A few days ago I began seeing a flurry of posts from my high school group; it seems that many of my former classmates have died within a very short time. I didn’t really know them very well, but it certainly makes one stop and think. Their deaths had little in common: cancer, heart attack, stroke, long-term illness taking its toll.
One of my classmates asked for someone more “spiritual” to give their thoughts on the matter. I followed my gut reaction and responded. As I thought about my response, I realized it is equally appropriate for my blog. Why? Because many of us have also lost loved ones, particularly recently.
Personally, in the past month two precious people I’ve known have also died, one in Israel and one in America. My husband died three years after we married, and my best friend two months after he did.
When Rich and Judy died though, it really hit me hard. You see, it made me realize that I just might actually die! Don’t laugh at me, I’ve been convinced, and still partly am, that I would be here on earth when Jesus returns. His return is what I truly long for. But with those deaths, and those of precious others recently, I again realize that I really may die before Jesus returns.
Thinking about it, I realize it is not death I fear, so much as the process of dying. The indignity of death, the pain of disease, or possibly death from persecution. The latter really scares me. Would I be strong enough for that?
Psalm 23 has taken on a new reality for me. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Belonging to Jesus means I truly have nothing to fear. I need to cling to this truth. We are all entering that age group where we will see more and more of those we love, those we have known, and others we have heard of face their mortality. Each time that happens, we are pushed to reevaluate our own lives and legacy, our relationship with God, our beliefs regarding eternity, our personal fears. Death is not something they teach us about in grade school.
Another thing I’ve been learning is that death is not natural. Returning to the account about Adam and Eve in Eden, I am reminded over and over that death is the result of sin. We were not created to die. Our bodies feel and sense this, our spirits (deep down where many of us do not look) know this, and even in the lack of teaching about death, we are living in that mind-set. Who went to school and was told, “Hey you, someday you will die!”? I think unless you were a church-goer, no one was. When we are young we think we are invincible. I suppose that is why soldiers are so able to face the enemy. Bullets will hit everyone but me… tragically they find out sooner than most that they too are vulnerable.
My comfort in the face of this is that I KNOW God is good, I KNOW He loves not just me, but everyone. I KNOW my life is in HIS hands, and I KNOW my eternal destiny is secure because of what Jesus did for me on the cross—nothing I have done for myself. And I am learning to lean on Him in everything, through life and death. I still hope to be here when He returns, but if He has determined that I will die, then I hope and pray that however I die, it will be with no fear of evil, for He is with me.