The idea of death
by Glen Doss, Major –
“Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55 NIV)
“The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else,” observes psychologist Ernest Becker in his Pulitzer Prize-winning volume The Denial of Death. Becker is on to something inasmuch as he speaks for the atheist; however, his statement does not ring true for one living in God.
I once was the former, haunted by the deaths of my comrades in war, driven mad by the apparent senselessness of life, dreading and fearing my own demise. Yet, later, still an atheist, I longed for death which I had come to view as merely the cessation of existence and hence an end to the painful emotional and spiritual trauma that so beset me. I saw death as a relief, like falling off into a deep, peaceful sleep, the kind from which you dislike being aroused when the bedside alarm goes off and, groaning, you reach for the snooze button. “Who would not want that?” I asked myself, when life as I knew it was one long, torturous experience.
As a Salvation Army officer I work often with the grieving and dying. Not long ago I received a call from a parishioner whose wife had long been with a brain tumor. Between sobs he told me he had learned she had just passed on. Half an hour later, my arm about his waist, I accompanied this gentleman into the room where his beloved wife’s body lay. As we knelt at her bedside, he took one of her hands and I took the other. Her body was already cold. As he gazed agonizingly down at her, he murmured, “So quiet. She’s so very quiet.”
He wept aloud as I replied, “It’s okay. It’s okay. She’s with the Lord now; she feels no more pain. You must have faith.” Reaching out, he gently ran the fingers of one hand along the contours of her face, outlining her cheeks and forehead.
“I’m so sorry, so very sorry,” he apologized over and over to her, as if he had somehow let her down.
“It’s okay,” I repeated. “She’s in a better place now.” I knew it and I meant it.
“I know,” he said. “I know. Thank God she’s not hurting anymore.” And he allowed himself to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
After I was saved, I viewed death in a whole new light, knowing that following the demise of the body, a loving God remains with his child who continues to live on, no longer encumbered with the broken frame lying outstretched in the grave. For God who works the miracle of generating life inside the mother’s womb also brings about eternal life for the one who loves him—he who works the first miracle can certainly accomplish the second.
Basking today in the joy of the Lord, I move between the world of the mortal and the immortal with ease, from the dedication of an infant to a graveside funeral service, experiencing no lessening of the joy in the Lord. God embraces both—the second celebration is as inspiring as the first—for there is no death for those in the Lord—for those who have received the gift of his joy, his perennial, all-fulfilling joy.
Dear Lord, thank you for your priceless gift of everlasting life. I pray that we never take this precious gift for granted and that we do not—via osmosis from the secular world all about us—come to adopt a cold, sterile, mistaken notion of death, so different from the account given in Scripture. For you, the Creator, made us for much more than this world. The proof, if we have a mind to look for it, is written within our own hearts where we know intuitively that we are linked with the divine (Eccl. 3:11; 1 John 5:10).
Dear God, humbly we kneel and honor you, gratefully acknowledging your miraculous gift of eternal life. In the beloved name of Christ our Savior I pray. Amen.