My grandfather, to whom I was very close, was murdered in April 1977. I was almost 12 years old. My grandmother died about five years later after spending weeks in ICU. I wish they had Hospice then. My mother died in February 2017 at Hospice after battling Alzheimer’s for years. Lisa’s mom died this past September after a prolonged fight with cancer. Lisa’s dad died tragically two months ago. And, I lost my dad this past Thursday morning. He suffered for dementia for the past 2-3 years.
Death. We’ve all had to deal with it. Everyone has had losses which were expected, unexpected, tragic, untimely, merciful, anticipated, shocking, and all were impactful.
Death. It’s unavoidable. It’s the cost of life. We will all deal with it again, and again, and again, throughout our lives until one day each of us will deal with it a final time ourselves.
We spend untold amounts of time, energy, and money trying to avoid it – we even avoid talking about it – but it is inevitable. The good news about death is the Good News. While we will certainly and humanly grieve any loss, as Christians we have a silver lining, or one lined with gold, platinum, or diamond. (Forgive me – I flew Delta this week).
We come by our fear of death naturally. We are pre-programmed to avoid it. That is what keeps us alive. Our body fights it instinctively. Thankfully, that is something that we cannot really control. But how we feel about death and how we think about it are certainly within our grasp.
Death has long driven people to religion, to church, and to God. Perhaps it is an extension of that pre-wired death avoidance. But it can only go so far? Why? Because we are thinking and reasoning creatures.
We don’t know much of anything about what happens after we die, nothing really. No one has ever truly experienced a complete death and been able to tell us about it. The one person who arguably has already knew and was in a little different position. That was of course Jesus.
Unfortunately, like many things that Jesus said, the religions that he began or inspired (along with countless others) have had their own interpretations, opinions, and recitations of what death avoidance, death itself, and any afterlife. So, this topic is on point with the many things that we address here at The Tavern that are often misguided, misinterpreted, out of context, and inconsistent with the best source that we have – the Bible in its proper context.
So, let’s set the record straight. We know really only about four things about death and salvation from Jesus based on our only record of what he said.
Those who believe in him or follow him will live forever.
That afterlife is paradise.
There is room there for everyone – and it is available to everyone.
There is an alternative to eternal paradise, and it is death (destruction of the body and soul).
Jesus’ credibility? He defeated death. And his story, and God’s connection to people have survived for over 2,000 years thereafter. But, we don’t have any proof of any of it. None. Nada. Zip. It all turns on faith.
Faith gives us hope. Without faith we would have no hope. And hope is what we all so desperately need. Not just when dealing with death, but each and every day.
Faith and Hope. They give us direction and purpose while we are living. They give our life meaning. They allow us to wrestle with and defeat death. And they allow us to go on when those whom we love lose that battle. Faith and Hope help alleviate our fear when death is approaching our door, knocking on it, or actually entering for us.
Think about those whom you know to be filled with faith and hope and think about how they have faced or dealt with death -- either their own or one that affected them directly. Sure they grieved but they handled it differently than those without faith and hope.
Isn’t that how you would like to deal with death? Isn’t a life of faith and hope better than the alternative? Isn’t a life with some bigger meaning than our measly and petty little lives more satisfying that one without?
It just takes believing. We get that faith and hope simply by believing. It’s a choice. It’s something we can control. It’s in our head and in our heart. No one can do it for you. No one can give it to you. And no one can take it away. And it is there for all of us. We simply have to believe and follow.
My prayer for each of us today is that we will find, embrace, and remember that faith and hope. All the time. Amen.