The Value of Life

Still

An article in the January 2006 Banner titled “Going to the Extreme” carried interviews with several people who engage in high-risk sports. They do it to get an adrenaline rush from pushing themselves to the limits. They point out several benefits of engaging in these activities:

  • encountering God’s creation in a unique way
  • developing the talents God has given
  • learning self-discipline
  • witnessing to unbelievers
  • giving glory to God

But what about the risk? we ask. May we take chances like that? Jesus told the devil we must not tempt God. Does that apply here? We can agree that endangering life and health without a good reason is wrong, but what is a good reason? Are the reasons these extreme sports enthusiasts list good enough to justify the risks they accept?

At one point in my ministry I worked with young men who were permanently impaired by traumatic brain injury resulting from motorcycle crashes. They had been skillful bikers and had enjoyed the adrenaline rush, but they paid a high price. Was it worth it?

The answer depends partly on what you think life with a disability is worth. Some people say they could never accept life with a major disability and would rather die than live with one. If they mean this, they can never accept the risk of engaging in high-risk sports unless they first fool themselves into thinking they’re too skillful ever to have a serious accident or that God will for some reason exempt them from injuries that others face.

We know, of course, that no one is so skillful as never to blunder and that God exempts no one from his law of probabilities. But if we’re convinced as Christians that God guides us all the time, that there are no “accidents,” then we’ll be convinced that life with a major disability is still worth living. We can engage in risky sports with full confidence that God calls us to this challenge despite the risk. And even if we do become disabled by an accident, our faith will still teach us that life is worth living because of the new opportunities we will have to serve God in new ways.

Our Disability Concerns newsletter Breaking Barriers recently shared the story of Chad Hoekstra, as recounted in the Northwest Iowa Review and with its permission. Chad broke his neck in an accidental fall 14 years ago when he was 8 years old, and he’s now a quadriplegic living full-time on a respirator. Chad says, “I am happy with my life. I have a great job. I am living at home. I am with my family. I have my friends close by. I may have physical disabilities, sure, but I am exactly the person God wanted me to be. I am making a difference in this world, and that’s all anybody can ask for.”

It may be hard to see how God can allow catastrophes like this to occur, if we think of them as separate from their total context in the big biblical picture ofcreation, fall, redemption, and renewal. But they cannot be separated that way. God holds himself accountable for all that happens, has happened, or will happen. This is what the cross and the empty tomb mean. Therefore, we can be sure that God will work out all things for our good, just as he promised (Rom. 8:28).   

About the Author

Rev. James Vanderlaan recently retired as the Christian Reformed Church’s director of Disability Concerns.

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