THE continuing debate in the United States about the right to take one's own life--with or without assistance--and the adoption by the Dutch government of laws that permit assisted suicide illustrate the degree to which suicide has become accepted by society. Yet if we look at the teachings of the Bible, and specifically those of Christ Jesus, we find that death is never a friend.
In fact, the New Testament's message is quite the opposite. Through his life, Jesus showed us the love that God has for us no matter who we are. He taught that we are not meant for suffering, death, and mortality but for eternal life. In one place, John's Gospel reports Jesus as saying, ``God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
For some, everlasting life might seem to translate into everlasting misery! If we think that life is material and that everlasting life means we are doomed to stay within a mortal body for eternity, this would be a very grim prospect indeed.
But through his expression of Christ, the true idea of God and man, Jesus was promising something totally different. He proved that man is actually spiritual and inseparable from God, his divine source. Understanding this spiritual concept of man as the idea, or expression, of divine Life, which has no limitations and no end, begins to destroy suffering in our lives. This life is never trapped in incurable matter; it is found in Spirit, God, here and now. And the law of Spirit is the law of life and heal th here and now.
That spiritual life is not something that happens only after death--but is a law of health in people's lives--is made clear through Jesus' teachings. If death were a friend, why would Jesus have overcome death in his resurrection? And Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, refers to death as ``the last enemy that shall be destroyed." Not death, then, but God, divine Life, is our eternal friend.
These concepts may seem perfectly reasonable in times when everything is going all right. But what about when things look dark and ``eternity" seems to point only to interminable suffering? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, knew physical suffering as well as mental anguish. Yet in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she speaks not of these but of her discovery that real existence is spiritual and perfect. Her many years of active life after her discover y show that what God revealed to her was provable--it was in fact a Science.
These laws, explained in Christian Science --and the peace and perfection they bring--are not something we gain after death. They are here for you and me to demonstrate day by day in improved health and living. Speaking of our spirituality, Mrs. Eddy says in Science and Health: ``Death can never hasten this state of existence, for death must be overcome, not submitted to, before immortality appears."
While Christ Jesus' victory over death is unsurpassed, we each are able to win some skirmishes in the battle over ``the last enemy" through our willingness to resist anything that would tempt us into believing death is a solution for ourselves or for anyone.
I learned this many years ago when I was tempted by suicide. At the time, my career seemed about to be destroyed by a personnel situation that appeared impossible to resolve. I was in a depression so dark that I could think of nothing but the hopelessness of solving or escaping this problem. I prayed diligently, and while there were times of spiritual light, the clouds quickly returned, and with them my thoughts about suicide.
As a Christian, I was well aware that suicide was not in accord with Jesus' teachings. Yet that fact seemed powerless to break the attraction toward death that I was feeling. Then one day on this page of this newspaper, I read a poem called ``Psalmist." It spoke of God's goodness and care even in the darkest places, and it spoke so clearly to me that it literally saved my life.
At last I was consistently able to pray with some certainty that I was being heard by God. I remembered the many times God had helped me in the past--had been my best friend in innumerable tight spots. The desire to commit suicide began to lose its grip on me.
The final breakthrough came about one spring day when I was walking to my office. I had been praying with more hope than usual, and as I walked along, I just happened to see some lilacs on the buildings ahead. I can't explain it, but for that moment they were the most beautiful lilacs I had ever seen. The joy they brought to my heart was something beyond the plants themselves. It was Christ, lifting my thought above the problem to behold something of God's abundant outpouring of beauty and love for every one.
I was so sure of this that I vowed to myself that from that moment on, I would look each day for some evidence of God's love in my life. I always found something to be grateful for, however small. On that ladder of gratitude for God's presence, I climbed out of the pit I had been in, and I have never gone back. The personnel situation was resolved. But instead of destroying me or my career, what I learned spiritually from this ex-perience took me into even more satisfying work than before. I also found o nce again that the best friend anyone could ever want is omnipotent, omnipresent, and unlimited Love.
We each learn to know God in our own way and in our own time, but there is one thing we can be sure of: God's voice is always the voice of Love and it always leads us toward life and healing, never toward death. I know this because I listened to that voice, and it saved me.