What if you are a Christian, who desires to live according to the Word of God, the Bible, and you find out that the path that you have walked or the way you walked the path, such as the path of IVF or Vital Organ Donation, turns out to not be supported by the Word of God? What if someone, you know and love, has been unable to get pregnant and has been told that IVF is her most likely way to have a child? What if a loved one is sick unto death and is told by medical doctors that their only hope is a vital organ transplant?
As I delve into these topics, I do so knowing that some close to us, in our own churches and families, have gone down some of these technological paths. If we discover that they have somehow used technology in an unethical way, what I write may be perceived as an attack or as being judgmental. We need to be careful. Those who have travelled down such paths have not done so on a whim. It has been on the heels of great suffering and hardship, such as the distress of waiting years for children, or having a precious child become seriously ill, near to death. Likely much prayer as gone up to God. These are not small things. Those of us who have, so far, been spared such suffering, to a certain extent, may not appreciate the power of the promise of these technologies and may find it easier to warn about the dangers.
The Bible frequently warns against dangerous paths and we can find some things in the Bible difficult to hear, but the Bible also offers grace and comfort to the sick, the needy and the suffering. Somehow, through the difficult struggles of life God brings us peace and comfort. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5) Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for thy rod and thy staff shall comfort and protect me. (Psalm 23) Count it all joy when you fall into various trial, knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. (James 1)
Some excerpts from an essay by David B Biebel called The Riddle of Suffering may be helpful. One of David’s children died from a genetic disease. The disease David faced is different but I suspect the depth of the struggle is similar. He says,
On a purely human level, to experience genetic disease [or other serious medical life and death issues] in one’s children is to be immersed in a boiling cauldron of almost pure pain, with a generous helping of surprise, confusion, disappointment, anger, and guilt thrown in….In the beginning, this experience may act like glue, uniting a couple or family….In the end, it often becomes a wedge, driving people apart….People need help…. First, we must keep our focus on the people involved….people who once had [or have] hopes and dreams much like our own – people who need understanding, support, encouragement, and compassion. Compassion entails holding their pain in our hearts. Even when there is nothing we can do in terms of ‘treatment’, our hearts can share their pain.
He suggests that we consider what Jesus would do?
He would validate the pain, for he was a man of sorrows….He would weep with those who weep….He would comfort those who mourn by helping them, for he is ‘Immanuel, God with us’….He would carry the pain: a sorrow shared is a sorrow diminished….He would bind up the hurt, fill the void with himself, and nurture the hurting child in us toward maturity, showing us how to use the pain for good, as he did….He would not scold, judge, give a lot of advice, or offer pious platitudes or pat answers to questions nobody is asking….
In David’s case, because Jesus was the good shepherd, He went out into the wilderness and found this lost lamb, picked him up, and carried him home. David says,
Had I known ahead of time the agony that genetic illness could bring us, I would have preferred to avoid it. So I understand why people who approach this issue on a purely human level using secular values and reasoning may choose to kill unborn, genetically deficient children in an effort to avoid the kind of pain I have just described.
So too, we should understand how our fellow Christians can travel down paths that may concern us. David says,
there is a more than the purely human dimension of life….Would I have rather my children had not been born? Absolutely not….Looking back, I can see that the experience with all its wondering and wandering has made me: stronger because it showed me my weakness, wiser because it showed the foolishness of centring my life on anything other than God, more dependent because as the master of my own destiny I utterly failed, it has made me closer to God…
In his conclusion, David points out that
life is a riddle, which God wants me to experience, but not necessarily solve….By keeping us in our riddle, God is helping us to learn about walking by faith and not by sight.
Yes, life is a riddle, which God wants us to experience but not necessarily solve, but we are to follow Jesus, “the way the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus came to testify of the truth. (John 18:37) Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free. (John 8:32) The truth is not something to fear or to avoid. Somehow, the truth, even when it is hard to hear, is good for us.
So, if what you read on this Blog rings true, and is hard to hear, take what you have learned and go to the Lord, in prayer, and listen to what He has to say in His word, the Bible, and ask Him to lead you, to help you and do what He directs you to do.
For those of us compelled to share the concerns associated with these technologies, let us not forget the people affected. Let us attempt to walk in their shoes. Let us not be proud and think, some how, if we had to walk the path that the Lord had them walk, that we would have naturally done the right thing, that is the thing we think agrees with the word of the Lord. Another essay in the same book on Genetic Ethics, suggest that we try to follow the commitment “to promote life, not death; health, not sickness, to suffer and counsel with those who suffer, to care compassionately when one cannot cure, and to be part of God’s presence in the valley of the shadow of death….in short to search for shalom.” As a person who naturally is quick to tell others how I believe things ought to be, I pray that God will help me to respond with this commitment. Also, we consider truth, I pray that we can compassionately approach those who are affected..
 David B. Biebel, The Riddle of Suffering, in Genetic Ethics: Do the Ends Justify the Genes ed. by John F. Kilner et al. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1997. p3-6.
 Hessel Bouma, III, PhD, The Seach for Shalom in Genetic Ethics: Do the Ends Justify the Genes ed. by John F. Kilner et al. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1997. p21