Should We Put a Loved One Out of Her Misery?

Imagine a scenario where a loved one is suffering from an incurable condition and unimaginable pain.  And yet, antiquated laws have prevented her from finding peace once and for all. Shouldn’t they be changed to allow a medical professional to compassionately put her out of her misery?

This is the argument posed by physician-assisted suicide (PAS) advocates, and it has successfully changed numerous laws in the United States. But is death the only way to end pain? And do laws which allow PAS affect others in unexpected ways as well? Furthermore, could the legalization of PAS be abused?

First, let’s examine the facts. PAS is legal in many westernized countries today, such as Canada, the U.K., and Japan. But the country with the most PAS data is the Netherlands–one of the first countries to legalize the practice. Shockingly, PAS accounts for over four percent of all deaths in the Netherlands today, and the percentage is probably larger, since many such deaths go unreported. Furthermore, many euthanized were either unaware or incompetent to make this decision for themselves. Even children as young as twelve can be euthanized under the law. People can also be euthanized for depression in the Netherlands; eighty-three people were put to death for psychiatric conditions in 2017. Because of these facts, many Dutch citizens worry about being euthanized against their wishes. In fact, it is estimated that 10,000 Dutch citizens carry a “do not euthanize me” card just in case they become incapacitated.

Sadly, the United States is following in Holland’s footsteps. Already ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized the practice of PAS and the number of states which will legalize PAS in the future is expected to grow.

But what are the risks of legalizing PAS? Physician bias is always an issue. One only needs to find one doctor who is willing to approve nearly any request for euthanasia, and numerous unneeded deaths will be the result. Furthermore, as the price of health care increases, the possibility for coercion grows. Families will decide, often for economic reasons, that it’s best to end a loved one’s life rather than pay for long-term treatments which might result in financial collapse.

Is PAS even needed to control pain? One of the positive movements in recent decades has been the growth of the hospice movement and its effort to provide palliative pain care. The truth is that most pain conditions caused by life-threatening diseases can be alleviated using analgesic medications, including opioids. Indeed, proper hospice care has been able to extend life in many cases, even above the expected longevity of undergoing additional treatment.

Ultimately, as Christians, we need to understand how PAS does, or does not, fit into God’s plan for our lives. And as with any moral issue, Gods’ Word has to be our final guide.

One of the problems with today’s society is that there is no perceived value in suffering. Everything is solved with a pill. But God’s Word tells us otherwise. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul reflects on how the Lord told him that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul writes, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Our illnesses teach us about the kind of humility we need in order to have an honest relationship with the living God.

We must leave the power of life and death in the Lord’s hands. After his entire family was killed, Job wrote, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” We need to leave our mortality in the hands of God because we have a bright and shining future waiting for us – even after we die. At the end of time, “[God] will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (NALC) in Warrenton, VA. He also teaches at St. Paul Lutheran Seminary and the North American Lutheran Seminary.

Does Doctrine Matter?

Does doctrine matter?  That is a question that has been asked again and again in the Church.  Sometimes, the question is asked because doctrine seems so dry and boring.  It seems so much like academic hair splitting.   A second reason is because doctrine divides.   During the 17th Century, central Europe endured the 30 Years War, leading to the death of up to one-third of the population of Germany.  That war was driven by doctrinal differences between Catholics, Lutherans, and the Reformed. 

When the war was over, a movement arose called Pietism.  Many saw it as a Second Reformation.  Pietism emphasized many things that have become part of our common heritage as Christians.  The man considered the founder of Pietism, Philip Jacob Spener, made six proposals to improve the life of the Church.  One of them was this:

We must beware how we conduct ourselves in religious controversies.

Being at war with one another, either literally or verbally, does little to spread the Gospel.  Non-believers are turned away from the Church when they see how divided we are.  In particular, when they perceive that Christians are lacking in love for one another, they wonder about the truth of the Gospel.  After all, didn’t Jesus teach that the greatest commandment was to love God and one another?

That is all true, but it’s not so easy to dismiss doctrine.  In the Lutheran Church of the 17th Century there was another movement that emphasized doctrine.  It is known today as Lutheran Orthodoxy.  They spent a great amount of time disputing with Catholics and the Reformed over proper theology.  At its best, Orthodoxy was not obsessed with doctrine for its own sake, as if one is saved by having the right answers to abstract theological questions.  Rather, Orthodoxy understood that the purpose of doctrine is to preserve the pure preaching of God’s Word and the proper administration of the Sacraments. 

Why does this matter?  Because it is through the Word and the Sacraments that God gives us forgiveness, life and salvation.  For instance, there is the question, “Is the Bible the Word of God?”  You might be surprised to hear that question.  Both the Pietists and the Orthodox held the Bible in high regard.  In fact, Jacob Spener’s complaint was that there wasn’t enough Bible reading in the Church, particularly among the laity.  Meanwhile, Catholics, the Reformed, and Lutherans all agreed that the Bible was the Word of God.  They only disagreed on how it should be interpreted.

That is not the case today.  In the past year, I have heard an ELCA pastor declare that the Bible is not the Word of God.  Instead, he said that Jesus is the only Word of God.  The Bible, he said, is a Word about God, but it is not the Word of God.  The reason he did this is that he finds parts of the Bible to be offensive, outmoded, and oppressive. Rather than turning to the Bible on questions of faith and life, he would prefer that we ask ourselves what we think the “real Jesus” would do.  In doing this, he drives a wedge between the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus that we supposedly “know in our hearts.”

What does Lutheran doctrine teach?  It certainly does teach that Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God.  However, it also teaches that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  It is in and through the Written Word that we encounter the Incarnate Word.  In fact, Lutheran doctrine teaches that the Word of God comes to us in three forms:  1) the Incarnate Word, 2) the Written Word, and finally 3) the Preached and Sacramental Word. 

This is where doctrine becomes practical, and not only practical, but a matter of life and death.  Think of the question of the forgiveness of sins.  If your sins are forgiven, you have life and salvation.  If your sins are not forgiven, you will be condemned eternally.  So, how do you know your sins are forgiven?   How can you be sure?  The answer that Lutheran doctrine gives is that you will know for sure when a Preacher announces to you, “Your sins are forgiven.”  You will also know for sure when you are Baptized and when you receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. 

“But wait a second,” you might say, “how do I know that Preaching, Baptism and Communion do these things?”  The answer is very important.  You know because it says so in the Bible.  Can a human preacher really announce the forgiveness of my sins?  Yes! Go read John 20: 22-23 and Matthew 16:18.   Does Baptism really save me?  Yes!  Go read Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21.  Do I really receive forgiveness, life and salvation in Holy Communion?  Yes!  Go read Matthew 26:27-28. 

It all depends on what we believe about the Bible.  If it is God’s Word, then we can be comforted with the knowledge that our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.  If it is only a human word, we are left to figure it out for ourselves.  Lutheran doctrine tells you that you can be confident that the Bible is GOD’S WORD.  As the beloved children’s songs says:

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the BIBLE tells me so.

May God give all of us the childlike faith to believe those simple words.

In Christ,

Pastor David Charlton

Devotion for Tuesday, October 9, 2018

“The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples have seen His glory.” (Psalm 97:5-6)


One day the whole earth will pass away in a moment. The Lord God who created all things is unfolding His plan. We are a part of that plan. Yes, we are infinitely small, but the Lord has also called each one of us by name. He desires that we live in His righteousness and be guided by the timeless principles He has given. Come then and walk in the way of the Lord and live in His presence.

Lord, I have much to learn, for this world continues to affect my thinking and acting. Lead me through Your Word to learn again how to live. Lift me up from the path of destruction and teach me to live. May I join my brothers and sisters in declaring Your righteousness with my life and all that I do, reflecting Your grace and mercy. Guide me, Lord Jesus, to walk Your way upon this earth.

Holy Spirit, minister to me that I may more fully learn this day how to walk in this place and time. Remind me of the things You have taught me and teach me more that I may increase in becoming like Christ. Help me now and always to be aware of Your presence and walk according to Your guidance. May I humbly walk in righteousness this day, doing what is pleasing in the Father’s sight. Amen.

Devotion for Monday, October 8, 2018

“Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about. His lightnings lit up the world; The earth saw and trembled.” (Psalm 97:3-4)


Moderns discount the Lord as if He were a play toy. The Lord is the One who made everything and the earth listens to His voice. Come into His presence and know the One who was before all things. Fear the Lord but do not be frightened. Know that the God of all creation has called you into His loving presence. He desires that you be with Him now and always, and know His goodness.

Lord, help me through the malaise of this world which is forever shouting all kinds of contradictory things. Lead me to humbly hold fast to the goodness You have made possible that I would now and always live into the life to which You have called me through Your Word. Guide me, O Lord, in the way I should live that I may not be as those in this age who scoff at You.

Lord Jesus, apart from Your grace it would not be possible. You have come into the world to lead the way for as many as would believe that together we can stand in Your presence eternally. Lift me up and teach me respect, honor and humility that I may learn to become as You are. Guide me through Your Word that I would learn each day things that are useful in this walk. Amen.

Devotion for Thursday, November 30, 2017

“Arouse Yourself to help me, and see!  You, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to punish all the nations; do not be gracious to any who are treacherous in iniquity.  They return at evening, they howl like a dog, and go around the city.  Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; words are in their lips, for, they say, “Who hears?”  (Psalm 59:5-7)

Keep your eyes upon the Lord and His ways.  Walk in the counsel of the Lord and know that those who do wickedness will come to their own wicked end.  Do not cast your pearls before swine.  Come into the Lord’s presence and walk humbly before Your God.  Know that the Lord, who sees all, will keep you in His ways and will speak His Word to your ears.

Lord, all around are those who mock You and do not look to You for their sustenance.  Guide me, O Lord, in the way I should go that I would walk in that way.  Help me now and always to seek You alone in all things knowing that You have the words of eternal life.  Let my lips speak Your goodness and my feet walk in Your ways.  You will bring recompense in due season to all who mock You.

Lord Jesus, You took upon Yourself all of the mockery of the nations.  Guide me in Your ways, O Lord, and keep me close to Your teaching.  Let me not hear the ways of the wicked, but instead listen and heed Your eternal way of truth.  May I now and always be in keeping with what You teach me, with Your Word on my lips, meditating on the good portion You have shared by grace.  Amen.

Devotion for Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.  Deliver me from those who do iniquity and save me from men of bloodshed.”  (Psalm 59:1-2)

Sometimes this world is troublesome.  There are difficulties each day.  But the Lord, who knows all things, has us in His hands.  He knows the plans He has for us.  Yes, we have our difficulties, but to Him we should turn in every time of trouble.  It may seem dark at times, but He is mighty to save and will watch over us all.  The Deliverer has come and in Him all who trust will be rescued.

Lord, I hear these words, but in times of trouble I am often overwhelmed in the moment.  Teach my heart to trust.  Teach me to learn from You that I may walk through every moment in trust and confidence in the faith You have given me.  Guide me, O Lord, that I may be led by Your mighty hand to become what you have in mind.  Lead me through every valley of the shadow of death.

Lord Jesus, You know adversity and the plotting of evil doers.  Guide me in the way I need to go each day.  Teach me to lean on You through Your Word and by prayer that I may forever hold fast to the truth You have revealed for the ages.  Lead me, my Savior, today that I may walk humbly with You and know the goodness You have in store for those who walk by faith.  Amen.

Devotion for Thursday, November 16, 2017

“In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  (Psalm 56:10-11)

What can anyone do to you in the face of Almighty God who holds all things in His hand.  Yes, there are storms in this world, but learn from Jesus to be calm in the midst of every storm.  Though they kill you, yet will you live.  Trouble is for a time, but being in the truth of the Lord is forever.  Do not be swayed by temporary things, but live in the eternal truth of the Lord.

Lord, You know the times and seasons.  You know all that is needed.  Guide me according to Your never-changing Word to abide in You and You in me that I would walk humbly in all of Your ways.  Help me now and always to seek Your will in all things and know that You alone are to be thanked, praised and worshiped.  Guide me now and always in Your Holy Spirit.

Lord and Savior of all, You have come to lead the way for as many as would follow You.  Help me now and always to seek the Father’s will and walk humbly where You lead.  You have made clear the way I should go and You have given the direction – to hold Your hand – so I need not worry about what any day will bring.  Lead me, O Lord, that I may follow where You lead.  Amen.

Devotion for Wednesday, November 15, 2017

“You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle.  Are they not in Your book?  Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; this I know, that God is for me.”  (Psalm 56:8-9)

The Lord knows the days of our life.  He knows what we need long before we ask.  He allows all the things that happen to occur for His purposes.  Trusting in the Lord is the result of faith and knowing that all things are in His hands is the truth.  Come then to the Lord and be not afraid.

Lord, all around me is the evidence of a world that is not quite right.  Help me, I pray, to see through the fog of this world the truth of Your Word.  Guide me according to Your never-failing principles to walk humbly on the earth knowing that You alone are God of all.  Your book is written and in it is that page onto which You have written me.  Guide me to live as You would have me live.

Lord Jesus, You are the author and finisher of the faith for all of those who come to You.  Lead me to follow and open my ears to speak as You speak that I would be guided by the truth of eternity.  Though all around me is chaos, settle my heart to simply trust in the grace You provide knowing that only in You is there hope and a future.  May I truly follow You all the days of my life.  Amen.

Devotion for Tuesday, November 14, 2017

“They attack, they lurk, they watch my steps, as they have waited to take my life.  Because of wickedness, cast them forth, in anger put down the peoples, O God!”  (Psalm 56:6-7)

All around are those who mean harm.  Yes, there are wicked people in the guise of everyday normal people.  Do not fear and do not fret over them.  Their time is short but the Word of the Lord is forever.  Look to the Lord, be guided by His Spirit and know the truth He revealed once for all.  The peoples will be put down and the Lord lifted up.  Keep your eyes upon the Lord.

Lord, You know the times and events and the ways of people.  Guide me, O Lord, that I would walk in the ways You have established now and forever.  Keep me from the tangles of the wicked ones who plot to lie, cheat, steal and destroy.  Lead me in the way of life that I would go there.  Help me now and always to be one who studies Your Word to see the simplicity and goodness of Your commands.

Lord Jesus, without You it would be impossible, but with You it is possible.  You are the One who makes my salvation possible.  Lead me away from the foolish thinking of this age and into the truth You have revealed for all.  Grow my faith to become action, firmly witnessing Your goodness in the world and guiding my footsteps to be pleasing to the Father.  Amen.

Devotion for Monday, November 13, 2017

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can mere man do to me?  All day long they distort my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil.”  (Psalm 56:4-5)

Word twisting is nothing new.  It has been done from the beginning.  Pay attention to what the Lord has said, straight up, and praise Him as you have been created to praise.  Do not mind the ones who distort the truth, but live in the truth of the Word which has been revealed and know that God is good and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Think on God’s goodness.

Lord, all around me are those who seek my acceptance of them and their ways.  Lead me, O Lord, in the way I should go that I would hold fast to Your Word of truth knowing that in You alone is there hope and a future.  Let my lips praise You all the day long and I will forever look only to You as the source of life.  Shield my ears from the false ways of the wicked ones of this world that I may hold fast to Your Word.

Lord Jesus, You have come that I may have life and have it abundantly.  My mind is affected by the twisted words of this world.  Clear my mind to hear the straight truth of Your Word which is from everlasting.  Help me keep things simple and listen to what You have to say.  You are the author and finisher of my faith.  Lead me in the way I should go and I will follow You.  Amen.