Should death be on your ‘looking-forward-to-it list’? Or are there better things to do? Posted on February 14, 2019February 14, 2019 by Jeff Lucas When it comes to upcoming events that I’m looking forward to, stopping breathing is not on my list. To put it simply – I don’t want to die. But please don’t judge me for it. Some Christians apparently are thrilled about the prospect of their own funeral, even though they won’t care what’s in the sandwiches they serve afterwards. Like me you may have heard them claiming we should all come to a place of ‘maturity’ in our Christian lives where we would rather die and be with Jesus than live here on earth. They give the impression death is something to be warmly welcomed, a wonderful carrier that will usher us into the presence of the Lord, which is far better than the struggles of life here. But are we really expected to see life like that? As though life is just a waiting room for eternity? Please, ‘no’! But it’s easy to see where this ‘death wish’ thinking comes from. Paul the faithful apostle was able to say he longed to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. For him to live was Christ, he said. And to die was gain. Life, nil points, death and eternity thereafter, ten points. Death scored much higher. I’m glad Paul reached that place of peace in the face of his upcoming demise. But I’m not there, and for the next couple of decades at least, I hope I don’t arrive at that destination of happy resignation. I don’t view death with the delirious delight of a five year old about to board an airplane flight for the first time. When it comes to expiry, I’ll be wanting to eek out every last breath. I remember the sinking feeling when, as a child riding a fairground ride, I saw the attendant place his hand on the lever that meant my fun was almost over. That’s how I feel about life. So how do I square this with Paul’s enthusiasm for dying? It’s because of the context of his remarks. Over an extended period, as a follower of Jesus, Paul had experienced terrible pain and persecution – and a series of unjust, kangaroo court trials that were corrupt to the core. Though enjoying a measure of freedom at the end of his life, Paul was still under house arrest in Rome, and life was not what it had been. He could no longer embark on missionary travels. He could no longer visit the churches he founded. So perhaps the exhaustion and frustration of it all made the glory of eternity shine all the brighter. Being with Christ would be a welcome relief under those circumstances. Little wonder he anticipated it with such joy. But that’s not my experience, and so I have no desire to die just yet. Surely we are designed and made to want to hold on to life for as long as we can – the resilience of the human body testifies to that truth. I’ve watched as impossibly fragile seniors, their bodies riddled with cancer, little more than skin and bones, fight on for weeks and months, clinging with vice like tenacity to the gift of living. Death, while it is a defeated enemy, is still an enemy. A profound example of this can be found in the way Jesus prepared for his own death. At the last supper, he bids his friends goodbye in a poignant covenant meal. There will be wine shared again, he promises, but it will be the vintage reserved for the fullness of the Father’s Kingdom. There’s a parting. He carefully prepares for the worst – the cross. But then a little later, in the shadows of Gethsemane, Jesus asks the Father if there is any other way the great rescue can be accomplished. Hopes for the best are expressed. They’re denied, for he must drink that cup of suffering to the full, but he asks repeatedly anyway for another way. Ask for the best. Prepare for the worst. So when death finally makes an appearance in my life, I want to be able to face it down with courage, and be able to gather my family and friends and say goodbye. In the meantime, I want to live to the full, for and with Christ, today, and hopefully tomorrow and for many days more too. Death, kindly take your hand off that lever, right now. This is adapted from Jeff Lucas’ book If you Want to Walk on Water, Consider Staying in the Boat (CWR) Jeff is still some way from his afterwork years. His passion is to equip the Church with practical bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. And he does so as an international author, speaker and broadcaster. Check him out at Jeff Lucas.