The question in the newspaper advertisement caught my eye: What if you live longer than you expect? It was quite an intriguing question, and I discovered it was promoting superannuation.
Then it quoted veteran entertainer George Burns who lived to be 100. George once said, “If you live to the age of 100, you’ve got it made. Because very few people die past the age of 100”. That’s a unique way of stating the obvious, isn’t it? But in today’s society people are living longer. We have better medical facilities and we expect to live long enough to enjoy our retirement.
But why don’t we talk more openly about the facts of death and dying? Are we afraid to mention the unmentionable? One thing’s for sure, and that is, each of us will die one day. Not a very comfortable thought, for sure, but it’s the truth. No-one gets off this planet alive, and death is inevitable. We find it difficult to talk about because of the pain it brings when a close friend or loved one dies. Death is an intruder, and a thief. Every instinct of the human heart recoils from it.
I believe God’s Word, the Bible, is the best place to look for answers. In the pages of the Bible we find truth and comfort, to help us not be afraid of death.
Facing Up to Death
Generally speaking, people don’t like to talk about death. It’s a taboo subject, one you don’t usually bring up at a dinner party. But we need to face up to the reality that life itself is a journey that begins with birth and ends with death. Everyone is on a life journey, and we do have some control over what happens in this life. But we have no control over the moment of our death.
Pastor and poet John Donne said, “Death comes equally to us all and makes us all equal when it comes”. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 8:8, “As no man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death”. We try to make light of it by saying, One day I’ll kick the bucket or She gave up the ghost. There is fear, superstition and ignorance, and a reluctance to face it head on.
Many atheists have popularised the idea that belief in immortality is the result of wishful thinking; most ancient people feared and dreaded the possibility of an after life. A colleague of mine conducted a graveside funeral service where, in the coffin, the family had placed a form guide, a copy of TV Week, and several other items he could enjoy as he made his journey. People have all kinds of ideas about what happens when we die.
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Some people deny it altogether. Rather than admit that death is inevitable, they deny that it will ever happen to them. There was a cosmetic commercial on TV that urged women to defy the process of aging by using their product. Over and over again they used the phrase, Defy it. Defy it, as if the inevitable could be avoided by using their product. Well, it might help disguise it, it might cover it up, but it will not cancel the appointment. We can do battle with the process of aging and death both cosmetically, but it is a battle we will ultimately lose.
Another common way people deal with the inevitability of death, is to delay it. This might be called the bridge attitude. They view death as a bridge that must be crossed somewhere, sometime down the road, a bridge they will cross when they get to it. Meanwhile, why worry?
These people do not deny death or dread it; they simply resolve to put it out of their minds, taking it as it comes. Death is a bridge they will cross when they get to it.
(Read Life in the Face of Death – Part 2)