It is one thing to face our fears about what happens after death, but it is another thing to fear the pain that may attend the process of dying. Moishe Rosen, the founder of the organization Jews for Jesus, reflected on life and death after being diagnosed with prostate cancer that metastasized, went to his spine, and that eventually took his life:
“A lot is standing on the way that I’ll die. And what is standing is my willingness to endure whatever God has for me, will be the capstone on a testimony of redemption. Nobody likes pain, but there’s something with the pain that’s bothersome, and that’s uncertainty: will I be able to endure it? Will I behave with dignity? What I need is the assurance that the Lord will see me through, and that I can testify to His reality and to His presence as I make the big exit off of life’s stage.” (Messianic Times, May/June 2009)
At certain times in my life, I have sincerely faced the question of my death. Once the question came during a moment of intense pain. Lying on the concrete floor of the bathroom in our house in the DR Congo thanks to some parasites that were doing major battle with my abdomen, I was in extreme pain, and it wouldn’t go away. With my face pressing against the cold concrete, I prayed a very honest prayer: “God, I love my wife and kids, but I am ready to go be with you if this pain won’t go away. I am ready to go—take me now, Lord!”
Everyone is afraid of something. Sometimes our fears are rooted in the past, the present, or the future—or perhaps in all three. Yet many of our fears are irrational ones. I have a fear of horses, my wife of snakes, my daughter Sammy of spiders, and my daughter Sarah of bananas (it’s a long story!). Perhaps you are afraid of heights, water, airplanes, confined spaces, the dark, open spaces, or speaking in public. You might fear abandonment, failure, meaninglessness, intimacy, change, decision-making, urban areas, or even success. If you take the time to do a personal inventory, you will be ready to take the next step: casting your fears upon the Lord.
Not too long ago, my wife Julie told me how scared she was when, as a 20-year-old single girl, she felt called to go to the DR Congo (this was before we had met). At one point, after already making the decision to go, she got so scared that she almost backed out. When I look back now on our thirty-four-year marriage, our decade of missionary service in Africa, our over two decades of serving at Lincoln Christian University, and our three married children and two grandchildren, I shudder to think that this precious family would not exist had Julie succumbed to her fear when she was twenty. Had she backed out of going to the DR Congo, we never would have met and our wonderful family would not have happened.
A few years ago, I was inspired while attending the funeral of a dear older man, named Joe, who had been a dedicated Christian his whole life, including serving on the mission field in South Korea. After his health deteriorated in 2010, he entered hospice care and was ready to die. The family gathered around him to say their final goodbyes, but to everyone’s surprise, Joe ended up living three years longer after removal of his ventilator. Someone remarked at Joe’s funeral, “he wasn’t afraid to die, and he also wasn’t afraid to live.” I want to be like Joe. Life is too short to be afraid to live—or afraid to die.
Reflections: Can you remember a time in your life when you almost backed out or “chickened out” from doing something, but you didn’t? Reflect on the real negative consequences that would have happened had you backed out. Find a way to use this remembered life experience as a motivation to do things even when you are scared.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7