The following is part of a letter I wrote to a friend who was concerned about death, but didn’t want to talk with me about it.
That death thing can certainly bring thoughts about eternal things into much clearer focus, can’t they? We have a church of over 800 people now and a sister church in town with around 400. We are having to deal more and more with people dying, in both the generation ahead of us, but also people who I would consider peers. Having a faith based on more than just the thoughts of men becomes very important for peace and joy.
I have suspected that you and I have not agreed on this topic over the years, though it was always a suspicion more than a fact because we never actually chatted about the topic. I know it’s a difficult topic because it involves ultimate things, core things, deep things having to do with our very beings. On the other hand, sometimes talking about ideas with those we disagree makes us firmer in our thoughts and opinions. Sometimes these conversations reveal that we need to rethink some things. If you would like to chat with me about these ultimate things, I’m happy to chat with you. Who knows, we may agree on a lot more than we think.
Through my counseling ministry I’ve noticed that kids who grew up in the same family often remember their lives very differently from one another. And, sometimes people don’t remember very accurately at all. I was listening to one of my students talk about when he was in high school his whole goal was to be one of the cool kids in school. I got to thinking about my high school years and don’t remember caring if I was cool or not. I may have, but I don’t remember that I did. I remember that I wasn’t cool, but I don’t remember that it bothered me very much. I just don’t remember.
What I do remember is that I thought I went to church with a bunch of hypocrites and though I don’t remember hating God, I did hate going to church and doing church related things. I remember thinking that I would like to meet one Christian who actually lived like I knew Christians were supposed to be. Mostly I was just into playing, especially tennis, oh and girls.
Now, my life is wrapped up in God. I’ve met many many people who are working hard to live consistent lives and I believe I am one of them. I’m probably just as big a hypocrite as I thought others were when I was young, but now I’m on God’s side of the hypocrites rather than on the side away from God. For my part the result has been deep joy. This deep joy comes even in the midst of terrible events, and stays when things are really good. I have a wife who loves me, and is proud of what I do and how I do it. I have a daughter who is 18 and isn’t a rebel. She likes to walk down the street holding my hand and isn’t embarrassed to hug me in public. She is proud to tell people I am her father and that I teach at the same college she attends. She looks forward to my helping her pick a husband, and even wants me to help him pick her (if we need to do that). I also have a great job, with great co-workers, in a great community. Things are going really well for me and my family. And I know that that can all change in a twinkling of an eye.
With regard to death, I look forward to it in a strange way. I’d hate to leave Eileen and Rachel unprepared to live without me, and that concerns me. I also don’t like the pains that are coming on me as I grow older, but I do know that just as the blessings I’ve received throughout my life came from the hand of God, so also the pains will be blessings because they come from the same God, and he loves me. Therefore, I look forward to those pains, and ultimately death, with joy because I know that the reward of dying is eternal joy with God—and no more pain, suffering, and death. I also know that my death will bring glory to God and that is the real goal of life.