“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4, ESV
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
Psalm 116:15, ESV
“Death is like my car. It takes me where I want to go.”
Pastor John Piper
Our generation simply doesn’t know how to die well. There are so many conflicting messages and attitudes which have steered us away from the reality of dying. Much of it is the natural development of unbelief. Our pop culture develops this and gives it momentum. We are trying to convince ourselves that “death is impossible, my life will not end.’ But we’re escaping into a delusion. We are running from what is real.
There is a Latin phrase, Ars moriendi (“The Art of Dying”) which the Church practiced in past generations. In past time, Christians would be buried as close as possible to the Church building. Many would be interred within the very walls of the Church. The understanding was that the dead were part of the congregation. That there was only a thin veil that stood between the living and the dead. The dead didn’t just vanish. They are with us.
My generation is confused. We have forced death to wear a mask. We insist on a significant camouflage to hide the reality of sickness and death. No one really ever talks about it, and so no instructions are given on how to die well. So we don’t, we die poorly–in ICUs and LTCs, completely sedated, separated and unable to process it or help our families process it. There can be no solid connection between the living and the dying. And to be very honest, this is not working.
For many, the fear of dying is intense and paralyzing. Death brings us a terror that twists us; we don’t know how to respond to it. Additionally there seems that there is no one available to direct us. Death is a spooky taboo that no one really explains. The implication is that we are simply to avoid death, ‘it may not come for you’. But that is not what is real.
“Death avoidance” pretends to lift us above the issue, where we can imagine that we will stay separated somehow from its obscenity and ugliness. Funerals are nothing more then an aberration. We have become ‘teflonized’, these things just slide on and off. We just refuse to calculate, or accept what is happening. We have ‘molded’ our fear into a more desirable shape. We simply cannot function in the steady gaze of what is real. We just shut down and refuse to function. We simply pretend.
Its time for the Church to step up and guide us to our next step. Our pastors and elders have got to prepare us to die well. It is a part of being a disciple. It is discipleship, and dying is inclusive. We need somebody to prepare us for the inevitable and the certainty that is approaching us. I need someone that will help me face my own death.
You know what? No one escapes. And the reality of that drives some of us mad, or addicted, or psychotic. The idea of filling a casket up for forever is incomprehensible. We cannot live with this sick idea of dying. It disturbs us on the deepest level possible. It is completely evil.
Psalm 23 has been pure comfort and healing for generations. And it is an excellent starting point for us. Verse 4 develops the idea of traversing death. The writer has incredible insight of passing through death. This verse alone is worth “billions of dollars in gold”. Psalm 23 has made me a very wealthy man. His Word has become my rich treasure.
- Walking in the Shadow of Death (sarahlunsford.com)
- He Has Gone Before You. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- Fairfield Indiana: Musings from the Valley: Psalm 23:4 (timothyholman.wordpress.com)