Circle of life?

Recently several of my friends and colleagues have lost loved ones.  My own father and mother died in 2007 and 2008, and my wife’s parents are in their upper 80s and dealing with diminished capacities.  All of this has prompted me to reflect again on life, death, and eternity.

As we move from childlike innocence to adulthood, all of us have to learn to reckon with events over which we have little or no control, events that threaten our sense of order.  When a loved one dies, your country is suddenly plunged into war, you lose your job and cannot pay your bills, or your health is threatened, it can feel as though your life is sliding from order to chaos.

From what I can observe, our dog Cookie doesn’t spend much time worrying about why things are the way they are, or what will happen to her tomorrow.  But humans are different from dogs – we have a built-in drive to make sense of life in some way.  So, we try to come up with explanations that comfort us and give meaning to our lives.

One very common way of coping with the reality of aging, illness and death is to see them as simply an inevitable part of “the circle of life”.  We live; we grow old; we die.  The ancient Greeks added the belief that death was a welcome release for the soul, which they saw as having been trapped for a time in the physical realm.  In this view, death is not an enemy, not something to be feared or even resisted, but simply a natural and even welcome part of the life process.  All living things come from the earth and must go back to the earth; when your time comes, you die, and your soul goes to some sort of (hopefully friendly) afterworld.

This way of thinking is quite ancient but still very popular today.  It has the appearance of wisdom, and with the addition of a belief in heaven it can even masquerade as a Christian outlook.  But although there are elements of truth and wisdom in this way of looking at life, at its core are two beliefs that are totally contrary to Christian faith: the view that death in its proper time is a friend, not an enemy; and the view that we all automatically go to some state of bliss after we die.

In contrast, the Bible clearly portrays death as an enemy, not a friend.  In Biblical thinking, humans were made for an unbroken relationship with God, and death is an unwelcome intruder, the tragic consequence of our first parents’ decision to turn away from God towards independence.  It is true that believers in the risen Christ do not need to fear death; but that’s not because death is our friend, it’s because Jesus has risen from the dead to conquer our enemy.

But why does this matter?  Does it make a difference what you believe about such things?

Yes it does.  Beliefs have consequences.   If humans are just souls trapped inside bodies for a while, then by killing someone you are really doing him a favour.  Then Hitler was doing those 6 million Jews a favour by incinerating them; he was just liberating their souls from their bodies.  You can see where that type of thinking leads – abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide all become acceptable and even compassionate choices.   If, on the other hand, we were  made for an eternal purpose and we have an eternal destiny in a renewed and restored earth,  then each human life has eternal value.  This has huge consequences both for how I conduct my own life and the degree of respect with which I treat the lives of others.

Probably all of us who have watched a loved one die slowly can relate at some level to the idea of death as a friend.  I have to admit that I was relieved when my mother died, because I felt she had suffered long enough, and I was confident that she was going into the presence of the Lord.   I am so thankful that she met her Redeemer before she died and that she is in His presence today.  However, I did not see her death as simply a natural culmination of her life, but rather as an expression of humanity’s broken condition and our need for a Redeemer; and while I was in agreement with the family decision to let her die without trying to bring her back to life artificially, I could never have agreed to any form of euthanasia because I do not believe that her life was mine to end.

I believe that my life is headed somewhere – it is a journey with a destination, not a circle.  I believe that Jesus rose from the dead to set me free from the power of death and the fear of death, and that regardless of what trials I may face in my life,  I have a glorious destiny in a renewed heaven and earth.  I also believe that I will one day face the one who made me and redeemed me and give an account for what I have done with my life while I am on this earth.  I’m thankful that I don’t need to fear judgment, since Jesus has paid the price for my sins, but I want to live in a way that brings joy to the One who suffered so much for me.

Life is not a circle but a journey with a destination.  All of us are headed somewhere.  Whether we are headed for glory or misery depends on our response to the One who gave His all for our freedom.  The price has been paid, and the gift of eternal life has been purchased for us, at an incredibly high price – the lifeblood of the only truly pure man who ever lived.  What we do with that gift determines our eternal destiny.  The value we place on the lives of others – especially the weak and helpless – says much about the value we assign to His sacrifice.

Over to you …

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About Wisdom Hunter

Husband, father and grandfather, lover of Jesus, worshipper, intercessor, wisdom seeker, tech support guy, mentor, spiritual dad

04. October 2009 by Wisdom Hunter
Categories: Apologetics, Basic Principles, Reflections on Life | Tags: , , , , , | 5 comments

Comments (5)

  1. Hi Peter, as i get older (50+) and time just seems to tick ever so quickly and more so as each day ticks by….i so start to think of what life is really all about. I can see how everything on this earth is so “temporary”. The aches and the pains of this life that one has to endure…. but to live you must learn to get past them and not let baggage weigh you down. For myself it is chronic injuries that when I move a certain way come back to haunt me or a decision made in years past which has shaped my life for where it is today. The decisions that I make today will so influence my family where we will be in the future. I also think that those who died yesterday will that much quicker be in the eternal home! Imagine if you will that they get to heaven that much faster than us…we are all going to get there eventually if we know and love the Lord by His Grace, but they have gotten there already. In 50 years all of us will have died and gone on to our final resting place…its something that no one can stop. I keep wondering if I’ll live as long as my parents or if I’ll make to Centenarian or even SuperCentenarian status! But in the big scheme of things it is just time and but a small drop in the bucket of what eternity is!

  2. Well written, Peter…!

  3. Thanks, Jim. Your comment reminds me of Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21-24 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. “

  4. It all makes sense Peter.
    When my Father-in-law passed away- it hurt my wife and me as well.
    But then I often tell my wife till date that she should consider he is still with us in the form of his teachings and in terms of what he praticed and preached.

    I guess how you have lived is more important then how much you have lived.

    Having said the above every once often it still bothers me that how you have a person in your life the whole time and then suddenly he/she is gone to the point of no return.

    Regards,
    Shailesh

  5. Shailesh, thanks for your comment! Separation is painful – the more so because from the beginning we were made for eternity. But for those who have put their hope in the Man from Heaven who came to redeem us, death is swallowed up in victory – the victory of resurrection.