27 March 2010

Anyone Identify with THIS?

"Why am I so afraid of death?"

When I was a little boy I had quite a fright. My parents took me to visit a great-aunt, an elderly woman who lay dying in an upstairs bedroom.

The house was scary. Its wallpaper was musty and faded and the woodwork was dark. Creaking staircases led to spooky Victorian towers, and noises came from the cellar. But deciding to test my mettle, I sneaked away from the kitchen conversation and slowly climbed the stairs leading to a shadowy corridor through which I carefully crept.

Suddenly the old woman emerged from a dark doorway, ghostlike and terrifying. Her white hair flowed over the shoulders of a long white gown. Her yellowed eyes could not have been wider than my own. My m outh opened but I couldn't scream.

Startled, the woman froze in place until the hall clock chimed. That's when she leaned toward me and whispered, "David, I am so afraid of the G-R-A-V-E."

I bolted.

Thinkng back on it, I believe this may be why I'm afraid of dying and secretly clausterphobic. I can see the tight dirt walls closing in on me. I'm envious of those who have no such concerns. But as a Christian, I feel guilty for being afraid of anything, especially death. Where's my faith hiding?

I hope not in that old house because there's no way I'm going back!

Paul boldly wrote, "O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15.55)

Good for Paul.

David wrote, "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me." (Psalm 23.4)

Good for David.

I'm still scared.

The fact is, unlike the very faithful, I do fear death and I have a hunch many others do too. The question is, why?

Well, why not?

We weren't made to die.

We were made to live eternally. So I don't buy the line that "death is natural." It isn't. God created the world to live. And so I abhor death. When those I love die, I cry. I weep when I bury my pets. When gazelles are torn to bits by lions on television, I'm saddened. The whole realm of death is dark and horrible.

Death is our enemy, and I think it is good to call it what it is.

But death is a fact of life, and there's no escaping it. So what do we do?

First, let's not feel ashamed. Fear of death seems pretty natural. Death is a great mystery from which no one I've ever met has recovered.

So we're left with three choices: we can deny our fears, rationalize them, or admit them.

I've decided to admit mine. That doesn't make me brave, but I've learned that it's often eaiser than the alternatives. Besides, I find it liberating.

Admitting something is like expelling poison.

And when we do it, we take in something quite different: relief.

Admissions like this are really confessions. After all, fear of death really is grounded in a lack of faith. The Bible makes it very plain that death has been overcome by Christ's Resurrection and that heaven is our destiny. But plain or not, some fears are hard to overcome, and confession is the first step in turning them over to God. It's a way of handing him our burdens -- which is exactly what he invites us to do.

Confession of fears helps replace them.

Why is that? "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4.18). God tells us earlier in that same chapter that life in Christ brings the promise of confidence, even confidence in death. Confessing to him fears of death allows his love to replace such fear with confidence.

So I will ask him to walk closer to me, to hear my confessions, to replace my fears with the confidence of his love. And in time, I hope to join Paul and David and lift my chin against death, reinforced by faith.

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