533) Being Open About Death

 By Randy Alcorn, September 24, 2014 blog, at:  http://www.epm.org

     Years ago when my children were still at home, before leaving on trips, sometimes I would say to them, “I’m not expecting anything to happen, but remember, if it does, I’ll see you again in Heaven.”

     Some would consider this morbid or inappropriate.  But why?  Mortality is a fact of life.  What do we gain– and what do our children gain– if we pretend it isn’t?  I’m going to die.  So are you.  So are our children.  We don’t know when, but we do know it will happen– unless, of course, Christ returns in our lifetime.  He will return, but throughout the centuries He hasn’t yet, even though countless people believed that He would return before they died.

     How many children– whether ten years old or forty– have been traumatized by the sudden loss of a parent?  When Dad and Mom speak openly of this possibility, it’s a gift to their children.  If Christian parents remind their Christian children that the worst that can happen in death is temporary separation, it’s reassuring.  Their relationship cannot be terminated, only interrupted.  What will eventually follow– whether in hours, days, years, or decades in the future– is a great reunion, wonderful beyond imagination.

     Ancient merchants often wrote the words memento mori— “remember death”– in large letters on the first page of their accounting books.  Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, commissioned a servant to stand in his presence each day and say, “Philip, remember you will die.”  In contrast, France’s Louis XIV decreed that the word death not be uttered in his presence.  Most of us are more like Louis than Philip, denying death and avoiding the thought of it except when it’s forced upon us.  We live under the fear of death.

     Jesus came to deliver us from the fear of death, “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death– that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).  In light of the coming resurrection of the dead, the apostle Paul asks, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

     What delivers us from the fear of death?  What takes away death’s sting?  Only a relationship with the Person who died on our behalf, the One who has gone ahead to make a place for us to live with Him.

     It’s neither morbid nor inappropriate to speak of such things with your family.  Denial of truth, not truth itself, is the breeding ground for anxiety.  One of the greatest gifts you can bestow on your loved ones is the honest anticipation of reunion in the better world, the one for which we were made.

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We should familiarize ourselves with death during our lifetime, inviting death into our presence when it is still at a distance…  You must look at death while you are alive, but see it in the light of Christ and grace and heaven, permitting nothing to divert you from that view…  If you look at death in any other way, it will kill you with great anxiety and anguish.  This is why Christ says, “In the world– (that is, in yourselves)– you have unrest, but in me you will find peace” (John 16:33).

–Martin Luther, ‘A Sermon on Preparing to Die,’ 1519, Luther’s Works, volume 42, page 101…103-4

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Psalm 39:4  —  Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.

Psalm 90:12  —  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

John 16:22  —  (Jesus said),  “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

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AN EVENING HYMN/PRAYER:

By Thomas Ken  (1637-1711)

All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.

Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,
The ill that I this day have done,
That with the world, myself, and Thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die, that so I may
Rise glorious at the judgment day.