Two Views Of Death

One sister wrote the following observation on the death of a parent:

When you lose a parent as an adult, you get a lot of, “Well this is the normal course of things.” ... The idea here is that since it is “normal” it must necessarily then be “easy.” Those two things are not equal. Thinking of many friends who are dealing with end-of-life issues with their parents. May God surround you with comfort and strength. It's not easy at ANY age!

Another took issue and responded:

Please know I am not being sarcastic or making light of anyone's loss. But there is something that I have contemplated over the years. ... As Christians, why do we allow death to be hard. It should be something we look forward to because we ... get to be free from the bondage of this physical life and return to our Father. O death where is thy sting?

... Consider Jesus and the death of Lazarus. ... He was moved by their sorrow but disturbed by it as well for lack of vision to where Lazarus needed to go. We must be careful not to hold to this earthly realm. Enjoy the things/time we are provided with, but death is a normal process and God has made it easy. We make it hard by holding on to the physical.

We are never guaranteed to grow up, to marry, to see our children grow up, to see grandchildren. I hear people say the most awful thing is for a parent to bury their child, but why is that the most awful? Death is death, and loss is loss. Perhaps we can have some discussion on this because I have seen the death of a Christian loved one cripple the living because of loss of the hope that is laid before us.

Even those who endeavor to honor the authority of the Scriptures sometimes draw conclusions that are at odds with each other. Which side of the above discussion would you weigh in on?

Part of the above differences may be a matter of perspective. It seems like the first sister is speaking of the physical and emotional toll of care-giving, including the final separation in death. She is thinking of the removal from one’s life of the one who loved and nurtured and taught as a parent. In such a process, a bond is created that will necessarily alter one’s life when it is taken away.

The second sister seems more focused on the spiritual implications of death, that God has made it possible to negotiate this inevitable end of human life with hope of life and glory beyond. So, from their respective points of view, both say things that are valid.

That being said, it seems to me that the second sister is a little off base with some of her other observations. Her outlook sounds cold, clinical, almost emotionless as she contemplates death: “Death is a normal process and God has made it easy. We make it hard by holding on to the physical. ... I hear people say the most awful thing is for a parent to bury their child, but why is that the most awful? Death is death, and loss is loss.”

Wow. I personally wonder about someone who is that nonchalant about the scourge of death afflicting this world. Should we look at the death of Jesus this way? Should we say of the beating, ridicule, torture and execution of our beloved Lord, “Death is death and loss is loss”?

Was it nothing to God to witness the brutal treatment of His Son? The next time I preach a funeral, should I get up and say: “What is wrong with you people -- all this crying and grieving? God has made death easy.”

The truth is, there are elements of death that are repugnant and sorrowful and unnatural. Death was not part of God’s purpose for us as we were originally made; death did not exist and God had provided the tree of life so that we could continuously live. Death is the result of sin, something that we created, not God.

Death itself is vile, and the fact that God freely gave His Son to overcome its deadly spiritual effect doesn’t change that.

To watch an elderly parent gradually lose touch with reality, see hallucinations that make them afraid, lose their independence, struggle with pain, forget how to swallow and eventually how to eat altogether is deeply distressing on a number of levels. To see a child losing a battle with a terrible disease when he or she isn’t mature enough to process pain and suffering, to know that he or she will never enjoy the good things of this world that God has created for our enjoyment before joining Him in heaven is tragic.

Yes, thanks be to God for taking away death’s “sting” -- sin -- and replacing our dread with hope and confidence (I Cor. 15:54-57). But victory lies on the other side of the valley of the shadow of death, and that descent is the occasion of sorrow. This is the emotion Jesus felt at Lazarus’ passing, not some implied disappointment in Lazarus’ grieving sisters (John 11:32-38).

Christians should not despair when a faithful one passes, but should we not hurt? Jesus tells us to weep with those who weep. He practiced what He preaches.