If you could join Jeff Bezos on his journey into space today, would you?
It’s a little late now—the launch is set for 8 a.m. CDT. Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and eighteen-year-old Oliver Daemon will be on board the New Shepard rocket traveling sixty-two miles into space. Blue Origin has tested the system with fifteen autonomous flights without passengers. Their tweet last night reported that they are “a go for launch.”
Jeff says he’s not nervous, but should he be?
Live Science reports, “Jeff Bezos should feel mildly confident that he’s not going to be blown to smithereens during his upcoming jaunt to space.” An expert interviewed in the article estimates the chances he and his fellow passengers will not survive their trip are around one in one thousand.
According to the National Safety Council, that’s about the same risk the average American faces from dying by drowning over our lifetime, double the risk of dying in a pedestrian incident, and four times the risk of dying by gun assault.
Speaking of gun assaults, here’s a sign of the times: denominations have begun creating special prayers for fatal mass shootings. There were four such shootings on Sunday, killing four people and injuring fourteen others, and 327 mass shootings in the first six months of this year.
God “saves the crushed in spirit”
On Monday, we discussed the euphemistic way our culture has rebranded death. Because many are convinced that truth is personal and subjective, they believe that the reality beyond death is whatever they believe it to be. A man who assured me, “I don’t believe in hell,” was fully confident that his personal belief settled the matter. However, denying the fact of judgment makes us even less prepared for judgment.
Today, let’s think about this pressing subject not for nonbelievers but for Christ-followers. After nearly forty years of pastoral ministry, I can testify that Christians can also be fearful of death. While we know that Jesus is our Savior and that our eternal life is guaranteed by his grace (cf. John 3:16; 11:26), we can nonetheless fear death for several reasons.
One is that we do not want those who love us to grieve our passing. We worry about our spouse, parents, children, grandchildren, and friends and do not want them to feel the loss our death would bring.
In response, let’s remember that Jesus loves them as much as he loves us. He wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35) as he shared the grief of Lazarus’ sisters. Because we are in his hand (John 10:28), he feels everything we feel. God “is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
We can trust those who love us to the One who loves them more than we can imagine.
“Dying grace for dying day”
A second reason Christians fear death is that we worry about the process of dying. We are understandably afraid of the pain and suffering death might bring, especially if our death results from debilitating disease.
The good news is that our Lord walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4; cf. Isaiah 43:2). Jesus has faced all we face (Hebrews 4:15) and is praying for us right now (Romans 8:34). One day, he will take us from this life to the next life (John 14:3) in paradise with him (Luke 23:43).
I have walked with families as their loved ones died of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Alzheimer’s disease, and excruciating forms of cancer and other illnesses. I have watched God sustain patients and their families in the worst forms of suffering. I have seen our Father redeem the most difficult seasons of death with his presence, strength, and grace.
Dr. Oscar Thompson was a beloved evangelism professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary when I taught on its faculty. He suffered from terminal cancer for several years, yet his joy in the Lord was vibrant and compelling. When asked if he feared death, he always replied in the same way, “I will have dying grace for dying day.”
Those who were with him when he died reported that he testified triumphantly, “I have dying grace for dying day.” So will we all.
One second on the other side of death
A third fear of death Christians face is our desire not to leave this world until we have completed our work in this world. I feel this myself—I am confident that I will go to heaven when I die, but I do not want to miss what I believe I am still to do in this life. I want to see my children raise my grandchildren. I want to go to heaven, but not yet.
In response, let’s remember what happens when we die—we don’t. We step from time into eternity, from this fallen world into God’s glorious paradise. Paul said, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
We should want to live in such a way that our earthly lives have meaning until the moment they are done. We should want to have a purpose in life for every moment of life. But we can know that our death does not surprise our Lord. He uses us every day until the day he takes us home.
If you’re a Christian, I can assure you: one second on the other side of death, you’ll be glad you died.
Some excellent advice
The best way to not fear death is to prepare for it. It is to live every day ready to meet Jesus. You and I are one day closer to eternity than ever before. I cannot say that we will meet Jesus today, but I cannot say that we will not.
Yesterday I wrote a website article about the Rosetta Stone, an ancient basalt slab that was discovered on July 19, 1799. Unlike the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics that the stone was instrumental in deciphering, God makes his will for today known to anyone who will obey what they know.
George Whitefield observed, “Take care of your life and the Lord will take care of your death.”
Will you follow his excellent advice today?