Has death lost its sting on you? – a brief summary of how we look at dying, and what we should know about it

Ecclesiastes 8
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deathbed

I’ve always found death both intriguing and terrifying.

Last night, I said goodbye to a woman on her deathbed. The scene was also funny because everyone knew what was happening, but no one wanted to talk about it. You really couldn’t have asked for a bigger elephant; it was practically bulging out of the windows, suffocating every family member present.

People don’t like to talk about death for several reasons: it’s the only end we know, we think it’s unfair, and we’re all afraid of it, ultimately.

Have you ever thought of what it will be like to die? Imagine yourself lying there, helpless as the crushing weight of your flesh stifles your ability to breathe, an inevitability you cannot fight any further, your consciousness gradually fading from this world, permanently.  Or perhaps you see yourself facing a hot gun, and in a second a rash of unbelievable pain thrusts through your chest, instantly sending you into inescapable darkness.

It’s inevitable.  The day could come after a long journey of labor and strife, and there will be a point when you finally let go of the boundary of time you’re allotted and understand that there isn’t much more to do, that there isn’t much more you can do. The day could also come suddenly; the possibility of an accident is something we don’t like thinking about, but much more so is the “preventable,” grief-inducing murder or massacre.

Yet we don’t talk about it.  We might discuss the passing of a deceased relative through tears, but only briefly out of respect, perhaps letting some of the details of a life or legacy bleed out every few years. Or we let the catastrophic deaths of hundreds or millions become a news reel or a moment in history, and we call it unfortunate and chalk it up to a unique act of evil.

An unfathomable “incident” (which carried on for years) that often recurs in my mind is the incredible horror of World War II.  The level of death in such a short period of time is terrible, yet to many this event is trivialized into pages of a textbook.  Understandably, many alive today cannot relate to this historical event, but does the magnitude of unwarranted death not disturb you? Any reflection on the topic should stir you, if not send you into a place of simultaneous grief and gratefulness for your own cushy life you lead.

We spend a lot of time as humans trying to enhance or prolong life, but death is out of our hands.  It always will be. If we were able to live forever, our desire to create and have any ambition would cease, for the need to sustain anything — society or self — out of fear of an end would not exist.

So we must accept this: that there is an end, and that we cannot control it, despite our greatest efforts.

I believe the fear of death that rests in humans stems from the prospect of losing our conscious thought permanently.  And this IS terrifying: imagine not existing!  Think about the idea that, one day, nothing! — just a black, intangible and inescapable void; no speaking, no movement, no thought.  I remember one day at around ten years old running into my mom’s room, face flooded with tears after pondering this possibility. The skeptic or humanist would believe this innate fear is why we’ve designed an afterlife in our minds and propagated the idea through our culture, that we might cope with this tragic end.

But it’s more likely, after some further meditation on the subject, that this fear and “coping” is innate, that a force beyond ourselves who recognizes our conscious thoughts might program this feeling within, so that one day, in the midst of wild fear and panic over what could ultimately happen, we would find hope in a God that would rescue us.

Ecclesiastes 8:8 says, “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death.” This verse isn’t entirely true. Let me briefly explain.

One man, and one man alone has this power, but He is also ultimately God.  If you’re afraid of death — and everyone is — there is a way to eradicate this fear through a simple hope in Jesus Christ, who has already done a work to save us from eternal death.  You’ve probably heard this said before in church or through people trying to talk to you with a perceived agenda, but it’s real: Jesus is Lord, and it is time for you to find this out before it is too late.

Am I still afraid to die? Of course.  But I can also say I have comfort in the hope that, after I die, I will live on. Do you have it?

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