Sunday, September 05, 2021

Ten Things About Death For Which I Am Grateful

I had the inestimable privilege of being asked to preach the gospel at a pair of relatively recent memorial services for Christian friends and family members.

Our regular readers will have probably figured out by now that gospel preaching is not exactly my forte; I am not an evangelist either by gift or disposition. All the same, when you have people you love in the audience who don’t know the Lord, you take every opportunity he hands you, and I took these.

We had a great time. Seems odd to put it that way, but it’s true.

When Christians Say Goodbye

When Christians say goodbye to our fellow believers, however temporarily, we are not unaware that death is a horror, an invader, a thief and a perpetual reminder of the fallen state of mankind, though it may seem that way to unsaved onlookers. At the same time, we are equally aware that in the case of the believer, death’s victory is only an appearance; Christ has conquered it. He is alive forevermore, and he has the keys of Death and Hades. If we weep, it is in the knowledge that one day every tear will be wiped away, death will be no more, and mourning and pain will be things of the past.

So we say goodbye differently than unbelievers. While they can only speak with grim determination about their dead living on in their hearts, we can speak with full confidence about our dead living on ... period. Apart from the dimming of our own faculties, our loved ones remain as real to us in their temporary absence as in life. I think of my father, for example, not as someone who will live again one day, but as someone who lives even now. He will rise again, sure, but he has never stopped living.

A Father Rich in Mercy

Our Father is rich in mercy. The sting of death itself is tempered with it. As I edge closer to the end of this life myself — or perhaps as I become more conscious of doing what we are all perpetually engaged in every minute — I find myself grateful for things I never thought about when I was younger:

  • I am grateful to live at a time in history when God’s revelation on the subject of death is complete. Hezekiah wrote a great song with lots of praise in it, but his hope was not the Christian hope.
  • I am grateful for the chance to end well; to fight the good fight, to finish the course, to keep the faith. I may not make the best possible use of that opportunity, but the hope exists and the help is available.
  • I am grateful this run is finite. We don’t have to keep it up forever. In a fallen world, that would be a horrible prospect, with major failure all but guaranteed.
  • I am grateful believers who end their run poorly lose reward but not relationship. Despite my aspirations and best efforts, I can never rule out the possibility I may be one of them.
  • I am grateful for death’s inevitability. It reminds me to get my house in order.
  • I am grateful for death’s unexpectedness. It reminds me to keep my house in order.
  • I am grateful for a memory that works well enough to appreciate those I love in their absence, but not so well that their absence stings at every moment or incapacitates indefinitely.
  • I am grateful for lives well lived, and for the opportunity to celebrate them together.
  • I am grateful for the opportunity to show others the reality of our faith, even if it costs us. A faith that gave us a free pass on sorrow would be enjoyable for us, but useless to a needy world. Sometimes unbelievers need to see us stagger from life’s blows. That way when we get back up it means something.

Most of all, I am grateful Christ has been there first.

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