Over the years, I have had the privilege of being with people who are dying (and their families) as they approach death. Not as frequently as I have been involved with families after someone’s death, but still a few.
As I was reading Proverbs 19:3 (which is unrelated to the topic at hand, but it prompted this train of thought) something struck me about those dealing with death – hardly any are actually interested in hearing from God.
Which makes me kind of redundant, given that my job is actually to point people to Jesus and tell them what God says. The help I can offer is reduced to merely physical and emotional support. Important work, to be sure, but not what my focus or my job is centred on.
In the face of an impending death, knowing that very soon you (or your loved one) will be facing God, I would have thought people might be interested in being prepared for that.
So I’ve been thinking about that (what I consider a curious reaction) – not wanting to hear what God has to say about death, or what God says happens when you die.
Is it a case of being angry with God and so not wanting to have anything to do with him (here you can see link to Proverbs 19:3 that got me started on this train of thought)?
If it is, it seems to me to be like a child refusing to speak to you when you have told them off: a childish reaction. There may be an initial denim or anger reaction that goes into that, but most adults are generally capable of working through that, so I don’t think this is quite it.
I’m more inclined to think that our society has gone so far down the path of choosing whatever we want that we ultimately think that it is our ideas that count the most. We’ve decided what we want to happen, and so that is what we think will happen. There isn’t room for us to listen to experts in any field, because we know what we want, and expect it to be the way we want.
I think this comes out in the way some people cling to all sorts of alternative ‘medicine’ and ‘healing’ techniques when doctors give them bad news.
And it comes out when people aren’t interested in what God has to say about death.
You get to choose your car, what shows you want to watch on TV, you can listen to whatever you want when you want, and turn off what you don’t like. You can choose which ideas, people, information or entertainment you see or don’t see on the internet. While there are some things we can’t change, we really live in a malleable culture, where we can make it the way we want it.
Perhaps there is also a level at which people are scared of what may happen, and so don’t want to ask the question. A fear about what the answers might mean for people they know who have died. Or a fear that the answer to any question may require some sort of response from them, and they don’t want to change anything, or admit to having been wrong.
There might be a little of all of reactions behind this unwillingness to ask the questions about death and what happens to you when you die. But what I have observed seems to fall mostly into the “I’ve already decided what will happen to me when I die” category.
Which reminded me of Proverbs 19:21. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
At some point everyone will be confronted with the fact that it is God who decides the terms on which we deal with him. And it would be much better to be confronted with that fact in this life while there is still hope, rather than after you die and you are facing God as he sits over you in judgement.
No amount of pleading, explaining, or demanding to be treated differently will have any effect on God. He designed and made the world we live in. He is fair and just, gracious and merciful, and God has revealed himself and his plans to all people (Romans 1:19) – through creation, through the Bible, and ultimately through Jesus.
God has been reaching out to everyone with the news that no-one measures up to his standards. No-one has pleased him. “There is no-one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). And that he sent Jesus to rescue all who would place trust in him from the judgement we justly deserve (John 3:16).
God doesn’t let you decide what will happen to you when you die. God is the one who decides. And he does that based on whether you accept the one he sent to offer you life after death: Jesus.
Every single person on earth is going to die. You can’t get away from that fact.
And so the most important question you can ask for yourself, and your loved ones, whether death is imminent or further off, is : “what does God have to say about all of this?”.
And not “what do I think about all of this?”.
The answer, ultimately, is the difference between life and death.