Dealing With Death
Dealing with death proves what we're made of. It isn't an easy task...especially if it's someone close. It's a long and difficult journey to make.
Not long ago, our church took a lesson in dealing with death.
George and Debbie were coming back from celebrating their anniversary in Ohio Amish country. The two had the perfect life together. They had a great marriage. They had three fine boys, all still at home. The second was planning to attend college in less than a month and eventually wanted to go into the ministry. George was a morning usher at our church.
On their way home, George began to feel strange. They pulled over at a rest area and waited...
We were in the middle of a church service when our pastor got the message...they had taken George to the hospital. No one knew what was wrong with him. But something was wrong...terribly wrong.
As our pastor informed us of the events, we stopped the church service then and there to pray. We gathered around the altar and prayed like we had never prayed before.
A few moments later, our pastor's cell rang again. George had gone into a seizure. The hospital staff had already kicked the family out of George's room and began working frantically on him. No one knew any more.
We all left church that night desperately praying for George and the family. Less than an hour later, the news came...George, at forty-five years old, had died. He had gone into cardiac arrest. Nothing could be done for him.
The news broadsided everyone. How could such a young man die so early in life? But the greater questions was...how was Debbie going to deal with this now that George was gone?
What's the answer?
It's not wrong to ask questions like the first one. Dealing with death is difficult. And we're only human after all. Even our Lord questioned...
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)
But many times questions like this remain unanswered. God had a reason. That may not satisfy our desire to know "why." But that's the best we'll get this side of Heaven.
The second question is much more practical but even more difficult to answer...how do we deal with death. Dealing with death this side of eternity is just a matter of living. Everyone is born. Everyone dies. That's how life on this earth is because of sin. After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God said this in Genesis 3:19...
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Here God pronounces the sentence of death upon the human race. This death was two-fold. This verse clearly shows it is physical death. But there's another death mentioned later in the passage. In Genesis 3:23,24a the Bible says...
Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man.
The first time God told man he would be separated from physical existence, his body. This is physical death. But the second we saw above is separation from God. This is spiritual death. Everyone finds himself mired in this same problem.
Romans 3:23 says...
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
And in Romans 5:12, Paul says...
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
This is the story of Adam all over again. So death comes to all of us...both physical and spiritual...because of sin. But thank God He did something about that. Romans 6:23 says...
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Once again, we see the penalty of sin is death. But notice also, God says that there is a chance for "eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." That's the key. Christ defeated death when he died on that cross (I Corinthians 15:55-57.)
What about physical death?
So death has been conquered. Then why do Christians still die physically?
The answer is simply this...our bodies are still part of our descent from Adam. We still have this "mortal flesh" we live in. It's still under the "curse" of Genesis 3:19. But one day, even our bodies will be released from this curse.
So why not now? The reason? Paul tells us in II Corinthians 4:8-11...
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
Notice the reason Paul gives us for living with the constant threat of physical death...
We're here to "manifest," that means reveal, the life of Christ to those around. Paul said he was willing even to die if it meant others would live eternally (II Corinthians 4:12.)
So God has left us here on earth to bear pain and suffering and ultimately death to be Christ's representative here on earth.
When put that way, death seems a little more bearable.
What happens to the dead?
The Bible says in Psalm 116:5...
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
And Paul says in II Corinthians 5:8...
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
So for the believer, death may be separation from loved ones. But it also means living with God for all eternity.
When a Christian dies, it's not wrong to cry. The Bible never says that. The Bible does say this in I Thessalonians 4:13...
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope
Notice Paul does not command these believers not to weep. He tells them not to cry as "others which have no hope." We have hope that, when a believer dies, we will one day be reunited in Heaven.
Those who have believed on Jesus as Lord and Savior (Romans 6:23) will have a big family reunion in the land of God! This is something to look forward to! We will see them again!
But what about the unsaved? What happens to them?
There are two groups of people mentioned in I Thessalonians 4:13 above. Those who have hope. And those who have no hope. Unfortunately, the unsaved have no hope. If a person does not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior they will spend all of eternity in a place called Hell. It's a real place. Look at Revelation 20:14 says...
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
The first death was physical. Here's the second death. It's a death only experienced by those who have not reconciled themselves to God through Jesus Christ. This is utter and complete separation from God...spending all eternity in the Lake of Fire.
For these there can only be grief for them. Their fate has been sealed by the decision they made here on earth.
So how do we help someone dealing with death?
So...how do we help someone dealing with death?
The best way to deal with someone dealing with death is...say nothing!
Huh? What does that mean?
That's what I mean. Say nothing. Let them talk. Be there for them. But say nothing.
I can already hear some of you challenging me to find that one in the Bible! After all...this is a biblically based Bible study.
And you'd be right. Let me prove this...
Remember Job? His story can be found in the Book named after him. Read it sometime. But don't read it as if it's a story. Read it for what it is...a life account of a real man.
Job dealt with more suffering than any other human except for Christ as far as we can tell. He lost his material possessions, all his children and what amounted to his entire business all in the same day. Believe me...Job was dealing with death along with the loss of everything else.
And so his friends came. They wept and said...nothing (Job 2:12,13.) So far so good. That's the best way to deal with someone who is grieving. Be there for them. They did alright...for about a week...
Then Job verbalized his grief...a purely human reaction. And that was it! Job's friends railed on him for almost the entire length of the book (and it's 42 chapters long!) That's the wrong way to deal with someone dealing with death!
If Job's friends had just kept their mouths shut, everything would have been fine. Ultimately, their railing brought the anger of God upon them (Job 42:7,8.)
We are here to comfort those in pain, not judge them. God has brought death for His glory. We don't need to try to figure out why. We need to keep our mouths shut and comfort the grieving.
If we're there for them, they may be there for us when we're in need of comfort.
The point is, God wants us to comfort the grieving especially those who are dealing with death.
Wrapping it up!
I'm happy to say that George was a true believer in Jesus Christ. We will one day be reunited with him.
We also have to say that it is our hope that this study has helped you understand what dealing with death really means. Pass this on to those who are dealing with death. Perhaps it's the comfort they need. But in all this, just remember...
For the believer, our hope is in Heaven. Dealing with death is a little simpler, because we have joy (I Peter 1:8) that no other has.
God bless you.