Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Have you truly wrestled with your fear of death in an attempt to defeat it in light of Christ's victorious resurrection? I haven't. Death, particularly my own or my husband's, has entered my mind before, but I do my best to not dwell on it. Maybe you have had a life-threatening dream (nightmare) before, or you have meditated on death at the funeral of a loved one. But have you - you young, 20-something, healthy, female - truly wrestled with the fear that comes with recognizing the fact that you will die at an appointed time? The time that my fragility (and in turn, God's sovereignty) was most fresh on my mind was when I was left alone in the dark on the rough streets of La Paz, Bolivia. My brave, 19 year-old stupidity brought me there and now I was surrounded by mean men waiting to subdue me. I remember thinking how I was completely powerless to stop their attack, so I put my eyes to the ground and watched my feet step-by-step move down the sidewalk as God sovereignly protected me and rescued me from that situation.
This FEAR that I have tried my best to stay away from, has plagued me of late and I have had no choice but to face it. My husband and I are currently working in the slums of one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Rio de Janeiro. "If your planning on travelling to Brazil, think twice. It's not a matter of where your mugged, it's when." (travellinginsurance.org) There have been moments where I have been nearly paralyzed with fear- watching a man being robbed at gunpoint 20 feet behind me in broad daylight, walking side-by-side with the leader of one of the most powerful and violent drug trafficking factions in Rio, who is responsible for countless brutal murders. And other moments where I cannot escape the constant stench of death and sin- working with slum-dwelling moms who have each suffered the death of at least one child, often more; or standing at the foot of a mudslide that murdered hundreds of poor people in their sleep.
But friends, do you know what the most sobering part of all is? That you, in sunny San Diego or quiet, suburban League City, are no further away from death than I am in the hands of our sovereign God. YOU are not in control of your life, God is. He is in control of everything!
Colossians 1:16a, 17b
For by Him all things were created... and in Him all things hold together.
If you allow the fear of death to rule you, it can begin to feel like this,
Psalm 18:4-5The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
I have felt this way. I have given into anxiety. I have given into fear. But know that it does NOT end there,
Hebrews 2:14-15Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Christ] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
We were, and if you do not know Christ you still are, subject to lifelong slavery through our fear of death. But now, thanks to Christ's "once for all" atoning sacrifice for us on the Cross (Heb 7:27), this fear no longer need paralyze us! Did you know that Christians are still being crucified in South Sudan? That distributing a Bible in North Korea merits execution? That over the past five years over 300 Christians were martyred in Colombia, a "Christian" nation? Being a Christian has never been and is still not safe. Paul lived his life with death constantly crouching at his doorstep, but this actually gave him comfort, even more, it gave him JOY. Why? Because "to depart and be with Christ" is "far better". (Phil 1:23) The substitutionary atonement that Christ accomplished on those wooden planks that dark, stormy day in Calvary gave Paul, and still can today, give us, hope. When we, my fellow believers, exhale our final breath on this earth, we do not die, we live in communion with Christ. Is this your greatest joy? If so, then you can affirm along with Paul, that "for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21)
Paul lived with a crazy insane dependency on his Sovereign God. In Daniel 3 our friends whose names no one can pronounce properly, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, understood this acutely. When their earthly king forged an idol of gold and threatened to throw them into a inescapable pit full of fire if they did not deny their God by worshiping this lesser god (how many times have we done this sisters?), they proclaimed with superhuman courage, "If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Oh how easily we give into the slightest anxieties and fears, making excuses for our doubt.
Sisters, Satan would love for us to continue living in denial of his furious plot to kill us. Your mortality is real. You will die one day, but that is when you will rise again with Christ. To acknowledge your imminent death gives Christ even more power in your life because He has already conquered it. Give him this power in your life, and begin living to die.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
*I understand that you may have a lot of questions. I want to hear them. Feel free to comment here or email me at email@example.com to talk.