Confession: I do not understand death and it is very scary.
Additional confession: I do believe in life after death.
Death is a scary topic. So many people in my life have died – my grandmother, people from my church, classmates from school. My family pets have died, my friends have had close ones in their life die. Death is uncomfortable and unpleasant to think about and talk about. It is both scary and undefined – what actually happens at the point of death? What happens after death? Will I feel pain when I die? How will I die? Was my life worth anything before death? Death is scary and I cannot define anything about my death.
Easter is upon us – a time when Christians celebrate the DEATH, and more specifically, the resurrection of Jesus the anointed son of God. Death is normally a bad thing – for Christians, the death of Jesus resulted in an amazing thing: the defeat of sin and death itself on the cross. However, that victory over death would mean nothing if Jesus did not rise from the grave. Death has been swallowed up in the victory of the resurrection of Jesus.
I have been raised in a Christian family all my life; I have gone to church 3 or more times a week for my whole existence. I should be perfectly comfortable with death and resurrection and eternity and after life, right? Um, no. Not at all. I am still mortal. I still fear death. Some people may be able to cast out all fear, but I am not. I can remember vivid moments where I have feared death. Some were actually humorous in hindsight, cause I was a kid and thought I was gonna die from something like a prank. But some were not humorous – age 20, driving down the road and just thinking that one day I won’t exist, and getting this scary feeling that the undefined idea of death could make me disappear from the face of the earth. I do not understand death and it is very scary. That is not past tense, that is present tense. I STILL do not understand death, and it is still scary – but as courage does not mean you cast out fear, faith does not mean you cast off your fear of death. It means you overcome it.
Does faith make death less scary? Theoretically, yes. Practically? Not always. I do not want my fiance to die; I do not want my family to die; I do not want my friends to die; I do not want to die. Yet it is inevitable. So I fall back on faith to support me when I am still scared. Facing a live dragon that is terrorizing my town would be a scary thing. It would take courage to make me risk my life to defeat a dragon that I am unsure I can actually defeat. Facing the fear of death is a scary thing – and it takes faith to face the fear of death head on.
Will the topic of death ever be light hearted? I suspect it will not. But this I know, and I know it with all my heart: King Jesus defeated the eternal aspect of death two thousand years ago, and when my faith is placed in the one who conquers death, I can rest assured that eternal life is granted to my name. I cannot give that assurance to everyone. But Jesus can. I cannot promise you the gift of eternal life…but Jesus can. Take comfort in the words of the resurrected Jesus. It is ok to fear; it is ok to be afraid. But in your fear, fall back on your faith and remember that Jesus beat death and freely offers us that same ability by placing our lives in his hands.
I know some of you are facing monstrous dragons this week. And some of you are riding on the most significant of dragons. Ride the dragons, fight the dragons, and most importantly, face your journey with dragons head on. May this upcoming week be filled with victories and marvelous sights for you all.