Job said, “My days are swifter than a runner; they fly away without a glimpse of joy” (Job 9:25). By runner, Job doesn’t mean a marathon runner, methodically running twenty-six miles. Rather, think about Olympic sprinters, who finish a hundred-meter race in fewer than ten seconds.
In the New Testament, James warns those who make plans for the morrow:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (Jas 4:13–15)
Think for a moment about mist, whether an early morning fog that burns off as the sun rises or the steam of a tea kettle. In either case, mist doesn’t hang around for long. In an earlier blog I talked about how an entire life is represented by a single dash on a tombstone. A nihilist looks at the dash and sees no point in it, but a Christian looks at the dash and asks a stewardship question: Because life is so brief and passes so quickly, how can I live it fully unto the Lord?
Psalm 78 talks about God’s perspective on our lives: “He remembered they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.” We need to ask God to help us take his view of the brevity our lives. Because every one of us is a single heartbeat—a single breath—from our eternal home, God spends all of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, telling us about life’s brevity using a variety of metaphors. Yet we continue putting out of our minds the idea that we will die soon. Accepting the brevity of life and looking our upcoming death square in the face can teach us how to live a life of significance.
Christians need to develop a proper biblical theology of death. To hear some of us talk, death sounds like just about the worst thing that can happen to someone. But such a perspective is a far cry from Paul’s declaration to the church at Philippi: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). As John Mott said, “Death is just a place where Christ-followers change trains.” In fact, Psalm 116:15 exclaims: “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!” Sir Walter Scott called death not “the last sleep,” but rather the “final awakening,” and he was correct: Christians should look at death the way they look at sleep. We aren’t afraid to go to sleep; we fall asleep fully confident that we will rise in the morning. We should face death the same way, confident that we will wake up to an eternal morning.
Question: What is your personal perspective and theology of death?
“You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”