God, does not believe in the sacredness of life, and does not believe that God has a purpose for anything.  Instead, the world judges life by its quality.  Quality of life has become the buzz word of our age.  Not only the aged and infirm but youth and adults daily must wrestle with the question of whether or not their lives are worth living.  No generation was faced with such a question like our own age has been.  More than anything else, this question has been the reason for the dramatic rise in assisted suicide laws that allow folks the opportunity to make a legal choice not available to anyone ever before -- should I end my life with the assist of drugs that would allow me a painless death.

Before I go on I cannot but point out the strange paradox of those who insist that capital punishment has no moral basis and that no drugs can assure a safe and painless death for those thus condemned.  Odd, isn't it, that something we insist cannot be guaranteed to the prisoner on death row can be routinely offered to those who wish an assist in their decision to end their lives.  Ah, but I digress.

According to one online source, Quality of life, the degree to which an individual is healthy, comfortable, and able to participate in or enjoy life events. The term quality of life is inherently ambiguous, as it can refer both to the experience an individual has of his or her own life and to the living conditions in which individuals find themselves. Hence, quality of life is highly subjective. And that IS the problem.  Quality of life is highly subjective and captive to the whims of the moment.  My point is that quality of life is not and cannot be used in a Christian context.  To use this term is to subject life itself to our judgment, specifically to the most subjective judgment of  all -- the individual who is going through struggles, afflictions, or pain that makes his or her judgment anything but objective.

As I listen to my mother, I remind her of what she already knows and of the counsel her own pastor gives her regularly.  Our lives have meaning and value not because we or anyone else has rendered that judgment but because of God's grace in giving our lives their beginning, sustaining our lives according to His will and purpose, redeeming our lives with the holy and precious blood of His only-begotten Son, and delivering our lives from the end of death and the grave by our Lord's mighty resurrection from the dead.  While it is tempting for us to delve into the realm of speculation (God must have a purpose for your life of He would not keep you alive), the Christian meets God not on the ground of speculation but upon the firm ground of His Word and promises.  She knows this.  I know this.  We both need to hear it again from time to time -- especially when the troubles, trials, and temptations of this life make us question God and even disregard what God has made abundantly clear to us through His work of salvation and redemption in Christ, His Son.

Pastors, like sons, must learn to listen.  We cannot afford to cut off the complaint of those who find themselves in such a position.  But neither can we leave them without the clear and abiding counsel of God's Word.  The Lord knows the weakness of our hearts and the afflictions we bear and until He delivers us fully and finally from the burdens that fill our lives with pain and sorrow, He has given us the promise of His Word as our comfort, His presence with us in the day of trouble, and His grace sufficient to carry us through this suffering even as it will carry us through death to everlasting life.

The Psalms are the first place we go for consolation.  After all, David was not without his own complaints to the Lord and his own insistence that his life was no longer a joy but a burden he was not sure was worth bearing.  But read through the laments of David and you find yourselves led past the trials and troubles to the end, into the presence of God and the sufficiency of His grace that will not fail His people.  You will look in vain to find Scriptural support for the way we banter about the term quality of life and decide if our lives are worth living.  But you cannot avoid the great comfort of God for those whose lives are filled with pain, sorrow, doubt, and despair.  Not in the least is the fact that God has judged our lives as priceless because of the priceless currency of His Son whom He gave to save us and who willingly suffered all things for us that we might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom here and forevermore in heaven.  Judge your life not by the quality of the moment but by the value the Lord has attached to it with the salvation freely given to you but at the cost of Jesus' agony and death on the cross.  This is what I say to and pray with my mother as a son who loves her and this is what I say to and pray with the people in my care as a pastor who loves his people.

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