A Question of Life and Death

Dear Members and Friends of IBCZ,

Death is a scary thing. Of course, as believers in Jesus Christ we can be all relaxed about the life after this one. Yet, when we are honest, death does still remain a scary thing. At least it’s a great mystery that surrounds the end of our earthly life. It’s something filled with a good set of unknowns. 

Naturalists have it better (one might think). They believe that everything ends once their bodies stop functioning. All will just become black and consciousness ends. And since it’s impossible to imagine ‘nothing’ it’s really also no use to think about death very much at all. 

Consequently, all focus is on this life and the attempt is made to pack everything into these odd few years we statistically have. They are spent running around frantically to achieve this, that and the other by whatever schedule, milestone or goal – while at the same time trying to enjoy as much as ever possible because, hey, ‘life is short!’.

Having found Christ, on the other hand, allows us to look into the future beyond this life with a calm heart. And yet, we still can become uncomfortable at times. 

There is – for one – the process of dying, which pretty much starts with day one of our life – or at least, some say, from about the age of 20 or 25 years. Living in a fallen world that is marked by brokenness and decay we experience our bodies becoming weaker, less agile, and more prone to illnesses and disease. It may start with reduced eyesight, followed by impaired hearing, loss of hair – if not memory, and end with our organs gradually shutting down. 

The other is the act, the moment, of dying itself. Unlike the naturalist we don’t expect things to just turn black and our consciousness ending. Not at all. We rather look at the moment of (our physical) death as a gate we step through. And just as it takes only a moment to step through some gate in this world, so we expect it to be the same when we go from this life to the ‘afterlife’. 

It’s therefore not surprising if one of our Christ-believing loved ones, who’s in a frail state, is asking us to pray for them: Not for their life after death, but for strength to go through the process of dying; for those last few months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and moments, when the decay of their bodies reaches its height. By then they may have lost their ability to communicate or receive any audio or visual signals. They may find themselves in a more or less unconscious state with few glimpses of clarity and presence. 

As hard as this may be, if these loved ones are believers in our Lord, we can still have peace while lifting them up in our prayers – just as they may have asked us to do. And we can be certain that the Lords will be close to them as they go on that last journey and take that last step. 

But what if one of our loved ones doesn’t believe? What if he or she refuses to even have one conversation about this Jesus, let alone joining us on a Sunday morning to church or weekday evening to our homegroup? What if we are frustrated and tired, given all our fruitless efforts over the years to find a way to introduce the Lord to them? 

Do we give up? Or do we continue? Do we ‘commit them to the Lord’ and go our way? Or do we look for yet another opportunity to speak to them about Christ? Do we, if need be, sit at their bedside – even if they are not conscious for most of the day – to wait and watch for that glimpse of ‘presence’ to whisper to them again the life-giving name of our Savior ‘Jesus’? Are we praying that they might cry out to Him in their last moment on this side of the gate – even if our own physical ears might never actually hear that cry?

Let’s not give up – just like God never gave up on us! Let’s watch, let’s pray, let’s wait – and be ready! And above all, let’s trust in the faithfulness, righteousness, and justice of our Father in heaven.  

Grace and peace, 

Oliver, Elder

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