When You Are Afraid Of Death
Death and dying are uncomfortable subjects for most people, particularly when it comes to one’s own death. Many of us make our way through life never giving a thought to our mortality until a serious illness, the loss of a loved one, or some other jarring occasion confronts us with the inescapable reality that one day we will die. Ecclesiastes 7:2 tells us that “death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” How do I take my own death to heart? How can I be prepared to die?
Scripture calls death an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). Because of death’s finality and because so much about it is unknown, it’s not unusual for us to feel anxious about death and afraid of dying. But the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ has destroyed the enemy of death once and for all: “Now with the coming of our Savior Christ Jesus, he has . . . destroyed death, and through the Good News he has brought eternal life into full view” (2 Timothy 1:10, GWT). Those who have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation need not fear death but can have full assurance and confidence in facing the grave.
After death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27), and most people are not ready to “meet their Maker.” The first and foremost way to prepare for death is to be sure we are in a right relationship with God. Having a right relationship with God starts with acknowledging our sin before Him through confession and repentance. It means placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NLT). Salvation is God’s gift to us (Ephesians 2:8); we only need to receive it by faith.
A right relationship with God through Jesus Christ frees us from the penalty of sin (1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 8:1–2; Hebrews 9:15) and from death itself (1 Corinthians 15:22–23; Romans 5:12–17; 7:24). It also liberates us from the fear of dying: “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Hebrews 2:14–15, NLT).
The sting of death is removed for true Christians because we know where we are going when we die. Our perishing bodies will be transformed into immortal ones that will live forever with Christ in God’s eternal kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:42–58). In reality, we are never truly ready to live until we are prepared to die.
After we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, we can further prepare for death by staying in right relationship with the people in our lives. We ought to consider our relationships with family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Are there any relationships that need to be reconciled? Is there someone we need to forgive or someone who needs our forgiveness? Are there words that need to be said?
Concerning practical ways to prepare, we ought to realistically consider the financial impact our death will have on our family and do our best to plan ahead. Do we need to draw up a will or other legal documents, purchase life insurance, or set aside funds for funeral and burial expenses? Another thoughtful arrangement is to leave written instructions for our memorial service.
Scripture teaches us to live with an awareness of our death and an eternal perspective. This means investing our time, talents, and resources in things that have everlasting value. Jesus described this eternal mindset as daily dying for Him: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (Luke 9:23–24, NLT). Believers live their lives with the hope of heaven and a readiness to lay down their lives until they get there.
Death for the believer is the beginning of a new, eternal phase of life. When our days on earth come to an end, we will transition to the beginning of a heavenly life. Heaven is our true home where God waits to welcome us into His arms. In His eternal kingdom, all heartache, pain, and death will cease (Revelation 21:4). We will enjoy intimate fellowship with God and our loved ones. No matter how spectacular we imagine heaven will be, the Bible promises it will be even better: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, GWT).