One of the stories in the news yesterday was the death of Brittany Maynard. She was the young woman who earlier this year had been diagnosed with a very aggressive brain cancer. As her cancer advanced she moved to Oregon with the intent of using means that are legal in that state to end her life in the time and manner of her own choosing, rather than face death in the increasing grip of her illness, and the very real pain and suffering that would come with it. Maynard's plans were first in the news about three weeks ago and over the weekend she followed through on them.
Maynard had a terrible illness, one that would quickly end a life that just one year ago seemed to be so full of potential and promise. She knew that cancer would bring pain and suffering not just to her, but also to those who loved her and would be with her through to her life's end. She chose to use the option that is called "death with dignity."
In one article online Maynard posted this in her final message on her Facebook page: "The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!"
According to the report I read online from CNN, her last words were: "It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all."
I have been reading and pondering these stories of Brittany Maynard at the same time I have been reading and pondering the Bible passage I am preaching from this week. I have been preaching through First Peter and this Sunday will be the conclusion, 1 Peter 5:6-14. As I reflect on the intersection of this news story and this scripture two verses stand out. The first is verse 8, where Peter writes,
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
And secondly are Peter's closing words, in verse 14:
"Peace to all of you who are in Christ."
The story of the last year of the life of Brittany Maynard is a tragic one. A young woman, newly married and with what appeared to be so much to look forward to. All of that potential taken by cancer, and for what purpose? That is a question that I can’t answer. I am a pastor and believe that God has purposes in all things, but there are times when I can't clearly determine what they are. This is one of those times.
Peter's words in verse 8 remind me that in places where we can't clearly see what God is up to we can be easily led astray by God's enemy. The shadows hide danger that is very real. It is easy for us to read Maynard's final words and to think that they are words of comfort and peace to those who cared for her, and that they offer parting wisdom to the world. While they may sound nice to our ears and perhaps bring a sense of order to our minds they offer no comfort to our souls. They are words that are rooted in the belief that each of us is the center of our own world. And this is the basic lie that the person Peter calls "your adversary the devil" desperately wants us to believe.
As his letter reaches the end Peter has given his readers a final warning, but he doesn’t just end there. His last words bring us back to the truth. They bring us to God's truth. In the end, peace is to be found in Christ. Lasting peace is found in Christ, and nowhere else.
We can have peace in Christ when He is our center. It is a peace we can know now, no matter what the circumstances of our life might be at the moment, and it is a peace that will be everlasting. May His peace be the center of your life. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.