1 SAMUEL 20
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. I know several dear people who are struggling with illness, and I have several friends who have just lost someone they loved. And the ten-year anniversary of my own father’s death is coming up in a few months. I will never forget the final moments of his life—sitting beside him, rubbing his feet and legs while he took his last breaths.
Even as I’m writing this, though, I am so frustrated because I think we use the words life and death in such a shallow, wrong way. We refer to them both as a description of their relation to respiration. If you’re breathing, you’re alive. If you’re not breathing, you’re dead. I think the Bible tells a different story, though. Ultimately, I don’t think true life or true death are fundamentally about breathing. I don’t think what we call "death" here on Earth is actually death (the kind God is worried about). And I don’t think that what we call "life" here on Earth is actually life (the kind God offers).
Having made that disclaimer, however, I have to say that delving into that is for another blog at another time. Today, I will actually address what we all call "death" on this planet—or, as I like to refer to it, going to Sleep. That thing that happens when we stop breathing.
At the risk of sounding morbid, don’t you know that you are—right this moment—living under a death sentence? You, yes you, are going to die. You don’t know where. You don’t know when. And you don't know what the cause will be. But that death that we all like to pretend doesn’t really exist and won’t happen to us is going to happen to you.
In fact, death is about the only thing you can count on in this life! Nothing else is so guaranteed. Nothing else is so firmly and stubbornly fixed at a rate of one-hundred-percent. If you are born, you will die. So why are we still so surprised by it? When the doctor gives us the diagnosis, when we get the call that a friend has been killed in an accident, when we suffer a miscarriage or a stillbirth, why are we shocked? I understand grief and sadness, but surprise?
I think it was all this thinking about death that made David’s words to Jonathan jump out at me today: "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, 'Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.' Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death." (vs 3) Of course, David was referring to a very specific and real threat to his life at that moment. However, there is something real and profound in his words.
There is only a step between me and death. All the time. Every day.
Once, I wrote this on my Facebook status: "Today isn’t the first day of the rest of your life. Today is the rest of your life." And one of my friends responded: "I hope not. I’d hate to have it end that soon." Regardless, I am sticking by what I wrote, because I believe it’s true. Today is the rest of your life, because today is all we ever have. You can’t live in yesterday, and you will never live in tomorrow. Today, this day, is it. Maybe that’s why God says today is the day of salvation. (2 Cor 6:2) We, all of us, can only live one day at a time.
However, here’s where my initial disclaimer comes in. God is life, true and abundant life. And when we die, our life is still secure—exactly in the same place it was before we closed our eyes and stopped breathing. Life is and has always been only in God. He has chosen to share that life with us, but nobody else has ever been (nor will ever be) able to claim, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (Jn 14:6)
And the exciting thing is that we don’t have to wait for that life. If we have God, we have it now, whether we are awake or asleep. As John said, "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 Jn 5:12-13) Notice, John said you have eternal life, not you will someday have eternal life. If we know and love God, we have eternal life now—a life that will include one brief second of Sleep somewhere in time.
So, I hope you will realize today (as David did) that there is only one step between you and death. But don’t let that surprise you, and don’t let it frighten you either! Your true and abundant life is secure in God, who is the life. And He wants you to know that whether you are awake or asleep, you have eternal life—right now—in Him!