‘We Will Meet in the Morning’
By DANNY MINTON
You’ll see it pop up everywhere. It’s on the news every evening and regularly listed in the newspaper. You’ll find it online daily. Press conferences boldly announce the numbers. What is it? It’s the death toll from the COVID-19 virus. The last time I remember seeing a death toll announced daily was during the Vietnam war years. Now, the constant reminder of people dying has resulted in more people being obsessed with thinking about death. We’ve all likely felt the touch of a relative or friend passing away from complications caused by the virus. Now in the minds of so many people is that dreaded subject, death.
Most people don’t want to talk about death. It’s a subject that we try to avoid, even when staring at it face to face. I once taught a class of folks who were in the 80-plus age group. I asked them what they would like to study. The answer came quickly from one lady, “Anything but death.” Maybe she’s not reading this, so let’s talk about it a little.
Death is scary! The fear of death haunts so many people of all ages. We find King Hezekiah’s story in 2 Kings 20, where Isaiah tells him his illness will bring death and put his house in order. The king didn’t want to die so, “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, ‘Remember LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.’ 2 Kings 20:2-3 (NIV2011) People, much like Hezekiah, struggle with the prospects of dying. Many times it’s the fear of the unknown. Even the strongest in faith will at times have doubts cross their minds. Sometimes the spiritually strong wonder if they have lived a life worthy to meet the Lord. Paul, taking a passage from Hosea, refers to sin and the sting of death. Death is scary!
Death is sad. The losing of loved ones presents us with one of the most challenging events we face in our lives. My wife and I have lost both our parents and one of our sons. I helped bury our parents, my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and so many friends. I’ve had the tears flow from loss. I have sat beside those who are grief-stricken from the death of one they so dearly loved. Hearts are broken at a loss, knowing they are no longer going to be around. They will not be there on holidays. There will be no more phone calls. The memorable laugh will be gone. Even the faithful who know that they are in a better place long for them to be here still sitting beside them. Mary and Martha grabbed Jesus in tears, holding him tightly with anguish over their brother’s death. A father came to Jesus seeking help for his dying son. A weeping mother’s tears turned to joy as Jesus raised her son from death to life. There is probably no sadness that affects our hearts more than the sadness of a loss. It’s something we always dread to experience.
However, the fear of death and its sadness can lessen when we realize that death is merely stepping into another life. In one of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, there is a scene where Gandalf and Pippin are facing death. “PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way. GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what? GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise. PIPPIN: Well, that’s not so bad. GANDALF: No. No, it isn’t.”
Death is only scary when we look at the opposing side. As Christians, we realize that Jesus conquered death with his resurrection. The Hebrew writer explains that Jesus died to free us from that fear we have of dying. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV2011)
I share with people that death is merely like falling into a good night’s sleep. We close our eyes, and even though hours pass, we open our eyes an instant later. Today, I find more people scared of catching COVID and dying because of the virus than I’ve seen in a long while. To some, it’s on their mind daily. We can comfort them by assuring each other that much like Gandalf told Pippin, what lies ahead is not so bad.
F.B. Meyer, a Baptist minister and author from the early 1900s, facing death, wrote a close friend. “I have just heard, to my great surprise, that I have but a few days to live. It may be that before this reaches you, I shall have entered the palace. Don’t trouble to write. We shall meet in the morning.”
No one likes to talk about death. However, without death, there can be no life. Without an end, there can be no beginning. One death led to life for many.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV2011)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ