In 1946, twenty Japanese soldiers were living on the island of Corregidor near Manila Bay in an underground tunnel. Cut off from all communications, they focused on survival. One snuck out for water and happened upon a newspaper. He learned Japan had surrendered September 2, 1945. WWII was over! Such knowledge changed everything. He and his buddies put together a white flag, surrendered to a very surprised American soldier, and twenty men went home.
Some Christian “soldiers” also seem cut off from all communications. Whether distracted, deeply wounded, or AWOL, these brothers and sisters rarely attend church or read their Bibles. Some seem much like these Japanese soldiers—disconnected and just trying to survive. Some believers have been so inundated with propaganda by the country in which they are deployed, we may not even know they are one of us. Certainly, we would not guess that their Commander was victorious.
Like the newspaper announcing the end of WWII, the Bible is full of good news that changes everything. The Commander of the Lord’s Army, Jesus Christ (Joshua 5:15), won the war with death—our last enemy. He won it for us. His tomb was discovered empty. Christians do get to go home, but not in defeat as did those stranded Japanese soldiers. Our victory was won on the cross when Jesus declared, “It is finished.” The 60 foot tall curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn in two, top to bottom (Mark 15:38, Matthew 27:51). By the blood of Jesus Christ, we are granted entry into the presence of God and Heaven itself. How glorious is that? We will go home victorious!
Even so, I’ve found that many people—Christian people—are unwilling to discuss the end of life. It was once considered impolite to discuss death, but the avoidance tactics I encounter far exceed a concern about good manners. Evidently, people believe if I don’t talk about it, it will not happen. I would not guess that Christians are going home to a place prepared for them in which sin, evil, disease, and this horrid world system will be conspicuously absent. Why do we dread the end of this life so much that we cannot even make the needed preparations and discuss them with our families? I came up with 5 possible reasons. Do any of these resonate with you?
Reason #1: Unresolved Grief
Grieving is a complicated process that few do well or understand. In previous generations, a widow wore black for an entire year while a widower wore a black arm band. Today, that may sound depressing or dramatic. I wonder. Isn’t allowing an entire year to grieve kinder and more realistic than a mere three days of bereavement leave? The death of one dear to us rocks our world like nothing else. I suspect some of the folks who will not discuss the end of their own lives have not yet processed a previous loss that pains them deeply. One goal of Heritage of Hope is to mitigate such debilitating grief by sharing our hearts and our faith with our loved ones before we leave them. To be able to do that, however, we must come to trust God with our own losses and grief.
I suggest two resources for those who are grieving or needing to do so. Paul refers to our Father as the God of Comfort in the first chapter of II Corinthians. There is sweet comfort to be had if we humble ourselves to receive Him who is near the broken-hearted (Psalms 34:18). Even so, we also need one another in this process. I recommend Grief Share, a thirteen week video seminar that serves as a support group with a focus https://www.griefshare.org/about. Let’s submit to God’s healing process so we may prepare for the end of our own lives and minister to those who love us.
Reason #2: Fear
We can endure much pain and discomfort when we are motivated to win a race, earn a top grade, save a child, or get home after a long absence. Jesus endured a horrible death “for the joy that was set before him.” (Hebrews 12: 1-2) What was his joy? Redeeming us for eternity or going home? Repeatedly, he told his disciples in his upper room discourse (John 13-17) that he was going to the Father, yet he went by way of the cross so that we may follow Him. We too are going home to the Father, to our real home with One who awaits our arrival.
Has fear of death and suffering crept into the body of Christ because we forget the resurrection? The ascension? Jesus’ victory? To overcome fear, let’s remember we are adopted and awaited by Father God. Like Jesus, we are going to the Father, to a sinless, glorious home prepared for us (John 14) by the very One who conquered death for us.
Reason #3: Our Destination Is Unexplored
Perhaps, fear comes from knowing too little about our destination? When Dan and I scheduled a trip to Israel, we read numerous books and watched documentaries about . . . Israel and its history, of course. When it was time to go, we were eager to explore and test our mental images and anticipation with reality. Similarly, the Bible actually reveals much about our next life. Randy Alcorn’s books, Heaven and In Light of Eternity, tie these scriptures together in a cohesive, readable way. Let’s investigate the treasures that await us in Heaven to overcome our fears of death.
Reason #4: Our Mission Is Incomplete
Our American culture postulates that we are finished or become irrelevant when we “retire.” To the contrary, many of us are freed up to begin perhaps the most fruitful, exciting season of our lives. According to the metaphor of John 15, our branches have been trimmed season by season by the Father that we might bear much fruit in his courts. (Psalm 92:12-15) I believe that many Christians do not wish to discuss their death because they are not “retired.” They are fervently on mission.
What matters is that you receive your orders from the Commander himself, and Git R Dun. So read the baseball cap of a white-haired gentleman I observed yesterday. Such a sense of mission can override fatigue and pain, lack of resources, and even opposition. Whatever the goal—launching a ministry, a home improvement project, completing a particular hike or bike ride with your spouse, a book published—if it is not complete, you are not “ready to go.” I read of one author (Johnston M. Cheney) who wove the four gospels together into an amazing book, The Life of Christ in Stereo. When his intricate manuscript was finally complete, he breathed his last within a few days. He went home. Doesn’t that resonate with Jesus’ last words on the cross, It is finished?
If that sense of mission applies to you, think of yourself as a soldier being deployed. Work through your HOH checklist so that your affairs are in order, and your loved ones are blessed in every way. Then go for it. Report for duty. Complete your mission. The “well done” awaits (Matthew 25:21, 23 & Luke 19:17).
Reason #5 Dread of Leaving Loved Ones
When our relationships work, they seem a taste of glory. How can we make separation easier? Perhaps we need to remember that the joy we have now in one another cannot compare to what awaits us. In our next life, we will be devoid of all sin! How that absence of sin will benefit every relationship. Also, preparing yourself and your loved ones for this separation is one of the major goals of Heritage of Hope. Family meetings attempt to prepare you and your family. Have you had this year’s family meeting? If not, review your checklist on pages 22 & 23 in your Heritage of Hope Workbook. See what needs updating—your testimony? Letters of blessing? Legal docs? Make a date to love on your people and build a heritage of hope.
Let’s seek the God of Comfort, refuse the fear of death, anticipate Heaven, complete our missions, and prepare ourselves and our loved ones for a time apart but an eternity together. Because Jesus beat our last enemy, death, we may appropriate the victory He already won for us. We who call him Brother may rejoice that we will go home more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.