The Terribleness of Death

I spoke to my brother the other day on the phone. He seemed a bit down and I asked him how he was. He told me that the sister of his son’s friend had just died that day of cancer. She was 16 years old.

I did not know this girl, or her family. But after I hung up the phone, I thought about it. I thought about her and her family. I thought about my brother and his family. 

I thought of how terrible it is to have a life snuffed out  in the blossom of youth, a whole life ahead of her and all of the joys and sorrows that would have gone along with that life.

 I thought of the terrible, unfair nature of life and how it rips the guts out of people. I thought about the finality of it all. I thought about how this girl’s family will cope with the loss of their baby. To me, 16 is still a baby.

I couldn’t imagine how terrible it must be for them.  But I know that it is.

I have another friend, that I met through blogging, who lost her son not all that long ago in a wreck on an icy road. I can see her tears and pain in the words that she wrote and that she still writes today. She is a strong woman of faith. But the pain is there. Of course it is. Time will ease it, sometimes. But it will never go away. Not in this lifetime.

Another friend just lost her sister in-law (age 26) a few days ago in an off road vehicle accident that almost killed her brother as well. In the blink of an eye a mother of two little ones, a wife, daughter, and sister, is gone. 

Death is not a “passing”.  It is death.  It is the end of being. It is final. There is not an automatic segway into some etherial Shangri-la. When you die, you are dead. You no longer ‘are’. I emphasize this fact because of all the “spitituality” that is floating around out there in our biblically illiterate society. We fear death, so we make it palatable. We turn it into something that we can handle.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t handle it.

Death is not something that I can soften, or paint with cheery colors, or laugh off with fatalism.

Death is our certain outcome and there is a date on the calender with our name in the square. This life passes us by like a snap of the fingers and our day will be here.

I went to a funeral of a co-worker several years ago and the minister doing the funeral service said that he didn’t know why we had to die. I looked around casually to see if anyone was as astounded by that remark as I was. If anyone was, I couldn’t tell.  “The wages of sin is death.” I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible somewhere (more than once).

Because of the first Adam and his rebellion, we too have that rebellious nature. We too, want to ‘do it ourselves’…call the shots…put ourselves first…ignore God’s law. We don’t love God and our neighbors as ourselves.  We just don’t want to. 

God promised Adam that “on the day that you sin (eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) you surely will die.”

That was the day that we stopped trusting in God. We are all complicit. There is not a one of us who desires to listen to God and to obey…otherwise we would.

But God loves us anyway. He made us… we are His creation. He does not desire that our sin and our resulting death have the last word. He wants us to live forever with Him!

So He did something about it. He sent the second Adam, Jesus Christ…”just as sin entered the world through one man, so does one man’s act of righteousness lead to aquittal and life for all people.” (Romans 5:18 paraphrased)

Jesus had to die, too. But His death on that bloody cross was for us. To save us from eternal condemnation and eternal death and eternal seperation from God.

By faith, God makes us righteous and grants us salvation. He does this in our baptisms, where He gives us the forgiveness of our sins, and the Holy Spirit. He does this for us in His preached Word, and in His Holy Supper. He wants us to have life forever, the way He originally intended that we have it. So He gives it to us again through faith, because of Jesus Christ.

God has given you life to begin with, and He surely can give it to you again when you need it again. His favorite thing to do is to pull people up from the bottom of graves.

He loves you. He forgives you ALL your sins. He has promised to make you His child in baptism and by faith. All so that the terribleness of death can no longer follow us into His Kingdom.

Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death, and the devil…FOR YOU!

 

That, my friend, is the Good News.  Amen.

_

______________________________________________________________

Do you believe it?  If you do…then you’ve got it!

But don’t take that Word of promise for granted.  There are other words out there also, that would rip you away from that belief and bring eternal death back into your future.

Find a church where the promises of God are read and preached, and where His Sacraments are offered freely in accordance with those promises.

Do you think you’re going to hear this stuff at the mall, or the Dodger game?

You need to be kept in faith. There is a long race to be run, you know.

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11 Responses

  1. “Death is not a “passing”. It is death. It is the end of being. It is final. There is not an automatic segway into some etherial Shangri-la. When you die, you are dead. You no longer ‘are’.”

    I disagree. Death is a passing from this physical existence to a spiritual one. I have heard it said that we are spiritual creatures living in a physical body, which is (I think) more accurate than suggesting we are physical beings that have spiritual experiences.

    I also believe that “passing on” is a beautiful thing…or at least it can be. When we have faith and believe that Jesus is who He says He is, we have something wonderful to look forward to after this physical existence. Our society has shied away from allowing death to be a part of our life (as if ignoring it, it will go away or somehow make things better/more tolerable). The reality is we all die, the good news is that life continues.
    ~mp:)

  2. MistiPearl,

    I believe the scriptures say that we will be resurrected on the last Day. The scriptures also say that Jesus told the thief on the cross that “today you will be with me in paradise.”

    Do we have to wait until then? Do we go to Heaven for judgement right away after our death?
    Are we “asleep” in the grave (for a thousand years, or whenever the last Day is) but we won’t know it?

    I’m not sure. The scriptues can be taken either way.

    But (for me anyway), I don’t see anything there about a spiritual existence aside from being resurrected by God.

    “The reality is we all die, the good news is that life continues.”

    In Christ, Good News – out of Christ…maybe not so hot. (Oops…maybe really hot!)

  3. Correct. Christianity is very unique among world religions in denying the idea of a spirit that lives on without the body. In Christianity, the spirit and body are inseparable, thus the doctrine of resurrection. All Christians; Protestant and Catholic alike, agree on this.

    In fact, the idea of a “spirit that lives on” was behind a number of heresies that were stamped out in the early church, including docetism.

  4. Joshua Allen,

    Thanks for those comments. You made it much more clear than I ever could have.

    – Steve

  5. (Amended)

    It’s interesting how many beliefs seek to offer a ‘bliss’ beyond the material, an escape from what Plato and others deemed the ‘prison’ of the body, but the reality is far more immediate.

    Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus because death was indeed a hideous tyranny against the very animation God had initiated in making the first of us to dwell in fellowship with Him as human, naked and unashamed on this very earth. The curse of our current estate has broken such life, but the great truth, first evidenced in Christ’s resurrection and drawing close in the day that is fast approaching, is that all creation will be called forth to a new realm of redemption when Christ returns, and then, and only then, will eternal life truly begin, and death, the last enemy, become forever vanquished.

  6. Howard,

    Jesus weaping at Lazarus’ death is a great example of how devastating death is for all those it touches.

    I know that you also speak from personal experience, having lost your beloved wife not all that many years ago.

    As you rightly say, when Christ does return, the promise of New Life will be brought to fruition.

    Thanks, Howard.

  7. Uumm….2 Cor. 5:6-8 (paraphrasing) We are confident knowing that while we are in the body we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight) and willing rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord). There is no time when we are absent from the body and absent from the Lord; John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him SHOULD NOT PERISH, but have everlasting life..” (sorry, not shouting, just underscoring). There are different and specific words in the bible for body, soul and spirit. Just like there are 3 forms of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are one, but they are each distinct.

  8. The 2 Corinthians passage encompasses the breadth of our current alienation – Paul’s desire, for himself and us, to be present with Christ,
    but note another key theme here – the relinquishing of the ‘tent’ that is our present bodies (weak and perishing in sin), to inherent the ‘house’ of our new bodies (made alive by the heavenly man) when all creation is united to Christ. This entirely weaves into Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 8. The lie of gnostic deliverance is always departure, escape, the TRUTH of Christianity is Christ is reconciling this world – “All things” to Himself.

    I know that my redeemer lives, and on the last day, shall stand on the earth, and though worms destroy this body, yet in this, my flesh, I shall see God.

  9. I think there are several ways I’ve been coping with it.
    1.) There has been no shortage of people wanting to be supportive and mostly they have been supportive and at least the attitude was right, when they were not really being that helpful. Assume the best. Let them know how to help and not to help. Accept your own way of coping and other people’s way of coping. Don’t blame anyone, including yourself.
    2.) You know that the pain will not always be this acute. Time won’t heal all wounds, but they will grow at least a thin scab.
    3.) I accepted it right away. There was nothing that could have been done. No stages for me.
    4.) Blogging helps. You can say what you want to say, when and how you want to say. You can work on putting the best construction on it. You don’t always want to be drawn out. You want to draw yourself out in your own time.
    Comments thoughtful people make on-line are generally well considered and you can read them, when you want, when you are ready, not when someone else wants to say something.
    5.) My baby has been robbed of his life, it seems, but at least he died innocently and we talk about death and eternity continuously. So what is new, here?– It hit us.
    And as I said to someone: Why NOT us. Stuff is happening all the time. We don’t know for a minute what will happen to you or to me or exactly why. We walk in faith and that’s it.
    6.) There always is a big hole in hearts of human beings. This hole has to be filled with God or by other gods, money, addictions, or whatever we try to come up with. Of course, all other gods will fail in the long run. When you have suffered such a big loss, this hole is even biggerk . You can’t step lightly over it.
    7.) I think of this hole quite a bit. It needs filling with something. It may be a gaping crater now. You keep shoveling things into it to keep it full, but it keeps draining away. The hole opens up again and again and you keep shoveling in. It is a permanent make work project.
    8.) So what do you shovel into this great pit in your life that losses have left? Generally, I try to keep myself busy with good things: working, travelling, visiting people, reading books. But, of course, we would be nowhere without our faith and exercising ourselves in it. It sounds like a do-it-yourself project, but without actually reading, praying, singing, being with other Christians you won’t be anywhere. God works through means. Use them. Use them lots. Use them every day. Keep shoveling. Keep your eyes on the living Christ.

    Good stuff by the posters above. Thanks. Bless all. Thanks for always being there, Steve.

    (Sorry, this isn’t better. I’m just on lunch break. Got to go.)

  10. Brigitte,

    Thank you for those great words.

    I know that you have helped me cope with the losses in my own life.

    You are a real inspiration and I am thankful that you are my sister in Christ.

    Better? It was just what I needed to hear.

    I pray that the Lord will continue to comfort you in your grief and that He will keep using you as you help others in their life’s journey.

    You are a real blessing, my friend.

    – Steve

  11. (Well, sometimes it just comes one way or another, and sometimes it does not.)

    Please, find here, the video of an original song written and performed by our Pastor’s daughter in memory of my son Stefan. She has spent the year touring with Crew Ministries and posted her song on Youtube. It’s title is “Child of God”. You may wish to leave her an encouraging comment.

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