Death is Coming
“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” ~ Fight Club
As human beings, there is one certainty in this life: it will end. Some lives sooner than others, some more quickly and painlessly than others, some with more tragedy or dignity than others. But, regardless of the details, everyone who ever lives will die. FACT.
Yet, what is the single thing people are most afraid of? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not heights, not public speaking, not flying, and not spiders or snakes. Give up? It’s death. Death scares us more than anything. What does it say about people when our number one fear is something as unavoidable and universally experienced as death? How does our fear of death affect our way of life?
Typically, we try to defend ourselves from the things we fear. For instance, a person can avoid heights, public speaking, spiders, and snakes. A person can even try to avoid certain means of dying. I, for example, could not imagine a worse fate than death by drowning – simply because I cannot bear the thought of being consciously aware of dying. Therefore, I do not push beyond my comfort zone when swimming or visiting the beach. In other cases, people have been known to avoid possible deadly situations by refusing to fly, refusing to smoke cigarettes, or in extreme cases, refusing to even step outside ones front door. Still, for as much control as you may try to have over how you die, no matter what you do, you cannot prevent death itself from occurring. Death comes for us all in due time.
Still, advances in medicine and lifestyle choices attempt to hold off death for as long as possible. We cling to life for every last breath (and dollar). So, what are we worried about, that we will go to such lengths to prevent death?
“Death is a worry of the living. The dead only worry about decay and necrophiliacs.” ~ Dogma
I think we are scared, because we are confused. If we believe the gospel and trust God’s word, then we know that Jesus died in order that we might live. And, we proclaim that at the Resurrection, Jesus defeated sin and death. Those truths confuse us. Why? Because we feel like it should say, ‘Jesus died and defeated death so that we wouldn’t have to.’ That would be GREAT news! Wouldn’t it? But, it doesn’t say that. Jesus death and resurrection does nothing to change the FACT that we will still die like every other person who’s ever walked this earth and every person who ever will.
So, what does Jesus change?
Jesus relieves us of the need to fear death. He gives us the hope and confidence to live in the face of impending, unavoidable, unpredictable death. He promises us that death is not the end of life. He promises us that death is not a journey we make alone. In Him, death is no longer that scary. Not being ruled by a fear of death, we are free to truly live. This is what is meant when Jesus and Paul talk about “abundant life.” They are referring to life when it is lived fully free from fear. Death is a reality, but it is not a reality that we must fear. Rather, it is a reality that must inspire us to live.
“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we’ll die.” ~ Dave Matthews Band
Read through the book of Ecclesiastes sometime. Sure, initially it seems like a real downer. But, what it really is is a reality check. It’s reminding us that we should enjoy this gift we have called life, because death comes to us sooner or later. So, don’t spend your precious time working to stave off death. Spend your time relishing in God’s good Creation, embracing those whom God has brought into your life, and celebrating the good gifts God has given you. Be adventurous; take risks. What’s the worst that could happen?
It is those who have not yet lived, who cannot bear the thought of dying. But, joyful are those who die in the midst of truly living.
P.S. While the preceding is written as an address to individuals, let it be understood that what is true for individuals also tends to be true for groups of individuals. Therefore, the suggestions I raise to “people” to resist being rule by a fear of death and instead embrace life, I also raise to churches, which are so often lulled into preservation-mode themselves, rendering their ministry “lifeless.”
Here is Matt’s bio: I strive to be an innovative pastor in love with Christ, the Church, and the richness of Christian tradition, but committed to challenging the Church to vocalize their faith and tradition in languages understood by a new generation of people. Follow me on twitter (@RevGork) or by subscribing to my blog: http://ramblingrev-mgorkos.blogspot.com/.