Return, O Yahweh. Deliver my soul
and save me on account of your covenant faithfulness.
For in death there is no mention of you.
In Sheol, who can give you praise?
As a teen, I read a Christian fiction book that struck me to my core. In it, the main character and a group of her classmates, devastated in the wake of a friend’s suicide, decide to take drastic measures to combat the grief, confusion, and shame of his death: they form a suicide pact of their own. The main character, torn between sorrow and a deep sense of wrongness in the pact, tries to justify it to herself by saying it’s what God would want them to do because, in essence, “Once we’re dead, we’ll be in heaven, praising Him all the time. What more could He want from us?”
There are lots of segments in Scripture that seem to argue one way or another for the state of the dead or life beyond death itself, but others, like this passage from Psalm 6, are co clear and have always resonated for me. I can’t remember if this verse was ever addressed in that novel—my guess is not, because it flies in the face of the mainstream belief of the dead existing in Heaven or Hell after their passing—but back then I remember thinking of this verse and my heart absolutely breaking, because it could not be any clearer: death is not a beeline to God that allows us to praise Him more or sooner, (something the main character did, thankfully, eventually realize!). In fact, it’s the utter cessation of any mention of Him. The things we can do to praise and spread God’s renown, barring through our legacy or memory, end the moment we take our last breath.
This is the crossroads where it can be easy to fall into debates on other, less-clear verses about death and life; but today as I reread these words, what sparks in me is not a question of “Will death be the moment I meet God face-to-face?” but rather “Am I doing enough for Him now?”
Let’s assume for a moment this verse is absolutely literal. If every chance to mention or praise God ceases with our final breath, how are we making all the ones between now and then count? Do we make the most of praising Him? Do we make mention of Him now?
Whatever you think of verses that seem to say one thing or the other about life and death, this is the truth, friends: this life is the one where we sing God’s praises before the unsaved. This is the one where we make mention of His goodness and grace to a dying world. Whatever benefits everlasting life holds for us, when we die, we lose our chance to advance the Kingdom.
And that commission, that calling, is powerful and precious beyond words.
So let’s not get caught up in debating what comes next; let’s focus on the here and now and what we are called to do. This life is the one where we make disciples and spread the Good News. Let’s use our time wisely, focusing on and spreading the hope of future paradise that is absolutely certain, praising God and making mention of Him whenever and wherever we can—so that more and more join the Kingdom, and more sing His praises in this life and the next!