Kara Tippetts was a witness to life for the millions who witnessed her death. A wife and mother from Colorado, Kara passed away on Sunday, leaving behind a much-loved family and a remarkable memoir of courage and faith in the face of death.
Tippetts, 39, and her husband had just moved to the Centennial state with their four children to plant a church when she was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer. That was three years ago, and in the intervening time, Kara started and maintained a blog, Mundane Faithfulness, to chronicle her long journey through chemotherapy, caring for her children in the midst of hardship, and ultimately remaining to true to her faith while waiting for death.
She also authored a book, The Hardest Peace, to equip others experiencing terminal illness or walking alongside a terminal patient. And for Kara, everything came back to Christ. The faith she and her husband, Jason, shared in the Lord’s provision and plan saw them through to the end.
Outside of her online Christian following, few Americans would have heard Kara’s story were it not for Brittany Maynard. Last year, Maynard, a young woman from California who’d also been diagnosed with terminal cancer, made national headlines when she moved to Oregon seeking an assisted suicide.
Feeling led by God, Tippetts wrote Maynard an open letter defending the value of life in the face of suffering, and imploring her to reconsider. As someone well ahead of Maynard in a losing battle with cancer, Kara hoped her testimony that life and love are possible even in the shadow of death would dissuade the 29-year-old. But despite Tippett’s efforts, on November 1, Maynard kept her promise by ending her life with what she called “dignity.”
“I think people are afraid of the beauty of suffering,” said Kara in an interview with BreakPoint’s John Stonestreet shortly afterward. “I’m afraid of it! And yet I know there’s beauty there. I said that to my oldest daughter once: ‘I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I know your story is going to be made beautiful by walking me through my death.’”
The kind of suffering Tippetts experienced amid years of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments leaves many Americans wondering whether a fast, painless, and deliberate death isn’t better. But in the very crucible, Kara continued to insist that no pain is senseless, and that God works through even the worst days.
“We’ve bought the lie that suffering is a mistake,” she said, “but [suffering is the place] where you see how absolutely needy you are for Jesus, and that neediness is a good thing. The broken places in our life are the places that really draw us close to God.”
Not long before her death, Tippetts penned a blog entry in which she reflected on what it means to be a Christian at the end of life.
“My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping,” she confessed. “But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. … I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus — and He will provide.”
Her words so often echoed those of the Apostle Paul, who wrote that he rejoiced in his sufferings, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5).
For Kara Tippetts, living was Christ, and dying was gain (Philippians 1:21). She and her family modeled a courage our culture lacks as it seeks easy alternatives like physician-assisted suicide. The chronic terror Americans feel toward death is rivaled only by our determination that everything — even our own last breaths — will happen on our own terms. But Kara did more than testify to the value of life from conception to natural death. She bore witness to a hope beyond this life and, like Paul, fought the good fight, finished her race, and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Let’s pray for her family as they grieve, and that God grants us all such mundane faithfulness.
- Kara Tippetts, who wrote an open letter to Brittany Maynard, has died | Sara Pulliam Bailey | The Washington Post | March 22, 2015
- Mundane Faithfulness | MundaneFaithfulness.com
- In Death, a Witness to Life: Kara Tippetts (1976-2015)
- Life, Suffering, and Dignity | John Stonestreet | BreakPoint This Week | November 7, 2014