By Angela Wisdom
Job said, in Job 16:22 “For when a few years are come, I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” One of these days, all of us will make this journey of death, and if we live long enough we’ll see many people we love die.
Death is in the world because of sin ( Rom 5:12). When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, death entered the world.
Everyone will die. (Heb 9:27 ; Ecc 3:1). Because everyone will die, all of us have to learn to cope with death. It matters not whether we are a Christian, or an Atheist, all of us will keep this appointment. But, when Christians face death we have reason to hope. This is a hope that the world does not have. This was a hope that Job had: Job 19:25 - 26 "But as for me I know that my Redeemer liveth, And at last he will stand up upon the earth: And after my skin, even this body, is destroyed, Then without my flesh shall I see God;". Paul said that Christians do not sorrow like those who have no hope of heaven -- 1Thess. 4:13 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope.
If your loved one who died was NOT a Christian, and you are not sure whether they had the hope Job had, you need to realize that wherever that loved one has gone, the thing they want for you right now is for you to be right with God. We cannot give people false hope apart from God’s Word. His word reveals to us what we are to do to be saved, and it also reveals that God wants obedience. His word tells us this over and over in both the Testaments.
We know from God’s Word, that it will be God’s word that judges us in the last day ( John 12:48). God tells us in Deut. 29:29 that the secret things belong to God. There are always questions about the deaths of those not ready to die. As stated earlier, whatever realm they are in, they desire that you be ready (Luke 16: 20 - 31). The only HOPE that God has revealed to us is in His word.
So, what about Christians whom we know, and who are unfaithful to the Lord at death? To that I say, God will be their judge, and He is a righteous and merciful God. He knows whether that wayward Christian repented before his death.
The one we really need to be concerned with is OURSELVES. Regard the coming of your own death and determine to “die in the Lord” (Rev 14:13 ). Only God can decide our eternal destiny. Is He able to decide at a person’s death to save one who has not obeyed Him? Certainly. But, He has not revealed to us that He’ll do so. And, He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Ezek. 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?;
God reveals in His Word that we cannot live wrong and die right.
I used to do a lot of genealogical research on my family tree, and I found out a lot of information by going to the graveyard. Have you ever just walked through a graveyard? In a graveyard you learn that death comes to people of every age, every economic group, and every sex (male and female). There are small graves for babies. There are graves for children and teenagers. There are graves for the very old, and some for the rich, some for the poor.
As the daughter of a preacher I became acquainted with other people’s deaths at a young age. My parents used to tell my sisters and me that dying was part of living. They were right. It is. Part of death is learning to cope with it. Death is a separation. When one dies, they are forever gone. David told his friend Jonathan, in I Samuel 20: 3b “But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”
The first bit of advice I’d give on coping with death is to let yourself grieve. Jesus did (John 11: 33 - 35). Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. Whether a death is expected, as in a person who is seriously ill, or unexpected, as in a sudden death, the finality of death is a shock. Seeing those you love in grief should cause us to "weep with them that weep" (Rom. 12:15), just as Jesus did.
Each person copes with death in his or her own way. Denial, anger, guilt, and resentment are all emotions you may or may not have to cope with. I think though that regret is universal to everyone. Regret over things one did or didn’t say or do in regard to their loved one. Regrets over what has been lost. Part of coping is coming to terms with the finality of our own actions or inaction in regard to our deceased loved one. Death is final, and those things cannot be changed.
What we do have control over is what we do today to prepare for our own death! Isaiah told Hezekiah what to do to get ready for death. 2Kings 20:1 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’”
All we can do before we die, or after a loved one dies, is “set our house in order”. Take care of things we ought to do or say BEFORE we, or another loved one, dies. If we haven’t lived as we should toward the deceased loved one, ask for God’s forgiveness and move on to become a better person today!
Another part of coping is accepting that the deceased one is really gone and is not coming back. Job said, Job 16:22 For when a few years have come I shall go the way from which I shall not return.
A friend told me this when my mother died, “You get over the grief, but not the loss.” – this is true. With time your grief will become less and less, but you’ll always feel a sense of loss and are sometimes wistful that you cannot share some things with the deceased.
Sometimes people will say, “Talk of death scares me.” -- Well, it should, and it shouldn’t! It is certain and it is final. But is also a beginning. Eccl. 8:8 tells us that no man has the power over death to retain his spirit. We need to live the life of the righteous so that we can have confidence at death. Heb. 11: 4 tells us that Abel, “being dead yet speaks”. His righteous life continues to speak to us today. What is our life saying to others now? What will it say after we are dead?
DEATH – If we knew death was close, could we say what Paul did to Timothy? 2Tim. 4:6 - 8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
When Jacob died the Bible says he was “gathered to his people” (Gen. 49:33). Who are “our people”? If we are faithful, they are Christians who have gone before us in death.
Teach your children and grandchildren that we live here to die, and that we want to be ready to die. Death isn’t the end of our life; it is the beginning (1Thess. 4:14) . Tell them that you want to see them in heaven, because how can we talk about death and not talk about Heaven? Tell them about loved ones you hope to see there; about seeing the Father in heaven who listens to our prayers; about seeing Jesus who lived here as a man and knows about living on this earth and the fact that He came here so we could go to heaven! Tell them about seeing the Holy Spirit in heaven, who revealed God’s word to us. Tell them about seeing people like Moses, Elijah, Paul and Dorcas when we get there. It will be the trip of a lifetime!!
DEATH – it is only a beginning to an eternal home in heaven. As the old song says,
“Earth holds no treasure,
But perish with using,
However precious they be.
But there’s a country
To which I am going,
Heaven holds all to me.”