One of the many areas where we can see just how true this is, is when it comes to our thinking about death. Let’s face it. Death is something most people would just as soon forget about. Oh, sure, we’ll talk about other people’s deaths. We’ll watch movies where people die by the thousands. But that doesn’t really touch us! No, when it comes to my death, I’d rather keep hiding behind the fantasy that I will live forever!
And so we live in a culture that hides the reality of death from us. We hide dying people away in nursing homes and hospitals so we don’t have to think about them. And even when we do face death at the funeral of a friend or family member, we try hard to make the whole thing look like a dinner party. Everybody gets dressed up, and stands around talking about the dead person like they’ve just gone away on a short trip to Europe. We’re careful never to use the word “died.” Instead we say they’ve “passed on” or “gone to a better place.” We do everything we can to keep from thinking about the fact that just as they have died, so too we must die soon!
And yet, for the Christian, the fact that we must die is something we should think of often so that it becomes one of the things that motivate us to live well, as long as we do live, and to live for the glory of God in this present life.
With that thought in mind, I was struck by a letter written by Jonathan Edwards to one of his sons, after hearing of the death of a young man just about his son's age. Edwards writes:
Stockbridge, May 27, 1755To which I can only add, "Amen"
Though you are a great way off from us, yet you are not out of our minds: I am full of concern for you, often think of you, and often pray for you. Though you are at so great a distance from us, and from your all your relations, yet this is a comfort to us, that the same God that is here as also at Onohoquaha and that though you are out of our sight, and out of our reach, you are always in God's hands, who is infinitely gracious; and we can go to Him, and commit you to His care and mercy. Take heed that you don't forget or neglect Him. Always set God before your eyes, and live in His fear, and seek Him every day with all diligence: for He, and He only can make you happy or miserable as He pleases; and your Life and Health, and the eternal salvation of your soul and your all in this life and that which is to come depends on His will and pleasure.
The week before last, on Thursday, David died; whom you knew and used to play with, and who used to live at our house. His soul is gone into the eternal world. Whether he was prepared for death, we don't know. This is a loud call of God to you to prepare for death. You see that they that are young die, as well as those that are old; David was not very much older than you. Remember what Christ said, that you must be born again, or you never can see the Kingdom of God. Never give yourself any rest unless you have good evidence that you are converted and become a new creature.
We hope that God will preserve your life and health, and return you to Stockbridge again in safety; but always remember that life is uncertain; you know not how soon you must die, and therefore had need to be always ready. We have very lately heard from your brothers and sisters at Northhampton and at Newark, that they are well. Your aged grandfather and grandmother, when I was at Windsor gave their love to you. We here all do the same.
I am, your tender and affectionate father,