Facing Death: Seven Tips Toward Dealing Graciously With Your Own Death

The purpose of this post is to encourage people to be ready to die in a way that is not ‘morbid’ or morose.

The year was 1989; the date was December 11. I had gone to a Subway sandwich shop with my Mom after what I thought was a ‘somewhat’ routine MRI… not that I had ever had an MRI before, but that being around medical things wasn’t a big deal to me. I had grown up, to that point, as a doctor’s son, and had been around medical devices all of my life. We had talked about my going to Plymouth, England on an exchange program for Architecture school. For me, that day began as any other day. My feeling was that of being lethargic to a degree, but just living life.

I remember that my Dad called my Mom from the hospital. He had gotten the results of my MRI back. I remember seeing her on the phone, repeating the information in bits and pieces. I was initially impatient because I didn’t know what was being said, but began to grow shocked and shaken. I think at that point I spoke with my Dad and he told me what was going on… that the MRI showed that I had a brain tumor, and that I would need to have it removed. My dad had already scheduled the surgery for January 11. I was told that if I didn’t have it removed, I would eventually go blind and then die. I was also told that there was about an 80% probability of survival from the surgery. I would have to go to Nashville, Tennessee in order to have the operation, that I would be in the hospital for 1 week, and it would take some time to recover.

I was stunned. I went back to my room and collapsed on my bed, crying. I was in that moment being faced with my mortality in a very real way. I didn’t know if I was actually going to live or die. All of everything that I had sought satisfaction from was now being stripped away from me. I was feeling a combination of fear and terror.

It was at that point that I called out to God to save me. I knew at that point a small part of my own wretchedness (more was to be shown to me later through my recovery, etc.), but realized that I could do nothing to save myself. Already knowing and understanding the gospel was critical to my prayer at that time, but that time for me was where I hit rock bottom. The prayer was along the lines of if He (God) is willing, He could save me. I asked Him to do so. At that point, I began to have a subtle background of peace and resolve in my life, although I was still emotionally distraught and numb. The ‘saving’ I was asking for included my physical life, but it also was inclusive of my life in general.

I have since learned many things, but I wanted to share this one with you guys because it was my ‘experience’ – the way that I dealt with what I saw was an impending ‘life and death’ event. I have though a bit more about death and dying since then, and thinking it would be helpful to you, I have written a few things below (seven so far) about how to deal with the fact that you (personally and individually) will die.

A Few Tips on Thinking About Your Mortality

  1. Death is typical, but isn’t normal – Death is an aberration in this life caused by mankind’s disobeying God’s word. Death is shameful but death as an experience for the Christian can be a redeemable experience. Key is to take it seriously, but not to get overwhelmed by it. Be gracious in your death; don’t embarrass yourself by responding to dying in a cowardly way.
  2. The process of dying will physically hurt – After all, it is death. But it is only ‘dramatic’ and ‘traumatic’ for those who are the enemies of God. For the Christian, death is like falling asleep. For the non-Christian, death is the doorway into eternal punishment, torment and destruction.
  3. Death underscores the need to ‘get right with God’ – It is appointed to a man to die once, and after that, the judgment. We all face a day of judgment with God where He will judge us based on the things that we have said and done. He will judge the things we say carelessly and flippantly. He will judge the things that we do and have done in secret. These things will be judged based on our conscience as well as His word… His Holy standard as seen the scriptures. Truth is, we have not always met His standard. The punishment for breaking His law one time, because He is the Eternal Being from whom everyone else derives their existence, is eternal punishment. He provided a way to escape that punishment based on the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross, and showed that He accepted Jesus’s work by raising Him from the dead on the third day.So, given that judgment is coming, and that there is also a way, provided by the judge, to ‘settle out of court’ – as it were- we should take it, and strive to settle out of court now. Today is the day of salvation.If you get to this courtroom and have yourself as your only defender, you are toast. You are truly a fool if you have yourself as a lawyer. So, avoid the courtroom. According to the Bible, for everyone who asks in this life, Jesus is our lawyer. He has never lost a case. Be wise and settle out of court today if you haven’t yet.
  4. Death is not a cessation of existence, but rather a confirmation of who you are and know yourself to be. After death, it is impossible for you to change as far as sin is concerned- it is impossible after death to repent. Your one and only lifetime in this mortal body is now; likewise, your only time to repent is now.
  5. Final Sanctification – Realize that, as a Christian, death is all that is left between you and Jesus. Paul refers to death as being unclothed, and that nobody wants to be unclothed. But, drawing from this aspect of consideration, death for the Christian is the last bit of sanctification that needs to happen prior to being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.No, Virginia, there is no ‘purgatory’ for the Christian. This life is the only ‘purgatory’ you will ever see. (I’m not Catholic, by the way, and do not hold to the teaching that Purgatory actually exists. Why? It isn’t mentioned in the Bible.)
  6. Live life well, today. Yes, you will die. Yes, you don’t know when it will happen. But, it doesn’t really matter if you are living so much in fear of death today that you don’t actually ‘live’. So, live today. Start the day asking, “If today was my last day, what would I do, or should I do, differently?”
  7. This World, as it Currently is, Won’t Last – The Bible clearly teaches that this evil world system is in the process of going extinct – it will be done away with. We have the millennial kingdom as well as the eternal state to look forward to… After we die, we will be back on this earth in the future in physically perfected bodies and will eventually go into the eternal state. Death for us is to be welcomed, because it is the way whereby we enter into the fullness of the Joy of being in the presence of Jesus Christ for the rest of our existence. It is also the way whereby we are completely removed from the personal power of sin.

So, what about you? Do you have any thoughts about death and dying? Ever had to face death? Tell me your story below.

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