The Grip of Death

November 17, 2013 No Comments »
The Grip of Death

By Steven Clark Goad

 

“If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come” (Job 14:14).

 

Georgia Eugenia died at the age of 43. She was a wonderful Christian wife and mother. Her life was devoted to sharing Christ with all those under her influence. She was too young to waste away three years with cancer. 

My grief was intense for a lad of 16. This dear feminine disciple was my mother. And for years I had a lover’s quarrel with God for not answering my prayer to extend her life. Along the way I discovered my arms are too short to box with the Father of lights. 

 

Death Isn’t Funny

How humorists can joke about death is hard to fathom. Samuel French (often attributed to Woody Allen) makes light of it by saying, “I’m not afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” I think a lot of us feel the same way. Death is not intended as a punch line for some comic. It’s a constant reminder of our mortality. It goads us to relish the gift of life and embrace the opportunities of every day. We must not forget it. 

For years I have conducted funerals as a part of my ministry responsibilities. It’s never easy. What does one say over the body of another who has taken her life by suicide? How do you cheer the spirit of a mother who has lost a child in infancy? Satan lied to mother Eve in the garden by inserting the word “not” into the Father’s warning. “You shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). We have been dying ever since. What can we make of this death dilemma we face?

 

Its Origin

Someone said to me recently, “I don’t want to die. I didn’t ask to come into this world, but now that I’m here, I like it. Why must I die?” Paul answers that troubling question in these words: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). We grow old, lose our hair, lose our teeth, and become stooped all because of that rebellion long ago. No one is exempt.

Death need not be a negative concept. It is part of the cycle of life. Seedtime and harvest involve death and resurrection. Jesus took from us the need to shudder at the thought of dying. Contentment is great gain for those who live godly lives. And the hope of a forever life helps us keep a positive smile on our faces. “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man” (1 Corinthians 15:21).

 

Don’t Be Fearful

David knew the mercy and the severity of God. Yet he boldly stated, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4). When I think about dying, I envision stepping into a room full of angels. They greet me as one who has inherited eternal life promised to me by my elder brother, Jesus. It’s a glorious thought and removes from me the specter of dying. If I die in the Lord, hallelujah anyway. And if I die outside of Christ, I deserve what I get, for the God of all the earth will do right.

There are those among us who fear life more than death. They are devotees of euthanasia. They fear the ravages of disease more than death itself. They will do what is required to avoid a lengthy matriculation to the grave. The executive said to me seriously, “I want to die young enough that I will look good in my casket.” 

 

The Inevitability of It

“Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, New Living Translation). Whether or not we are comfortable with the thought, we are all on probation. Surely the angels had theirs. We have ours. 

Each of us is accountable for our choices. Every decision we make is predicated either on honoring God or serving self. As citizens are accountable to the law of the land, every soul is answerable to God for the choices made along the way. 

Death and taxes are tossed into the mix with a smirk. We may avoid taxes if we can find enough loopholes. We can even break the law and evade them. But we cannot bypass the day we cross over to the other side. So rather than curse the darkness over it, we may happily accept it as part of God’s eternal plan for those he loves dearly. 

 

The Gift of Life

We all arrived naked and helpless. All that we were in our physical bodies, and all that we would achieve in those bodies, were gifts from the Father. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:7, NIV). We can’t take a single stick with us when we breathe our last. And the winner in life is not the person who dies with the most toys. We arrive paupers and we depart paupers. 

Yet as disciples of Jesus we are the most gifted of all creation. No palace on this earth could ever compare with the glories of everlasting life. The habitation of Heaven will make all the wonders of this physical world pale in comparison. 

 

The Promise

Our Father is a God of his Word. He doesn’t lie. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). There will be no obituaries to read. There will be no more mothers dying only to leave grieving children behind. The pain and heartbreaks of life will not even be a faint memory. How marvelous is that promise?

Paul speaks to this promise of everlasting life beyond the grave. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1). I can see his house with a special room for me with my name over the door. How marvelous Heaven will be. 

 

His in Life, His in Death

I can’t be sure of others, but I’ve read the last chapter of the last book of the Bible and I realize I am on a winning team. The game has been fixed in favor of those who relish living in the grace of Almighty God. The Lord knows whose are his. “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8). Children of God, with every breath they take, know that this life is temporary and eternity is forever. It’s an awesome concept. 

If we truly love God, then the words of Paul ring true every time we recall them: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). What little successes we have in this earthly existence will seem utterly insignificant when we witness the gain that is ours in death. 

Oh, I almost forgot. Christians never see each other for the last time. So even those tearful sad farewells from kith and kin will not rob us of our great expectations in Christ our Lord.

Steven Clark Goad is a minister and freelance writer in Blythe, California. 

 

Thinking about Death, Grief, and God

Devotions by Dead People: Secrets of Life from Beyond the Grave

by Lynn Lusby Pratt

Item 23326

(Standard Publishing, 2004)

 

When God & Grief Meet: True Stories of Comfort and Courage 

by Lynn Eib 

(Tyndale House, 2009)

 

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow 

by Nancy Guthrie 

(Tyndale House, 2009)

 

Experiencing Grief 

by H. Norman Wright 

(B & H Publishing Group, 2004)

 

When the Hurt Runs Deep: Healing and Hope for Life’s Desperate Moments 

by Kay Arthur 

(Doubleday Religious, 2012)

 

Grieving God’s Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing 

by Margaret Brownley 

(Thomas Nelson, 2012)

 

Reflections of a Grieving Spouse: The Unexpected Journey from Loss to Renewed Hope 

by H. Norman Wright 

(Harvest House Publishers, 2009)

 

For Grieving Children

It’s Okay to Cry: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Through the Losses of Life (Workbook)

by H. Norman Wright 

(Doubleday Religious, 2004)

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