The story is not always the story.
National and international news outlets are focusing this morning on the way a Dutch teenager’s death was erroneously reported this week. Noa Pothoven’s death was described as the result of legal euthanasia in the Netherlands. Her family then had to clarify that her death was actually caused by starvation.
However, the emphasis should be less on the reporting of her death than on the fact that she chose to die.
Noa Pothoven was sexually assaulted at the age of eleven, then raped by two men three years later. She developed post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and eating disorders.
As her health continued to deteriorate, she posted on Instagram: “After years of battling and fighting, I am drained. I have quit eating and drinking for a while now, and after many discussions and evaluations, it was decided to let me go because my suffering is unbearable.”
She was being fed through a tube before, as the BBC reports, “her family accepted her wish to die, so they stopped forcing her to stay alive and instead used palliative care to make her final days as peaceful and bearable as possible.”
A “coffin-size” euthanasia pod
“Sarco” is a suicide chamber described by Fast Company as “a coffin-size pod you get into in order to painlessly and peacefully kill yourself on purpose.” The chamber rapidly replaces the oxygen in the pod with nitrogen gas, causing what the article describes as a “quick, painless” death.
Physician-assisted suicide is legally available to one in five Americans this morning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in America in 2017, claiming more than forty-seven thousand lives. It was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of ten and thirty-four.
There were more than twice as many suicides in the US as there were homicides.
In a post-Christian society that rejects objective truth and meaning, many are struggling to find purpose in their lives. Opioid addiction, substance abuse rates, the rise of sexually transmitted diseases, and the escalating plague of pornography all point to a broken culture.
For a path forward, let’s look backward. Seventy-five years, to be precise.
“You are the glory of our republic.”
The world has focused this week on the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day. As I noted yesterday, the invasion of Normandy was the largest air, land, and sea operation ever undertaken. It was deeply moving to see so many veterans honored by world leaders.
“You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live,” President Trump told them. “You’re the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
But the sacrifice of our brave soldiers did not end on D-Day.
As a result of the invasion, more than two million Allied troops were able to enter France by the end of August. Over that time, American armies suffered 124,394 casualties, of whom 20,688 were killed. Allied air forces lost 16,714 airmen; tank losses have been estimated at around four thousand.
Each of the men who fought and died was serving a higher purpose than himself.
“To die is gain.”
By the next D-Day anniversary milestone, all those who fought at Normandy will likely be dead. But the cause for which they sacrificed so much will be just as relevant as when they risked their lives for it.
The meaning of death is that it brings life. When death ends life, it is tragic. When it leads to life for others on earth and for believers in heaven, it is triumphant.
That’s why Paul could testify: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
It’s why, on October 16, 1555, as Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were being burned at the stake for their Protestant beliefs, Latimer could encourage Ridley: “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.”
And they did.
Are you “fit to live”?
Frederick Buechner noted that Jesus came to a planet “where every last man, woman, and child is living on death row.” If our Lord’s return tarries, each of us will face death one day.
The question is not whether we will die, but why.
Glorifying God in heaven is the greatest cause on earth. Are you living for your Lord or for yourself? To love your neighbors or to persuade them to love you?
Five years before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. stated: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
Are you “fit to live” today?
NOTE: If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The number is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. Their website is www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.