Sometimes I feel like I have a different perspective on death to everyone else. Sometimes it feels like I'm the only one championing for the rights of the bereaved to grieve the loss of loved ones, while everyone else tells them to 'think positive' and wants funerals to be happy clappy celebrations. I say someone 'died' while everyone else says 'passed away' as if that somehow reduces the awfulness of death. The worst thing is that if I voice these opinions, I get labelled 'morbid'.
This collection of writings, edited by Nancy Guthrie, was both a comfort and a challenge to me. It was good to know that there are prominent Christian pastors and writers, both past and present, who have not shied away from addressing the topic of death. From Charles Spurgeon to Tim Keller, J.I. Packer to Joni Eareckson Tada, R.C. Sproul to Martin Luther, these are timeless sermons and writings brought together in one very short, readable book.
Here are the main points of what I took away from this book:
- Christians need a new view of death. Often we live as if this world is all there is, instead of using our time on earth to prepare for eternity. We see it as a tragedy if someone has died young because they've 'missed out'. Missed out on what? If a person is in Christ, then death is not a tragedy because to live is Christ and to die is gain.
- But death is not our friend. Death was not meant to be a part of this world. It only came into the world because of sin and it will not exist in the renewed creation. We should not see death as 'good', death is awful and it causes breaks in relationships, even if that separation is temporary.
- Death is not 'natural'. We need not fear death because it's 'natural', but because Jesus defeated it.
- We need to prepare to 'die well'. Like we need to learn to 'suffer well', we need our witness to others extend into how we die.
- Death should not be a taboo topic in church. We don't need to lighten it up and just concentrate on the fact that the person is with Jesus. We need to mourn with those who mourn. If we talked about death more, we would fear it much less. I'm often afraid of the process of dying rather than where I'm going. I often fear dying a slow, painful death and it's in times like these that I need to stop dwelling on that fear and trust God.
- Our hope is in Christ and being with Him for eternity. People say Christianity shouldn't be about 'pie in the sky when you die', but it kind of is. Because we KNOW this world is not all there is. Last year I had a conversation with a fellow Christian when I was still very depressed. I explained that having depression had caused me to put my hope more firmly in Christ and His promises. I told them all my hope was pinned on being with Him one day. This person asked me if I had any hope that life could be good right here and now. In return, I asked them about Christians being persecuted for their faith overseas - their hope is not that life in this present world will be 'awesome', but that they trust in Christ's death and resurrection, and will one day things will be put right. This person then thought long and hard about it.
- Which brings me onto my next point....suffering prepares our hearts for eternity. I did not have to think about death when things were going well, I was just cruising along quite happily. Likewise, Joni Eareckson Tada writes that she didn't think about eternity as a happy, carefree 17-year-old...until she broke her neck in a diving accident and ended up a quadriplegic.
A must read...