Heart of the Matter: Death
Having looked into the tearful eyes of parents whose children have abandoned the Faith, I have learned there are a million miles between our children “going through the motions” in reference to their spiritual lives versus our children possessing hearts that dictate their actions. In this column, I plan to share with you what I hope to instill in the hearts of my own children and those whom I love.
She lived to be over one hundred, and to this day I can still remember the smell of her perfume, lotion, and the stale smell of tobacco when she kissed my cheek. We called her Granny Morgan, and she was my great-grandmother. She was one of those unforgettable characters who loved life and loved to tell stories. She was also the first person who gave me my first-hand experience with death. I was only seven years old when she died—but those memories linger still.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of walking this Earth for more than a couple of decades has experienced the pain of death. It is the one thing we can all count on. Death is not prejudiced or biased; it affects the rich and poor, black and white, religious and non-believers. Oftentimes death causes so much emotional strain that it can stress our relationship with God. We question why He would allow someone close to us to die.
Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about death.
Death is part of the circle of life. In Ecclesiastes, we read that there is a time to be born and a time to die (3:2). Death was brought into the world by the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:17), and has continued ever since (1 Corinthians 15:21). Having spent several years working in a hospital, I have probably witnessed hundreds of people slipping into eternity. It’s a very odd thing to talk to someone and then realize in the next minute they are gone. Just think, every year that passes holds the anniversary day of your death. It’s one of the few things in the world that money, influence, or fame cannot change—it is inevitable.
But I want to make sure you always keep a proper perspective of death. For you see, death is not something to be scared of or try to avoid. In fact, for those who have obeyed God, death is the beginning of a reward (2 Timothy 4:7-8). In the medical profession, death is often viewed as a failure, but the truth is that for Christians, death is victory. Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi and declared, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Never forget that this loss is ultimately a “gain.” During your lifetime, you will have the opportunity to attend the funerals of individuals who are Christians and those who are not. One of the things I hope you recognize is the difference in the atmosphere—at Christian funerals there is almost a joy in the air, as everyone knows where that person will spend eternity. However, the death of a non-Christian is usually a very solemn and often gut-wrenching occasion. I cannot think of anything worse that having to preach the funeral of someone who is not a Christian—because at that point they no longer have the ability to obey God. Their eternal destiny has already been determined.
You have heard me say many times that if ever I am on a plane that crashes, I would be happy and at peace—because I know I’m “going home” to receive my crown of life (Revelation 2:10). Never forget that as faithful Christians we can know where we will spend eternity (1 John 5:13). My only sadness will be leaving you and your mother, temporarily, while you continue to reside here on the Earth. But that’s not “the end.”
While death does mean we are separated, we can feel a great deal of comfort during our time of loss. It is my prayer that as you mature you will give a lot more thought to the topic of “eternity” rather than death. Study what the Bible has to say about eternal life—and what is required (e.g., Matthew 18:8; Matthew 19:29; Matthew 25:46) It’s hard to even fathom that amount of time. But I look forward to spending it with you and those we love. Never, ever forget your #1 and #2 goals in life. See you there…