RELIGION: Facing Death

The prospect of one’s death is very frightening to many people.  After Dr. George H. Peterson was informed of his own terminal condition, he wrote, “I stand at death’s door.  Countless millions have stood at this same place…. The records of those who are suddenly faced with the prospect of dying are often remarkably similar.  At first there is a confusion of despair and unbelief mingled with a hope that somehow a mistake has been made, or that by some miracle or scientific discovery the process of dying may be reversed.  Along with the black despair there comes a mind-shaking fear because of the unknown.  Is there something beyond?  Is there just the blackness of nothingness as some would have us believe?…. The darkness of long nights emphasizes the distresses of the body and mind.  It is the time for cursing the fate that has befallen…. It is a time for wishing for the end of the suffering, yet fearing to die.  The clutch of the cold hand of fear never relaxes.”

Such is the dread of many people when confronted with end of life, but the Apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Thessalonica, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

What is the basis for such hope even in the face of death?

Paul answers that question in the next verse: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).   The hope that a Christian has is that since Jesus did not stay dead, then He won’t let anyone who belongs to Him remain stuck in death.  Jesus will bring with Him to eternal life all who trust in Him!

Peter Marshall, former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, tells how a mother he knew shared this good news with her son:

“In a home of which I know, a little boy, the only son, was ill with an incurable disease….  Small as he was, he began to understand the meaning of the term death, and he too knew he was to die.  One day…he asked the question weighing on his childish heart, ‘Mama, what is it like to die?  Mama, does it hurt?’

“Quick tears sprang to her eyes and she fled to the kitchen, supposedly to tend to something on the stove.  She knew it was a question with deep significance.  She knew it must be answered satisfactorily.  So she leaned for an instant against the smooth surface and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would keep her from breaking down before the boy and that she would be able to tell him the answer; the Lord did tell her.  Immediately she knew how to explain it to him.

“‘Kenneth,’ she said to her son, ‘do you remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you were too tired even to undress, and you’d tumble into your mother’s bed and fall asleep.  That was not your bed, it was not where you belonged.  You would only stay there a little while.  Much to your surprise you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room.  You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you.  Your father had come with big strong arms and carried you away.

“‘Kenneth, darling, death is just like that.  We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in the other room – our room where we belong, because the Lord Jesus loved us and died for us.’

“The lad’s shining face looking up into hers told her that the point had gone home and there would be no more fear, only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in heaven.  He never questioned again.  Several weeks later he fell asleep just as she had said, and the Heavenly Father’s big, strong arms carried him to his own room.”

As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).   

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Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at: tomtripp@frontiernet.net