Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Surprised by Death

"But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" -- Genesis 3:4-5

"For as in Adam all die..." -- I Corinthians 15:22a

Ever since I was young, I've had an obsession about death.  I'm not sure if it's healthy or not, but it has caused me many sleepless nights over the course of many years.  The question "am I going to wake up in the morning," has run through my head more often than I can count. 

As I've shared this with a few people, they've often replied by saying, "you're far too young to die," or "you're healthy," and "don't think like that."

And you know what?  On most days, I'm convinced I'm invincible.  I control my life.  I'll live at least until I'm 80 or 90.  Heck, I still have most of my grandparents living, my grandfather the only one who has died... and that was at the good old age of 85.  I have at least a good 60 years left in me... right?

This past week shattered the illusion.  Three people who I knew, but wasn't particularly close with, died.  All three were different ages, I knew them in different contexts, and all died in very different ways.  One, a 95 year old who I only knew through a few people I worked with, had been longing to be with Jesus for years as his body deteriorated.  Another was a restaurant owner that I had done bible study with, probably in his 60's or 70's.  He just got remarried, and a year later he died of a massive heart attack while playing a round of golf.

It was the last one that broke the proverbial camel's back.

A young man... a police officer from Maryland, who I happened to graduate with.  He died at the age of 27, in a plane crash off the coast of Ocean City.  As part of the social media age, it was his death that sparked the most response.  It broke my heart, seeing people that I went to high school with so deeply saddened.  And though I didn't know him well, I sensed a sadness knowing that someone I went to high school with had passed... I would never get to see him again.

As I considered these three deaths, and the massive response of sadness, I began to consider a question that had been posed in another article I had read:  "Why does death still surprise us?"

Think about it... there are few absolutes in this life for every human being.  One of them is that every person will die.  And death never submits to our plans... it always interrupts our lives.  This is a morbid thought, but have you considered that as you sit at your computer screen reading this post, your life is a minute closer to ending?  And that it could end very soon?

You can die of natural causes, or you can die from any number of accidents or pre-meditated assaults.  In other words, we can die in any moment, from any circumstance, whenever death chooses to come.  It's much bigger and badder than you or me.

So... why are we so surprised by it?  Why is that anytime someone dies, one of the most oft-used phrases I hear is, "It wasn't his or her time to go," or "They had so much life left to live?"

I think this is for a few reasons.

1.  We suppress the truth about death:  If we had a sober mindset about death, wouldn't we consider changing how we live?  We'd give far less excuses about not doing evangelism or doing other things that scare us about serving Jesus.  We don't see death as a big deal by not seeing people as either heading for eternal joy with God or eternal damnation without God.

2. Death was never meant to be:  God's original garden was meant for Adam and Eve, where God promised them that they would only die if they did one thing; eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  But they (like us) were deceived by the Serpent, and chose to go after their selfish desire to try and be like God without actually depending on Him.  Death came for them, and has come for everyone else since.

3. There are whispers of death being defeated:  Everyone I know wants to leave a legacy.  That's why so many people are addicted to video games or other things that guarantee a fake glory, because we all long to be glorified forever.  There is a glory that lasts forever, and we all long for it.  However, it doesn't come from having lots of kids, doing something great in ministry or in the secular world (sports, music stars, business leaders, authors, etc.), to the virtual realm of video games.  It comes from a man who died on the cross so that one day we CAN have eternal life and live in glory with God.

As I continue to process about the idea death, stay tuned as I take a look at how we suppress the truth about death, and how we can gaze into the glorious truths of God and His Word.