Two things said to be certain: death and taxes. As April 15th approaches (here in the U.S.) most of us confront the latter reality with a groan. If we are employed, each paycheck reminds us of the certainty of taxes. However, we often successfully ignore the first, more final reality, death. We avoid it, speak with about it with euphemisms or clichés, or worse yet ignore it all together.
In a recent conversation with several friends who have been widowed, I learned that one of the more difficult challenges of widowhood was how their husbands seem to “disappear” from conversations with friends. Because we do not handle death well, we avoid the comfort they could receive by warm recollections of the many pleasant memories shared over their years of marriage. Perhaps because we are not comfortable dealing with death, we unknowingly add to their loss. I was reminded in that discussion another way the reality of death impacts those who have been most affected by it.
Perhaps we avoid acknowledging death to attempt to avoid its power. From Hebrews 2,“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.” Death has been Satan’s favorite tool to keep us in bondage.
We as Christ followers share Jesus' promise of eternal life, that in Him death has lost its sting. Over the past few weeks we attended five funerals for friends and relatives of varying ages and at different stages. We celebrated with different music as well as a variety of memories. At each, however, the reality of death demanded to be acknowledged. The final chapter of this earthly life has ended. What follows this life is the question addressed in various ways, depending upon the previous life of the one departed.
At the close of earthly life, solid hope is found in Jesus’ promise that this life is only the beginning; that we who remain do not sorrow as those who do not have hope. (I Thess. 4:13-18) It is that hope that can release us from a slavery to fear. We can live in this life differently, with hope, always ready to respond to those who inquire of the “hope that is within us.” (I Peter 3:15)
Easter is the season celebrating Jesus defeat of death. His resurrection assures ours. The empty tomb witnesses to the promise of life everlasting. How might we live differently today if we embraced our freedom, aware of His victory. Our world needs this hope.