A Hard Reality with a Real Answer
Psalm 89:48 48 What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?
The hard reality that I have in mind is that we are mortal. In hospitals around the world the dying are isolated while the vitals are being checked. There is no cure for them. Millions more are in nursing homes, completely dependent upon caretakers and family. Many people have undergone medical treatment that has served to prolong their suffering. Many have terminal disease, and we are all in state of decay. Every organ in your body is growing weaker.
It is often said that we avoid thoughts and talk of our dying. I’ve never taken a survey on this matter, but it seems to me that we do in fact avoid talk of our death. This is normal and expected given death’s harsh reality. And it’s not only death itself but the hard path to that we avoid—the later stage when we lose our independence, when we are very weak and needy. Throughout my ministry I have visited many elderly saints in this condition. Many of them life have almost completely focused on the state of their health or lack of health. They are all about regaining it. They strongly desire to be home, walk about, take care of themselves, drive to the grocery store and so on. Understandably, they want their independence back.
We who still have a measure of youth and health know that these days are coming for us as well. Yet we have an easy belief that medical care will prolong our life. By the time we get to our later years, cancer will be cured. Or so we may think. Many believe that their almost rabid devotion to nutritious dieting will add some years, and, what’s more, they will be (we hope) strong years. Some believe their genes will make for a long life (after all grandma lived to be 90).
To be sure medical science and practice can do much to help overcome a disease or injury that in yesterday would have ended our lives. It should be fully acknowledge that medicine has improved our lives in large measure. But is it really the case that medical science will just keep on progressing until most diseases are wiped out? Can medicine one day stop the decaying process? Can science stop death? Not at all.
The reason we may think that science will win the day is our belief in inevitable progress. Most people assume a belief in progress. To question it is thought weird. The evidence of progress is everywhere, it is thought. I don’t deny that there has indeed been a lot of progress in the medical field and many other fields for that matter. But why is progress inherent to humanity? What says this is the case? Who says? I suggest that belief in the inherent progress of humanity is a leap of blind faith. Progress is simply a secular faith. And there is nothing that promises a cure for cancer, the prolonging of life, and any belief of future discoveries that will lead to man’s overcoming of death are just wild leaps into emptiness.
So when it comes to our mortality, our terminality, it is good that we should be concerned. And yes medicine will help in some ways. I am hoping that God will grant a cure to the menace of cancer! But the hard reality of mortality is ever with us. No philosophy, no scientific breakthrough, no religious orientation properly deals with death. There is only one cure for death and that is resurrection.
Jesus, on one occasion raised a man named Lazarus from death. Jesus, then, in the presence of all who witnessed this miracle claimed that he is the resurrection and the life. He then said “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Jesus words here not empty boasting. They are backed by the fact that he raised Lazarus from the dead. They come from One who himself is from God and is portrayed in the Bible as the Son of God. Prophets of old told of his coming. He was born of a virgin. John the Baptist testified of his coming. He himself came speaking of the Kingdom of God and God himself declared the Jesus was his well beloved Son. Jesus supernaturally healed the sick and lame. He cast out demons. He commanded even the waters to be calm and they obeyed him. And above these things he was raised from the dead. This is his victory over death. And those who trust in him as the Son of God will partake of his victory and be raised on the final day.
So when thinking our own mortality we should not believe that science will some day defeat it. Nor should we be hopeless believing that death has the last say. Rather we should make Jesus and his word the object of our trust.
I have a dear friend in his 80s, day by day struggling with intense pain. He is ready to die, not merely to end his pain but to be with His risen Lord. He is quite matter of fact about it. He is not looking to anyone or anything to save him from death. And contrary to the cynic or skeptic, he has a certain hope. Many a believer has been in this state of wanting to go be with their Lord. Their faith is in Jesus Christ.