Dealing With Death

This is a guest post by author Dr. Frank Chase Jr, Th.D

Frank Chase, Jr. is the son of Frank Chase and Romaine Berry. He grew up in Baltimore Md. and graduated from Walbrook High School in 1978. After high school, Frank spent four years in the United States Army and during that time became a follower of the Messiah. After completing his tour of duty, he attended Washington State University (WSU) and graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and a minor in Sociology. Because Frank believes in education, he pursued religious degrees and graduated from North Carolina College of Theology with a Bachelor of Biblical Studies, a Master of Arts in Theology, and a Doctor of Theology. In his professional career, Frank writes preventive maintenance articles for Army aircraft for the Department of the Army. He is an avid racquetball player, and loves movies, reading and good conversation, and he never shies away from talking about difficult or even controversial subjects.

Whatever perspective an individual has on death, it is an inescapable, unchangeable, universal appointment every human being will positively face with precise certainty unless God amends our reserved obligation with the end of biological life.  Hebrews 9:27 confirms “…it is appointed unto men once to die….”

Termination of life is the simplest definition of death. It marks the end of trials and entry into a new world.  This may not be a world view, but Isaiah 57:1-2 observes: The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.Those who walk uprightly enter in to peace; they find rest as they lie in death. What a powerful statement that a righteous person’s death took place only to spare them from evil.

Scriptures represent death in various ways: 1. “The dust shall return to the earth as it was” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).  2. “Thou takest away their breath, they die” (Psalms 104:29). 3. It is the dissolution of “our earthly house of this tabernacle” (2 Corinthians 5:1); the “putting off this tabernacle” (2 Peter 1:13, 14).  4. Being “unclothed” (2 Corinthians 5:3, 4).  5. “Falling on sleep” (Psalms 76:5; Jeremiah 51:39; Acts 13:36. 6. “I go whence I shall not return” (Job 10:21), “Make me to know mine end” (Psalms 39:4); and “to depart” (Philippians 1:23). Also, Paul spoke of a readiness for death, illustrating that even he did not begrudge death’s prospect when he said, “We are confident, I say, and willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Death is death, no matter how you look at it.  And since death is nonnegotiable and permanent, how should believers face death?  The scriptures present a paradigm shift about how we respond to death.  The image of death, often called, “the Grim Reaper” paints a picture of bloodcurdling fear about life’s demise. On the contrary, the scriptures look at death as a positive event for the righteous who have faith in God. For example, death should be a hopeful thing because “…the righteous hath hope in his death (Proverbs 14.32).  Death is a precious thing because “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints” (Psalms 116:15). If death is a fearless thing, then we should say as David said in Psalms 23:4, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” And who can argue that death is not triumphant when Jesus spoke about its inevitableness and the outcome for the beggar and the rich man, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried (Luke 16:22). In the end, no pun intended, we must look at death as a blessing. That may be difficult, but the Bible’s perspective as God spoke to Apostle John on the isle of Patmos leaves no doubt that death is positive for believers. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

An important thought about dates on the tombstone is not the birth date or the date of death. It’s the dash. What did you do with your D.A.S.H, Determined Assignment Sent from Heaven? What did you do in between? Are you living life to the fullest or squandering opportunity.  Despite the hope that fills both Testaments, we cannot ignore that death is still a dreadful and terrible distortion of what God intended for humanity—that’s life without death before the original sin. The Bible’s insight on death is that it’s unnatural, and the whole universe strains toward liberation from the bondage of death (Romans 8: 20-21).

In 1 Kings 20:1-6, God spoke to Hezekiah who fell gravely ill with boils. God informed him he would not live but die and to set his house in order. He prayed and received a stay from death that only God could revise. Afterwards, God added fifteen years to his life. What God said to him is of great value. Setting his house in order is a profound look at God’s viewpoint on how we must prepare for death. The statement suggests that we must never ignore the realty of preparing for the future, finances and ultimate farewells to loved ones. We act as if the appointment will never arrive. We fail to set the house in order, and when death arrives, it pales in comparison to the drama the grieving family members confront having to settle unfinished business. Death is like blunt force action. It hits you hard. So let me be blunt.  Many of God’s people have a pot to piss in, but can’t afford a coffin for burial because they failed to get their house in order.

One such case in 2 Kings 4:1-7 tells of a widow woman’s, prophet husband who followed Elisha. Verse one reads “Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying “They servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.” Here we have a husband, a father and a prophet who dies without his house set in order and in the aftermath is a distraught wife in disarray about how to settle with the creditor or lose her sons. Far too many people flippantly deal with the frailty, uncertainty, and brevity of life, leaving their affairs out of order for family to figure out. Preparing for the prospect of death means doing everything we can to not leave our families vulnerable to creditors.

Knowing that death is inevitable, we should live life fervently and purposefully by doing whatever good our hands finds to do with might because there is no work, no device and no knowledge or wisdom in the grave (Ecclesiastes 9:10).  Setting our house in order seriously requires us to consider Psalms 39:4, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.” As God, “teaches us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalms 90:12), then preparedness for death won’t be an afterthought left for those behind to confront. The prophet may have appeared spiritually prepared to die but he was financially unprepared to die. As the Lord forewarned Hezekiah to prepare, His word teaches us to set our house in order, too.

Dealing with death is hard but when it is your own child, it is devastating. After writing this article a couple of years ago, on October 19th, I received a called that my son had took his life. In that moment, I was faced with the ultimate horror of my child dying before me. In this current situation, I am at a loss for words as to how to deal with death even though I wrote the article Dealing With Death. I’ve learned you may be able to write about something from an educational, philosophical perspective, but it is totally different when you are dealing with death up close and personal.

The death of a child is like no other feeling in the world, and yet somehow I have to deal with my son’s death to suicide. Unexpected death and not being financial prepared catches many people off-guard. The aftermath of death results in family scrambling for funeral expenses, while dealing with the question of why. In reality, there are no easy answers or comforting words that will make the situation better. We can apply all kinds of Bible verses as to why a death occurred to suicide, but I find that many believers who use scripture to comfort the grieving do so without compassion if they do not understand the context of the scripture they quote.  Using scripture out of context to explain why someone took their lives often deepens the loss of the people left behind. For example, I was told that God kills and makes alive based on Deuteronomy 32:9 and that is somehow why my son took his life.  And thought the Old Testament has many verses where God kills people, I find no place in the scripture where the Bible talks directly about suicide.

In the end, mental illness is real and in some instances people don’t want to accept that people could be in such pain. My son was in pain, that often manifested in his actions and behavior. And for more than 10 years he could not endure anymore pain. So how do we deal with death, we grieve, we cry,  we get angry, we experience a gambit of emotions, we share our story of loss and we remember the goodness of the person we’ve lost. In some way, we make an effort to help others who may think about suicide.

 

 

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