Two things about death that, I believe conjures, festers, fosters, and instigates fear, are the HOW and WHEN…sometimes to the extent of paralysis when it comes to LIVING.
If we have a foundational understanding that every single person on this earth is born and dies, then the question of WHO is already established: Everyone…WE will all die…
So, I guess that also answers the WHAT question…
WHERE also has relevance, but the HOW and WHEN are where we can get really stuck, especially as it pertains to faith and perspective, and it’s what I want to hash out here a bit.
“She was too young…he had so much going for him…the other person was drunk…it happened in battle…they were in an accident…he was stillborn…she took her own life…it happened in a shooting…it was a hate crime…he had a disease…there were complications…she was old…”
We live and die surrounded by circumstance. Depending on where we are born and to whom we are born, our lives look differently. Nationality, race, affluence, power, culture, disease, religion, poverty, acceptance, love, neglect, genetics, charity, generosity…so many things influence our lives, especially the way we think and filter the day-to-day, our interactions with God, self, and others. These circumstances can also influence the way we die, unfortunately. As a stereotype, especially in the First World, a pain-free life and death, preferably in our sleep and around the age of 90, with plenty of money to leave to the next generation, is the ideal or dream, almost to the point of entitlement…as if we actually know what is best, almost as if we believe we are invincible…as if we can stave off anything, namely, death and dying, because we have certain inalienable rights?
This is really hard to swallow…the part where we aren’t in control of everything.
The book of Job is quite telling when it comes to the battle over our lives. The ugly depths to which the Enemy will go to deter our eyes, hearts, faith, trust, perspective, and relationship with a good, loving God, further festering the doubt planted in the Garden, is quite obscene, really. In the Garden the Enemy tempted us to question whether God was telling us the truth about dying at all. In Job, the Devil approaches God about mankind, launching first an attack on Job’s (or our) possessions or the things we think we own or can control, and the second part of the attack in the form of trying to steal Job’s health. Some might wonder if God was playing roulette with Job and his life, but I wonder if rather God had an eternal perspective, saw a bigger picture, knew something the Devil, and Job, didn’t, and so wasn’t swayed by the Devil’s tactics…kind of like where it says, “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross…”
When Noah was in the hospital I had some serious heart-to-heart conversations with God. To state it mildly, I was totally disenchanted with our circumstances. My theology was rocked since I had faith as big as a mustard seed, even bigger, yet our son was sick, dying in a hospital, and God wasn’t answering my prayers the way I had worded them. Perhaps He wasn’t catching my drift?
Perhaps I wasn’t catching His?
And after I shouted to God, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LOSE A SON?!” a quiet came over me I had never known. I sat on the floor of the hallway of Children’s Hospital and suddenly realized, God did, indeed, know what it felt like…and my perspective began to shift:
- What if God’s Word is true and my theology is off?
- What if He does know the number of our days, and Noah’s days are shorter than what I want?
- What if He is still good even in the midst of our pain?
- What if “death” isn’t what I think it is and being in God’s presence really is just that amazing?
- What if following and trusting God means giving up my entitled mentality?
Please hear me on this: Even though God’s perspective on death is likely different from ours, the pain of losing someone we love still hurts like a mother. Jesus even bawled His head off when He heard the news of His friend, Lazarus’ death. Loss hurts. Period. But this post is to start talking about the HOW and WHEN.
A few days before my Mom died she called me close to tell me something. She wanted to be sure I heard her clearly, “Boo Boo, it’s not cancer, it’s not chemo, it’s not the Devil…it’s not the food I’ve eaten or radiation…God, and God alone, decides WHEN we die…because if it’s any of those other things, then the emphasis or focus is on it.” (emphasis my own on “when”…)
Years before she reminded me of this, as I finally sat still on that hospital floor, I knew this was true…this topic of WHEN, and even the HOW. Watching my strong Mom’s body weaken under the effects of a disease rocked my heart, for sure, as did watching Noah quickly ail, but all the more reinforced in my heart that Jesus’ emphasis on living and loving well TODAY is what we’ve been called to and all the fear, worry, and attempts to ward off death would only steal time from life and living.
Lots more to come…