In 1934 a movie was made called Death Takes a Holiday.  It is a story of how ‘Death’ wanted to find out why everybody feared him, so he took on human form to mingle with the race.  He ends up falling in love with a woman and having to decide whether to seek his own happiness or return to his duties of killing people.  It was remade in 1971 and again in 1998 with Brad Pitt under the title Meet Joe Black.  The thought of cheating death has always been a perennial human fantasy.

The truth is that most of us have a deep seated fear of death.  And is it any wonder?  It means leaving this world never to return, and for many they have no real sense of where they are going… if anywhere.   Many people deal with death by not actually thinking about it in the first place.  That is not really an option for me.  As a pastor I conduct funerals and come face to face with real death (not the gratuitous movie version) every week.   It is intriguing to see how differently people respond to a death of a loved one.  Some become completely unraveled for months and years, others barely seem to grieve and move on.  We had a friend who lost her 59 year old husband and within 3 months said she was ready to be begin dating.  After I heard that I told Kathy that if I kicked the bucket she wasn’t allowed to date others till I was cold in the grave six months.  She wryly replied, “Wow, a real control freak right to the end, huh?”.  My daughter who was listening in asked, “Why six months?”.   I told her, “Because any sooner and it would look like she already had a boyfriend.” 

Maybe you heard the story of the wife who asked him if  he would remarry if she died.  “Of course!”  He said without hesitation.  Then she wanted to know where they would live.  “Oh, right here in the house”  He casually added.  “Well, would she sleep in our bed”.   The wife anxiously wanted to know.  “I don’t see why not.”  He said.  Finally somewhat frustrated she asked,  “Would you let her use my golf clubs too?”  To which he answered, “Of course not, don’t be silly, she’s left handed.”

Should we fear death?  It is as much of a right of passage as birth.  There is no way to escape it.  It touches every family and eventually every one of us.  The scripture says,  But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.”  1 The s 4:13-15 

A few years ago I visited a woman in the hospital that was dying of cancer.  I told her that I was going to pray for her and ask God to heal her.  She said, “That would be good and if he heals me I would be delighted, and if not, I can go be with Jesus and that would be even better, so there is really no downside.”   She had the most incredible sense of peace, and even enthusiasm about death.  I remember how impressed I was with her confidence.  Three days later she was gone and hers was easiest funeral I have ever conducted.  I was able to share about her faith and confidence in the afterlife and the sense of comfort in the room was palpable. 

I can contrast this with other funerals I have done where the ‘mourners’ were inconsolable about the lose of their 95 year old grandfather.  We really should not be caught off guard by the death of a 95 year old.  The loss of a child is another story.  They are the toughest.  We were never meant to outlive our children.  The thought of a young person never having the opportunity to experience all that the fullness of life has to offer does feel like a great  tragedy.

Almost everyone I know has had a brush with death.  I had one last year when in very freakish situation a huge steel pipe got dropped from an overhead crane.  I saw the shadow of it coming and looked up.  In a reflex action which happened in the fraction of a second I stepped out of the way to have it land right where I was standing.  At first it never fazed me but within hours I was replaying the encounter again and again in my head.  I had trouble sleeping for several days.  I finally wrestled through and got peace about it.  I came to the conclusion that it was not my time… that my life was in God’s hands and if my ticket wasn’t up, it wasn’t up.

I have a lot of confidence about where I am going after I die.  Heaven is something I look forward to some day, so I do not have much of a fear of death.  However my brush with death gave me a far greater sense of God’s sovereignty in all this.  Our time is in his hands.  That is something we all need to rest in and come to grips with.  I still think about that moment from time to time but it doesn’t tear me apart.  God is in control and death… took a holiday.

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  1. Steph says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you Pastor Mark. When it is our time it is our time regardless so why fear it, embrace it. I, by no means mean that we should tempt death and put ourselves in harm’s way, but if we are walking with God and have Christ in our hearts than what do we have to fear? I look forward to living a full life, getting married, having children, etc.. but when my time comes I will go with peace knowing that I will be returning home to be with God. 🙂

  2. jennifer says:

    I don’t know if this topic was pure coincidental or what… my 8 yr old autistic son has been feeling depressed these couple of days… I’m not really sure what triggered his emotions: He’s afraid of dying, ie, getting killed, growing older (coz that means we, his parents, will get really old, like the movie “UP”). And now, he’s not feeling well, he seems to have stomach flu…

    So how do you explain “death” to my son?

  3. Victoria Nicol says:

    For years my husband has loosely commented on my seemingly “having a death wish”, regarding my reckless behavior of days gone by….did I really have a death wish, or was I so confident in my belief system that I knew it just wasn’t my time to go?
    My ignorance, combined with my faith, has pushed me beyond most barriers in, and has made my experiences rich and full.
    Being afraid to die, will only oppress your will to live, to the fullest capacity that you, as an individual can.
    It like my son said to me not long ago…”but mom, I am afraid of the dark!”and I replied, “you should embrace the darkness because it can protect you as well!” I then went on to explain how as a young child I was being chased by an angry person at a late night bonfire, and I ran into the dark woods for safety. It definitely made him think more about his idea of what scary was.

  4. Betty says:

    Very good and interesting Pastor Mark.
    I think that was an awesome movie by Brad Pitt & Anthony H. called, MEET JOE BLACK.
    Remarry, so soon after a spouse has died, I think is crazy, but when I would be in that situation, maybe I would do the same thing.
    Even though I landed under our company’s car, PRAISE GOD, between the wheels, at the age of two years old, I was scared of dying until a close cousin died at the age of 16, while driving home by himself and got a flat tire and lost control of his car and died, then I would see him again in heaven, when I die and when Jesus lives in us, we dont need to be scared to die, when it is Gods time for us to die,also those visions Jesus gave me, help me look forward to the day, I will be with Jesus forever.

  5. Kendra says:

    Thank for this blog posting. I recently had a health scare and I was terrified about where I was going if I had died! What do you recommend people who are new to the faith do? Should come to your church? 🙂

    I am afraid to die, I guess because I am not sure I meet all the requirements.

  6. Tammy says:

    There is only one requirment to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
    And that is to accept you are a sinner and that Christ died on the cross for your sins. It’s that free will thing…freely accept what has been done for us even though we do not deserve it.
    The rest falls into place. The Holy Spirit comes into our livese…when we accept we are a sinners and Christ died for us…He, the Spirit will do the rest. He will guide us, tug at our hearts, change us and mold us into Christ’s image. It takes work and a heart to listen to God when He speaks to us. This is why we read our bible and pray to the Lord, cultivating a relationship with Him.

  7. jusoyaknow says:

    Through faith in Christ the Bible tells us we are saved. What does this mean? Well it means being obedient to God and ridding our lives of sin(knowingly sinning). Not just going up for prayer, which helps but isn’t the answer, not having a holy spirit moment and changing nothing in our life but by believing and having faith in Christ which means being obedient to Him. He really likes that. He really doesn’t like it when we treat the temple as a playground for sin. The Bible also talks about the terrible indignation of the Lamb against those who despised His correction. Scary? Yes. Good reason to kick sin in the head? You bet your bootstraps cause sin’s kicking you in the head. How dare you!? Oh….I dare….I double dare!

  8. Karen says:

    No one should ever die alone. As a former nurse and EMT, I have had the privilege of being with several people when they died. Some deaths are calm and peaceful, and others are not such a pleasant experience. Before my dad died, he talked about all of the things that he would miss after he was gone; graduations, weddings, great-grandchildren…. We had the privilege of being with my dad when he passed away in the hospital.
    There is always a “hole” that someone leaves when they die and we are sad for ourselves that these people aren’t with us anymore. Instead of being unhappy about the time we didn’t get with our loved ones, we should thank God for the time we did get to spend with them.
    Make every minute of your life count…not count every minute of your life.

  9. Victoria Nicol says:


  10. Karen says:

    I think perhaps people are afraid of the pain or debilitating condition of the body that has to be endured until we are released from our human form.
    I’ve had 5 years of really, really rough stuff with my health. It’s not all over yet, and though some things have been resolved, others have taken their place. Endure one thing resolve it, then something else pops up; resolve that and we’re on to the next…it gets tiring after awhile.
    So, I have no qualms about death because I’m going back to Jesus. I look forward to it actually, though if I do have many more years of moderately healthy living, I guess I could put off seeing Him for awhile (not my choice though, is it?). But, I do have that yearning, and dying is part of getting there. This yearning to be with Jesus is getting stronger all the time, and it is regardless of my health. Maybe it’s just drawing me closer to Him in some way I don’t fully understand, and a way that I’ll have to be content with until I die. One thing’s for sure, this feeling, this yearning; it’s good.

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