Dealing with Death

Death. It is scary. It is confronting. It is difficult to process and difficult to think about. But in Jesus, we can approach death with an unbreakable hope.

We don’t speak about death often in our culture, but it is always near at hand. News stories are full of death. Funeral homes are in almost every suburb. Death is often an emotional part of a good movie. And sometimes we suddenly find ourselves face-to-face with death in our own personal lives.

Ben Shaw was an Australian pastor, speaker, teacher, and author, who battled with cancer for several years. He was living in London until recently, when he and his family returned to Australia after being told by the doctors that his cancer could no longer be treated, and he did not have long to live.

I’ve been keeping up to date with Ben’s story through John Dickson, who has been sharing about Ben’s final months on Facebook. John has been a close friend of Ben’s since childhood, and they are now in their early 50s.

Just this week John released a podcast featuring some snippets, which he and Ben recorded to be released after Ben’s death. Speaking just before Ben’s funeral, John shares these moments and reflects on both the difficulty of facing death, and the powerful hope we have in Jesus.

As I listened to these recordings, hearing Ben struggle to speak due to the cancer that was taking over his body, I was struck by the hope and the deep faith which he had right until the end. He kept on running the good race even when his body was literally giving up on him.

I’m not sure exactly how I would respond if I was faced with my own death or the death of somebody I love. I hope that my response would be something like Ben’s.

I’m really excited for our upcoming sermon series through the book of 1 Thessalonians next term. It’s a great book and it’s full of deep encouragement. And it includes one of my favourite passages in the whole Bible, which speaks powerfully to this issue. Paul writes in chapter 4, verses 13 and 14:

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

This is a beautiful and poignant passage. It is beautiful because it reminds us of the hope that we have when a loved one who trusts in Jesus passes away. We have such a great hope that we do not need to grieve like the rest of mankind!

It’s important to note, however, that it does not simply say we should not grieve. It says that we should not grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope. We have a hope, so our grief is different. When we grieve, we don’t grieve the permanent loss of someone we love. Rather, when we grieve the loss of someone who has gone to be with Jesus, we grieve knowing that we will see them again. They are asleep in him, and they will be raised at his return, just as he was raised from the dead!

So, as I sit here reflecting on the words of grief I just heard from John Dickson in his podcast, I’m filled with a strange hope. Because I can look forward to the day when I will be reunited with those loved ones who have fallen asleep in Christ. And I’m filled with a fresh drive to tell others about Jesus, so that when they fall asleep, they will fall asleep in Christ, so that they too can have this hope.

If you want to listen to that podcast, simply search Google for “John Dickson Undeceptions podcast.” This specific one is titled “Facing Death—Single.”

God willing, I’ll get to see you on Sunday.