When I was fourteen years old, I went with some family friends to slaughter chickens. It was my first time partaking of any farm practices, and as a girl who grew up watching Emergency Vets while eating scrambled eggs, the gore factor didn’t bother me much. But there was a different kind of solemnity to the experience: the closeness of death.
Death is such a controversial topic in the world, but I think it’s safe to say that most people become desensitized to it, to some degree, over the course of their lives. This can come through excessive exposure—like in a trauma ward or battle situation—or minimalized exposure, like your average first-world person today. For those who eat meat, the butchering is largely separate from the consumption. Back at that farm at fourteen was the first time I looked at an animal before it was killed for my consumption; the first time my heart connected that there was death on the other side of that live-giving sustenance.
Honestly, I don’t think God ever intended us to be quite as separate from death as we are today. The fact is, death is a part of life now, thanks to the Fall of Adam and Eve; it is a part of man’s reality and I don’t think God ever wants us to forget those consequences. If we do, how can we truly learn? If you look back at the course of history, all the way to Israel, one of the rules for certain sacrifices was to lay hands on the animal that was killed for atonement. There is an element in that of bringing the wages of sin (death) near; one comes face to face in that moment with the price of a life laid down for theirs, their hands on the innocent (the sacrifice) given for the guilty (the one laying on hands).
During the time of Coronavirus pandemic, I was greeted with a reality I hadn’t really experienced before: just how wide-ranging people’s reactions to the threat of death are. And yes, death is a terrible thing; but by and large, what I’ve seen across the scope of mankind in relation to the threat of Coronavirus are extremes of fear and dismissal all stemming from the same root cause: we have lost our perspective on life and death to such an extreme that we tend toward extremes of avoidance or invitation.
To be clear, I don’t think death is something we should hide from or seek out. What comes to mind for me more than anything is simply the realization that we have become so divorced from death in our daily lives that we leave ourselves exposed to be taken advantage of by the evil of this world, pushed to one side or the other to fulfill agendas in the spirit realm.
We need to have a heavenly perspective on life and death. We need a godly perspective, so that we hold a balance rather than causing a problem—for ourselves or others—when it comes to the subject of death.
What is Death?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines death as “a permanent cessation of all vital functions; the end of life.”
There is little more that needs to be said about what death is; most of us have been touched by it at least somewhere in our lives. Yet it’s something our very spirit seems to know we weren’t created for and wars valiantly against even in the gravest circumstances. This is why the story of a man seeking immortality is so universal, why you see it popping up endlessly in various forms of entertainment and why so many have actually wasted their lives trying to attain or discover the secret behind it. Shangri-La, the Fountain of Youth, immortal warriors and thousand-year loves…these themes all manifest the loathing of death within us.
No matter your belief in what comes after, death is undeniably the conclusion of something; the end of one’s time to make an impact on this world and a separation from loved ones until we are all united in the presence of Jesus.
In short, death is an enemy. And one day, Jesus will conquer it.
What Does the Bible Say About Death?
Ecclesiastes 9:5 – For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.
1 Corinthians 15:26 – The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 – But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
How Should I Relate to Death?
As terrible as death is, there are two things to bear in mind: obsessing over it will not add a day to our lives, and dying is not the end of the born-again believer’s story. When death comes for us, as it will for all but those who are alive to see Christ’s return, the very next thing we’ll know is our Lord’s face.
So how should we relate to death? By ultimately accepting it is not about us. Instead, take the steps necessary to make sure those who would be most affected by your passing are taken care of, in case the unthinkable should happen; make sure you have a will or plan in place, not for morbidity’s sake, but for preparedness.
And then get busy living.
Life is simply much too precious to waste dwelling on death. Accept that death will come, should the Lord tarry; accept that it’s not the end, pray for peace and protection, and turn your thoughts to things that are honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, admirable, full of virtue and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). If thoughts of death or dying plague you, pray against them in the name of Jesus—you don’t have to live in that mindset! Death doesn’t have to be a shadow stalking you night and day.
God wants us to live fruitful, abundant lives, and being haunted by the thought of death empowers no one. Cast off that shackle by accepting the gift of life in the age to come by the sacrifice of Jesus, and let your focus be on doing good in this life and your hope in the day when our Savior will at last destroy the enemy, Death, and we will live forever with him!
If you find yourself dwelling on thoughts of death, particularly during this time of global health-crisis, avoid any sources that feed these thoughts and invest your time instead on those that inspire you regarding the Hope, everlasting life, and the promises of God!