Growing up, I don’t remember feeling afraid of death. I was taught that this world is temporary. Heaven is a permanent place and earth is a short vacation gone badly. In my mind, Heaven was never a place of harps and white bath robes. I knew about the mansions prepared for me, the crystal lake, the golden streets, the miraculous walls, the Angels, the creatures, the great work that God prepares for me… it seems awesome!
I have great assurance that Heaven is my destination. I don’t ever wonder what will happen after I pass, because I know it has nothing to do with me. I know I’m an imperfect mess who needs Jesus’s blood to cover my sins. I can’t even drink coffee without spilling it all over the place! So getting enough good works together to buy my ticket isn’t even worth the attempt. I am saved by Jesus alone.
So what happened?
Why did the fear of death begin to grow inside me?
I felt the beginnings of it after getting married. I still believed the same things, but I started to wonder what would happen to my husband if I died. Who would make his favorite casseroles? Who would remind him when rent was due? Who would make him laugh? Obviously he was just fine before, and he would probably not have a problem getting re-married. Still, I felt that I needed to stay alive “for him”.
When I held my son in my arms for the first time, I felt the wave of love and the knowledge of responsibility. This child was completely helpless and in constant need of supervision and care. That’s when I viewed my own death differently. Children need a mother and more specifically they need their own mother. Suddenly I was afraid of the life my son would have to live, if I wasn’t in the picture. And now with my second child on the way, the fears are rearing their ugly head once more.
But what am I really afraid of?
I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of losing the ability to protect my children. I’m afraid that someone else will have “control” over their future and that they will have a less than satisfactory life. They need me…right?
When I break down the thoughts surrounding these fears, I am faced with a mirror to my heart. The reflection doesn’t show my trust in God, my confidence in my family’s abilities, or my humble response to responsibility. No. Instead I see my desire to control the lives of those around me, my disbelief that God will meet my family’s needs, and my enlarged pride. I think that deep down, I want to play God in my children’s life. So of course I’m afraid! Do I really believe that my great parenting is what will lead my children to trust in Jesus? Do I really believe that my choices about their health will keep them perfectly healthy? Do I really believe that their emotions will be permanently damaged if they have to face the world without me?
I do have a responsibility to do my best, and I do have a strong influence on my children’s lives. The Bible makes it clear that there is a wise path for parents to take, but I cannot and can never be God. I feel like I’ve been caught at the Tree of Good and Evil, right there next to Eve. Maybe you know the feeling? We trust God that he will convict us, lead us, heal us, and show us the love we need to press on. Yet, we aren’t so sure that God will convict and lead others…so we try to help out and tell them what “God thinks”. We know that God is leading us, but we aren’t so sure that he is going to lead our children. Ouch. Is my faith really in God, or in my special ability to “hear God” like no one else? If God knew me before I was born, then surely God knew my children. When Jesus died on the cross, he died for my children too. He will pursue them, like he pursued me.
The thing about heaven, is that I am not even tempted to control it and try to earn it. I can’t see it, and I don’t really understand it. I have no choice but to trust fully and believe, because I know it’s my only hope. However, I can see my family. It’s tempting to lose faith, because it feels like I could have control. It looks like maybe I can change the world, but that is a mirage. Jesus changed the world. He changed it for me, and he changed it for my children.
So what if I die? God is the one who will provide what they need. God is the one who will weave tragedy into a beautiful tapestry. God is the one who calls us to be his own. They don’t need me. They need God. And for some reason God chose to use me, to meet their needs. I know that he will use his unlimited resources and power to meet their needs…whether I am alive or not.
Surely if I can trust God to resurrect me from death and give me eternity in heaven, then I can trust God to take care of the temporary earthly needs of my children.
I am not afraid to die.