Death is a funny thing because it is one of the most pervasive things in life and yet we attempt to ignore it as much as we can. On the last page of Alain deBotton’s great book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work he says the reason why we throw ourselves into our work is to distract us from our impending death. He thinks that “death should find us as we are building up our matchstick protests against its waves” (326).
Why is death so scary that we would do anything to ignore it? I think there are four reasons:
- Death brings the loss of control. In our last moments we know that we aren’t in control and any myth of control over our lives we had when we were young and vital is now gone.
- Death brings a feeling of incompleteness and failure. We get to the end of our lives knowing that no matter how we have lived our lives, there were things we didn’t do or conversations that we didn’t have that we should have. There were also those times that we have done or said things that we regret. These things give us a sense of failure and incompleteness.
- Death brings separation from our loved ones. Unless we believe in an afterlife death will permanently separate us from those we love.
- Death leads to a realm of unfamiliarity. Unless we have assurance of heaven (or hell) the realm of death is shrouded in secrecy. We do not know what our postmortem fate will be, that is, assuming there is life beyond the grave.
Humans have been struggling with the concept of death and our mortality since Adam was around. In fact, the French philosopher Luc Ferry, writes in his book A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living that all philosophy and philosophical systems are projects of salvation that are trying to save us from our own mortality. It is interesting that, as an atheist, Ferry would then say this about Christianity:
The Christian response to mortality, for believers at least, is without question the most ‘effective’ of all responses: it would seem to be the only version of salvation that enables us not only to transcend the fear of death, but also to beat death itself. And by doing so in terms of individual identity, rather than anonymity or abstraction, it seems to be the only version that offers a truly definitive victory of personal immortality over our condition as mortals. Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living, 90
Ferry says that Christianity has the most effective response to death. When Jesus died and rose again we believe that Jesus in effect “killed” death. Therefore because of the gospel we no longer fear death. As Hebrews 2:14-15 says:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
In Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection God destroyed the grip of death on us and the result is that we can no longer fear death.
The question is have you put your faith in Jesus? If you have death has lost it’s sting!
If you would like to come and hear what else I have to say about how Jesus destroys our fear of death please come to my church Resolved this Sunday. The details are here.
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