Recently, my husband and I went to visit with a friend who lost a loved one. It was a very somber visit where the feeling of grief and sorrow was in the air. We, along with everyone else present, hoped that our gathering would offer some relief, some comfort. But really, how can one be comforted in the midst of such pain?
As we left, I took a moment to reflect. I thought to myself, and outloud to my husband, that it does not matter how old the person who has died is. We hope that they are older and have lived a long life, but the truth is that we still grieve tremendously even if the person we have lost is 101. It also does not matter how they go. Though some means seem to be more tragic than others, such as a car accident or a shooting, the fact of the matter is that death in and of itself is a tragic experience.
Why is death so tragic? Why do we seem to be so taken back by its presence, especially considering that it happens to all of us. No matter how good or how righteous you live, you die. No matter how horrible and evil you live, you die. If it is so common, so natural, and has characterized life since Adam and Eve, why do we have such a hard time with it?
I would suggest it is because it is not natural. Although we all experience death, it was not apart of God’s original design. His original design consisted of everlasting life which was cut short as a result of sin. God warned Adam and Eve, saying that they could eat of any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil-“For in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2.17). But they ate and God stayed true to his word, knowing that if he allowed them to continue to live, they would live forever with the effects of sin. Death, then, was an act of mercy. For it was in death that people could still be granted an opportunity to live forever.
This opportunity of living forever did not come until the advent and death of Christ. Because of him, all of him who follow him with their lives also live with him in eternity. This is what Paul speaks of in I Corinthians 15-“DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” Yet, for those who choose to reject Christ, this victory is not realized and instead a second death takes place which is final, irreversible, and awful. But still, neither can be experienced until we cross over from this life to the next by means of death. And that is where we feel the grief, and will continue to experience the grief, until this world has passed away and the new has come.
We were made to live forever. Although we cannot keep ourselves from experiencing death, we can choose eternal life by surrendering our lives to God while we still have breath. God has placed eternity in each of our hearts, that is why we long to live forever. I hope and I pray that we all choose life.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently-Romans 8.24, 25 NASB