Death, Dying and the Panic Attacks of Trying to Control It All

My good friend told me that the day after she turned 40, her doctor called and told her it was time to schedule a mammogram.  Her immediate thought was, “Hold your horses! I just turned 40 yesterday…give it a minute to sink in!” She laughingly warned me to be prepared to be jostled into my 40s with a little too much force from the world.

I was prepared, but they didn’t call. It appears I will have to sign myself up for the smashing of the body parts, and that I shall do. What my friend didn’t warn me about was the feeling of fear that came over me. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was afraid to die.

I have been 40 for eight days now, and I have thought about death a little more than what most sane people would consider healthy. I try to picture death (not dying necessarily, but death itself) and it freaks me out. I know cognitively that as a Jesus follower and believer of Scripture that I have nothing to fear, yet anxiety and the need to control life (and apparently death too) crept in and began cracking my foundation.

Today I was reading in Mark (I have been spending some extra time in the Gospels lately, hungry to connect with the life and words of Jesus Christ).  In Mark 12:18-27, the Sadducees (who didn’t believe in resurrection) asked Jesus about marriage in Heaven (for those who remarry). He explained that there is no marriage in Heaven and that God is the God of the living and not the dead. Both points gave me pause and a lot to think about so I asked my husband to give me his thoughts on the meanings of these verses.

Our discussion led us to talk about our “new bodies in Heaven.” We remembered that we had read that we will have actually bodies in the afterlife. We will not be balls of gas, with rays of light with wings (as far as I can tell, but hey, I’m no expert), but rather given new bodies “perfect and without sin.”

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 we see that God is going to give us new “buildings” in Heaven:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

I learned a few things from these verses that give me comfort:

  • Our bodies were designed to be temporary–The use of the word “tent” to denote our bodies on Earth lets us know that it was not meant to last. My kids left a tent in the yard for a month last summer and it was torn, soggy and blown on its side in that short time. Tents are fragile, and unfortunately not made to last forever.
  • We “have” the Holy Spirit as a deposit–A deposit is used to solidify a contract or in this case, a covenant. God sent Jesus to live with us; He died, rose, and ascended to Heaven. God gave us the Holy Spirit as a promise that Jesus will return and that God has a place for us, an eternal place. He is “guaranteeing what is to come.” The Holy Spirit is in me. I am not disposable.
  • What is mortal may be swallowed up by life–This was the biggie for me. In verse 4 He gives us this powerful concept: We will not be swallowed up by death, which is how we tend to view the act of dying, but rather we are swallowed up by life. Death, for a follower of Christ is marked by life beyond our comprehension.

Wow. This changes everything. My human fear of dying has been lessened (I’m imperfect and human so I won’t lie and say I am cured). The idea of death, however painful from the human perspective of being separated from our loved ones, is ultimately a promotion to a new body in Heaven with our Father.

Please do not feel that I am lessening the heaviness of death, or in anyway making light of it. Death is painful, and heart-wrenching and raw. If you are dealing with loss of a loved one, my heart goes out to you! Loss is all around us, and it is so real. I can’t imagine the heartbreak that many of you are experiencing right now. I am not telling anyone how to grieve, I am sharing with you my perspective as a middle aged woman who just seemed to realize that she too would die one day. Death may be inevitable, but it doesn’t mean we automatically have the tools to approach it (even if it may be far away) gracefully.

It is said that all good things must come to an end. I just realized that this is an Earthism. On Earth, this is true. Life (even the ones well-lived) must come to a conclusion. But the afterlife is not punctuated by an end, and even though we don’t know what our life after “death” will look life, we know in our souls that it is good.

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