I love vacations but I tread that final day. I endeavor to deny the existence of that last day of vacation. True joy, needed rest, and belly laughing fun will all be over and I will return to normalcy - that sounds so uninspiring. Can I somehow extend the vacation, or make it last forever? Despite my efforts my vacation dies.
We often think of death like that last day of vacation. We dread it. We avoid thinking of it at all. Our tranquil lives are often greatly disturbed by thoughts of death. Disrupted, it feels more like violated, by the death of loved ones, by the unexpected death of friends. Yet, greater than all other thoughts of death is the disquieting intrusion of our own impending death. Best not to think about it, we surmise. Don’t think about death just go on living.
But the Biblical prescription for dealing with death is far different. We are called to courageously grapple with death in order live well. “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2) The living lay it to heart. They think on it. They embrace it. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Facing our death leads to a heart of wisdom. Counting our days backwards infuses greater significance to our hours and minutes.
Thinking on death helps us live real life. Many of the things that torment us in life, harsh words, rejection, setbacks, slights, seem quite petty and insignificant in the face of death. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is all small stuff. Also, when death first penetrated my mental barriers it helped to drive me to Christ and to understand his life and death in a saving way. We also tend to dig our tent stakes in pretty deep in this life. We drift into actually believing that his life is all that there is. This makes death a total loss of everything that holds meaning for us.
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) In Christ we have great hope for this life - to know God and his Son is eternal life already begun! (John 17:3) Jesus Christ’s love, his rule, wisdom, compassion, guidance are a great blessing in this life. But, this life is still a twisted mess. He is preparing us a better place and he is preparing us for a better place. “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3) This image pictures a bridegroom adding a separate room to his father’s home and when completed he goes to retrieve his bride. He is preparing a place for us, and us for a place.
Death, when seen through to eyes of faith in the beginning of the marriage! Death ushers us into fuller life, better life, eternal life with a perfect husband and a loving Father. Death is not the end of the perfect vacation, it is the beginning of a vacation that will never end.