On Death

In Christian RealTalk, Tough Questions by Antwuan Malone

I venture into writing this blog with a fair amount of caution. Death, for some of you, is a topic way too close for any sort of comfort. You may have  recently lost a parent, close friend, child, or spouse and are still emotionally reeling. Or, maybe your loved one is walking down the last days of their lives, with death looming over them like a storm cloud. In either case, it’s uncomfortable to think about. Despite knowing how inevitable death is, it still feels wrong. It feels off, and out of harmony. Disruptive. Unintended. Imposed.

Death has a way of scratching the “justice” itch. It feels so unfair. It looks for who to blame, for who could participate in or allow such a destructive, heartbreaking thing to ever be. And for many of you, God will be the person staring down your extended pointer finger. He’s the one you’ll blame, with his “love” and “sovereignty.” Where is he? Where was he? Why is He so content with doing nothing? For death to be as constant and consistent as it is on God’s watch, it’s hard to resist calling Him negligent. Or incompetent. And if neither of those, then He must simply be apathetic or indifferent. And that simply won’t do for those looking for God to, in effect, put his money where is “loving” mouth is.

I, unfortunately, do not intend to defend God’s title of “Love” in this post. Hence my caution.

No, I mean to offer a short treatise on the prospect of death. Perhaps, even, of how we should view death. And we can begin by simply asking, Are you ready to die?

Are You Ready To Die?

Take twenty seconds before you answer the question. Put away the ideas you were trained to believe about dying, and survey your true feelings. Are you really, right now, ready to die?

Let’s be careful here. By “ready,” I don’t mean to plant (or even encourage) any sort of suicidal thoughts. There is most certainly much to live for despite the darkest of moments we might find ourselves in. Your life is highly valuable and certainly worth every minute of it. To end one’s own life is a tragedy all its own. A tragedy that should be avoided at all costs.

No, by “ready” I suppose I’m asking you to contemplate what you really think about death. I’m wondering if, for you, death still “stings” despite the rhetorical implication death lost such sting in 1 Corinthians 15:55 — if, for you, the “sting” of death is still quite potent and poisonous, even victorious. I’m asking how hard it is for you to sing “Victory is mine!” while burying loved ones, reminiscing on sentimental trinkets of those lost, or worse, watching one fade slowly away, waiting for death at any moment.

I’m often at an emotional impasse when I meet someone facing death. Because, if I’m honest, what I have to say is not very comforting. The truth is, we’re all waiting on death to find us. And there’s no “convenient” time to die. I mean, when our child dies, it feels just as wrong as when our parents or spouse dies. Combine that with the idea that God may not view “life” the way we do, that our limited perspective may cause us to overvalue our time on Earth and you don’t find much comfort. At least not on the surface.

I’d imagine God views death differently than we do. From His eternal view, our 70 years on earth is but a fleeting moment — a short window of time subject to the chaos of sin and it’s unruly, indiscriminate effects. The “victory” over death Jesus accomplished is realized in that death no longer ushers us into eternal separation like we deserve. Rather, for those choosing to love God, it is a stairway upward toward an elevated, harmonic existence. A harmony intended from the beginning. A harmony we all yearn for.

Perhaps it is that yearning that makes death feel so wrong and out of place.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that we sometimes shake our fists at God as though he owes us life. When in reality, death is what what we deserve. Despite the relationships we’ve made and the good we’ve done, we don’t deserve life. And yet, through God’s grace, He freely grants us life, both now in order to fulfill His purposes, and eternally.

Once we arrive to the mental place where we see the gift of life as an opportunity to spread the love of God, we will opened up the pathway to cheapening death and thus removing its potency. Consequently, I think our “readiness” would be wrapped up in whether God’s done what he wants to do with my life. We will then see that death is not an injustice. Quite the contrary. And because of Christ, we get the last laugh. What was meant for our destruction is actually the catalyst to our glorification.

For some, there is no solace in any of that, and their never will be. We just want our loved ones back. I get it.

It’s no wonder… Jesus wept.

Are your ready for death (your own or your loved ones’)?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.