Faith trumps fear, when it comes to death…

March 31, 2018

I attended my church’s Good Friday service last night. While I was sitting there listening to the familiar story of Christ’s Passion and death on the cross, I couldn’t help thinking about a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness.”  (J.K. Rowling)

Death is the one certainty that represents the biggest unknown in our lives. As the service went on, we prayed and said the words to Martin Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article.

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.

He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.

He did this that I should be His very own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and joy; just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns in eternity. This is most certainly true.

jesus-as-lightThe death and resurrection of Christ is the defining event in the Christian faith and I thought that if one believes in that event, i.e. if that is the foundation of one’s faith; then that belief should remove the fear of death. The next thought I had was one of wondering what someone has who has no faith? If you cannot find hope and comfort in the belief of life after death, then what do you have. Nothing? It’s no wonder those without faith fear death.

Man’s fertile imagination has allowed him to conjure up many different ways to express the concept of God and his need to organize and manage the process of expressing that faith has resulted in hundreds of religions. Even within the religions based upon the belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God, the hand of man has resulted in hundreds of implementations of the practices of that faith and the concept of the church as a vehicle for those practices. The religious chaos that grew out of all of this has fueled the argument of the cynics who have no faith in God or anything else. They are unable to put aside the trappings of the various religions and get to the core of them all, which is a belief in God and a faith that an afterlife exists.

As we head into Easter Sunday, we put aside the dark and somber meditations on Christ’s woman-prayingdeath and turn our attention to the joyous celebration of his resurrection. That is how we overcome our fear of death. Life after death may still be a great unknown for us, but we believe in it and look forward to the promise of “a peace that surpasses all understanding”.

He is risen! That’s all that we need to understand.

That’s all I need…

September 8, 2015

“The last suit that you wear, you don’t need any pockets.”  (Wayne Dyer),  from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I just returned from the funeral of my wife’s sister; so this little saying hit home.  Another thing that really hit home came out of the funeral service. The pastor was delivering the homily and told the story of a little girl (I think he said she was three years old or maybe five) who volunteered to recite the 23rd Psalm in Sunday School. The 23rd Psalm is a very famous Psalm that is often used in funerals and which is often taught in Sunday Schools.  The 23rd Psalm starts out, “The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want…” This day, the Sunday School teacher asked the class who could recite the 23rd Psalm, which they has been studying, and the little girl enthusiastically raised her hand. When she was called upon, she stood and confidently said, “The Lord is my Shepard and that’s all I need.” 

I think she got it exactly right. That is all that we need. If we believe that Jesus is our Shepard and follow Him, we don’t need any pockets.

A friend of mine lost a courageous battle with cancer recently. He was fun to be around; he was a good man and he will be missed. As I read through some of the posts from his family and friends on Facebook that week, everyone was sending their condolences to his widow and mentioning that he was now at peace in Heaven. For me, and for most Christians, thoughts of going to a place we call Heaven is plan “A” for life after death. It got me wondering what those who have not embraced religion have as plan “B”.

Some who claim to be agnostics deride the faithful believer’s vision of a life with God after death, but I wonder what they think happens next. What is their plan “B”? Somehow, as simplistic as it may seem to some, thoughts of life going on, albeit in a different level, is a lot more comforting than life just ending. I find no comfort at all in that plan “B”. I’m hard-pressed to understand what they believe in.

So, for me at least, I’ll go with the plan that the little girl in Sunday School laid out – The Lord is my Shepard and that’s all I need.

What’s your plan?

Time – Life’s one-way street…

June 12, 2015

Yesterday I got a “like” message from Chris Nicholas, an Australian author. I visited his blog as I do just with just about everybody who takes the time to comment on my blog or “like” it. While there I was introduced to a word that I had not heard or used before –  Thanatophobia. Chris has a nice post about that word and its meaning in his life, which you can read here. Basically Thanatophobia is an overwhelming anxiety about one’s own death. Perhaps it is brought about by the realization that time is a one-way street.

overwhelmedThe name Thanatophobia is made from the Greek figure of death known as Thanatos. Thanatophibia or death anxiety is the morbid, abnormal or persistent fear of one’s own mortality. One definition of death anxiety is a “feeling of dread, apprehension or solicitude (anxiety) when one thinks of the process of dying, or ceasing to ‘be’”. It is distinguished from necrophobia, which is a specific fear of dead or dying persons and/or things (i.e. others who are dead or dying, not one’s own death or dying).

I suspect that we all experience some form of Thanatophobia in our lives. Hopefully it is mild and fleeting for you and not debilitating. The thing that I think may often precede those thoughts about our own death is the point in time in our lives that we come to the realization that time is a one way street. There is no going back in time. One may try again, but that is not a do-over because time has passed and one cannot get back to a previous state in time. Once you wrap your head around that concept the next thing that pops to mind is that our time, the time we have here in this human state, is limited. There was a beginning (which few of us remember much about) and there will be an end (which none of us can predict). Time is life’s one-way street. No matter how many twists and turns your life may take, time marches on in a straight line and headed towards that inevitable end point.

I suspect that it was this realization that at some point in history caused man to invent modern religions. Before that what might have passed for religion in mankind was more a fear of and wonderment about Nature and the events going on around them. The initial “religions” of mankind didn’t seem to assign human characteristics to the great unknowns praying in different religionsthat they feared or worshiped. It didn’t take too long before man’s growing ego about his place in the world began to be reflected in his religions and he bagan assigning names and human faces and characteristics to the Gods that he imagined – Gods which by then had taken on human visages in many religions.

The next step was man’s need to believe in some role for himself (again an ego-driven thing) after death, which led to the creation of very complex scenarios for life after death. Most modern religions have those scenarios and many of them are very much driven by visions of the afterlife within the context of our current lives – only much better. Most of the afterlife explanations are also derived from male-dominated scenarios, i.e. I will have many wives and they will all be virgins. I can’t see how that would be considered to be heaven for the virgins involved. Perhaps having streets paved with gold and honey flowing like rivers would appeal to some, but may not be for everyone. Most religions, but not all, also settled on a single God, which allowed focus, as opposed to the multiple Gods religions which required worshiping all of them somehow.

So, we now have religions that are there to make us feel better about the end time – our own deaths – and to hold out the hope (a devout Christian would say the certainty) that there is something after death. Fortunately, the Gods that we’ve created look a lot like us so we don’t have to use much imagination to picture them or to depict them in paintings. They have also promised us some level of existence after death and once again made it more convenient for us by excluding those who, unlike us, don’t believe in them. After all, we wouldn’t want our heaven to get too crowded with all of those non-believers. To give the believers something to hold on to all of the modern religions have also created books which are believed to contain the words and wisdom of their Gods and religious leaders, although all of the books were written and edited by men. We have also created elaborate organizations called relions to promote and carry on our beliefs and built buildings in which to gather to worship our Gods. All of this made us feel better about ourselves; yet none of it changed the fact that time is a one-way street.

Is the anxiety about pour own deaths justified or have we created enough of a ruse for ourselves about life after death in our religions to bring us comfort? I suppose that is a question that each person must answer for themselves. My hand reaching for heavenpersonal philosophy is to try to focus more on living each day to its fullest and not to spend time or energy worrying about something that I can neither predict nor prevent. I choose to believe in life after death, but I temper that with a skeptical view that it will involve my physical body or that heaven will look just like earth only better. Making that choice to believe that some “essence” of me will live on after death is an ego thing, too, and I understand that. Still, it is more comforting to believe that than to spend what time I have worrying about death. Time is a one way street and I intend to travel it as far as I can and to spend my time enjoying the journey. At the end of the line, I hope that my faith is the transfer ticket that I believe it is for the next ride.

Have a great day today and don’t worry about tomorrow.