It’s curious how our simplistic views of life change as we get older. How knowledge lends itself to our perspective. Experiences teach us to avoid potholes, hopefully. Broken hearts and disappointments prompt us to become little guarded and cautious with our choices.
When we were young, life felt like it would go on forever. We had seventy-plus years ahead of us – a seeming eternity of time and space. Death was a foreign, outlandish dictator we had yet to encounter or pay our respects. Life and living were ours, and no one could take that away.
A decade or two later down the track and the view has changed. Fear has crept in, slowly but surely. Bit by bit, death becomes the unwelcome shadow. Fear of dying, of leaving our loved ones, and of them leaving us, become very real.
There is a still a very real part of us that wants to take risks, to still be wild and free in our life, but we find it at odds with the louder shouts of safety, for the known, for control. We do our best to ignore death’s existence but know that it is looming inevitably closer with each passing decade.
Some lives will progress without experiencing the sting of losing a loved one; others are not so lucky.
Death and loss have no rules and owe nothing to anyone. I believe this is where fear cripples life. The fear of them emotionally paralyzes us from living freely in life, in God’s love. Our culture has bought into the illusion that if we avoid the topic of death (unless in some tragic abstract manner that usually fades within a day or two), then we can avoid the pain or introspection of our own mortality and obvious, eventual death
When did the concept of dying with dignity and leaving a legacy disappear? When did counting our days and knowing death comes to all of us naturally (as natural as it can be in a sinful, broken world) lose the push to live life with meaning, to live it to the full, instead of hiding?
As I’ve pondered this, one of the truths that has impacted me most is that God knew from the moment I was conceived when I am going to die.
God knows how long my life is going to stretch.
He knows the date, the day, the hour, the second, and the nature of my death. He already knows!
He won’t be shocked or surprised by when or how I die. He’s known these details from the beginning!
Not only that but a second truth: since He isn’t bound by time, He’s already there!
He’s King over all, and He chooses to be with me when I draw my last breath, just as He was there when I was conceived and when I drew my first.
These two truths are deeply reassuring. I am in God’s hand, and nothing will ever rip me away from Him. So really there is no point for living in fear and worry.
Jesus said: ‘Who of us by worrying can add a single hour to our lives?’ (Luke 12.25).
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t think about death or avoid it in our thoughts. Pondering death, when seen through God’s reality, is meant to help us to live a full, fearless life (Ecclesiastes 7:4).
The Psalmist entreated God to ‘Teach us to number our days’ (Psalms 90:12)
There is wisdom in thinking about how short and limited our lives are. ‘Like a wildflower that is here today and gone tomorrow.’ Jesus says. (Matthew 6:30).
Perhaps it’s why God gave us the gift of the book of Ecclesiastes: to face our earthly mortality head on. Thinking about death doesn’t mean we live a miserable, morbid life. Thinking about death helps us live a life that is more emotionally prepared and mature. Not fearing death but embracing life while the gift is ours.